Films: A Celebration of Exsanguinary Cinema

More often than not, horror education (or at the very least, an introduction to the genre in its myriad of derivations) is anchored in a frisson for film, where the indelibly phantasmagoric images are imprinted upon one’s mind, all haunting, elating, and expanding the subconscious. Included for your ravenous consumption are a few analytical ruminations regarding some notable entries in the horror genre. Certainly not intended as an exhaustive resource by any means, the TWHFFC merely offers the following explorations of sinister cinema for your casual perusal in order to spread the dark gospel of the genre, as well as serve as a modest academic resource for our students… Enter if you dare, Fiends.

Vampyr

(Carl Dreyer, 6 May 1932)

“What was going on? What terrifying secret was unfolding?

As the title card informs us, Dreyer’s meditative masterpiece is the strange and esoteric tale of Allan Gray, who “immersed himself in the study of devil worship and vampires. Preoccupied with superstitions of centuries past, he became a dreamer for whom the line between the real and the supernatural became blurred. His aimless wanderings led him late one evening to a secluded inn by the river,” and it is a tale recognized as only the third major film in the history of cinema to feature the cavorting creature of the night “whose terrible deeds in life,” the film tells us, “deny them repose in the grave.”…

Crimson Peak

(Guillermo del Toro, 25 September 2015)

“Where I come from, ghosts do not take things lightly.”

Like Mia Wasikowska’s Edith Cushing explains to a would-be publisher of her own novel, Del Toro’s CRIMSON PEAK is less a ghost story than “a story with a ghost in it,” and that is where its true beauty lies: so effortlessly couched in the sumptuousness of its gothic forebears, CRIMSON PEAK unfolds as overt homage, as well as a tale of fiercely complex female characters. …

Frankenstein

(James Whale, 21 November 1931)

“The Original Horror Show!”

87 years ago, as the wider-world prepared to push itself into the unmitigated horror of the holiday season complete with all the trimmings, James Whale’s production of FRANKENSTEIN is unleashed upon the world where it was immediately regarded as a grisly affair of epic (and exploitative) proportions, igniting controversy and obliterating box office records. …

The Abominable Dr. Phibes

(Robert Fuest, 18 May 1971)

“Nine killed you. Nine shall die. Nine times…nine! Nine eternities in DOOM!” 

 On this day in 1971, Vincent Price maniacally commands the screen as the abominable Dr. Anton Phibes — a genius of music, theology, and of murder most foul, long thought to be dead and gone — a man hellbent on carving a vengeful and bloody swath through London’s medical community…all to the infectious swing-stylings of his animatronic band, The Clockwork Wizards. …

The Autopsy of Jane Doe

(Andre Øvredal, 9 September 2016)

“Whatever the hell happened in here…we are way past possible.”

Reframing André Øvredal’s THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE in a context to aptly serve as a fitting installment with which to celebrate Women in Horror Month is not difficult. Although our primary characters are a father and son team of small-town coroners (portrayed brilliantly — and believably — by Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch), it is in many ways a tale of a controlled and silenced woman, an innocent put to death by patriarchal and Puritanical forces who, though dead and seemingly inert on the proverbial slab, has returned as an inimical force of supernatural vengeance. …

The Brood

(David Cronenberg, 25 May 1979)

“They’re her children. More exactly, they’re the children of her rage…”

On this day in 1979, Canada saw the release of the psychological monster show that is THE BROOD. One of Cronenberg’s most personal films (purportedly influenced by the atrocious aftermath of his own crumbling marriage), THE BROOD is a mind-bending exploration of rage, the then-burgeoning new-age movement, the hidden perils of parenting, and the dark end of divorce…and it’s a slice of celluloid which remains as potent as ever, still so emotionally and physically brutal. …

Night of the Comet

(Thomas Eberhardt, 16 November 1984)

“You may as well face the facts, Samantha: the whole burden of civilization has fallen upon us…”

On this auspicious day in 1984, Thomas Eberhardt’s criminally under-seen, mixed-genre cult classic, NIGHT OF THE COMET was released. Boasting the effects of David B. Miller and an epic synth-and-pop soundtrack, COMET boldly features strong female protagonists who confidently carry the film, and who are humanized rather than made the butt of stereotypical punchlines so common to films of the era — an element that makes the film not only noteworthy, but also an exercise in potent gender dynamics amid the post-apocalyptic material. …

A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT

(ANA LILY AMIRPOUR, 19 JANUARY 2014)

“Don’t count the things you’ve lost. Count what’s still left.”

Ana Lily Amirpour’s 2014 debut film A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT may be viewed by some as more a disorienting phantasmagoria of uncharted, alienating arrangements rather than an out and out horror film in the traditional sense…a reading that isn’t necessarily inaccurate. And yet, this dark tone poem of a vampire film is far more than the sum of its parts.…

Dracula: Prince of Darkness

(Terence Fisher, 12 January 1966)

“After a reign of terror spanning more than a century, the king of the undead was finally traced to his lair high in the Carpathian Mountains…”

Beautifully photographed in Techniscope and directed by the ever-dependable Terence Fisher, Hammer’s 1966 DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS revives not only the vampiric dead, but the Count himself. …

The Reptile

(John Gilling, 6 April 1966)

“That vile thing underneath that blanket is my daughter, Anna! Oh, not the Anna you know; not that lovely girl, but a hideous parody of herself, a loathsome thing…!”

For last year’s celebration of Women In Horror Month, we highlighted significantly influential personalities across the genre — writers, directors, actors, academics, and assorted luminaries who all identify as female — as a way to turn our unholy beacon on those voices that, traditionally, have been silenced. This year, our MAVENS OF THE MACABRE series instead opts to focus upon some of our favorite films featuring powerful female protagonists or antagonists in the hopes that they gain a wider audience. Regardless of whether or not the medium has delivered problematic interpretations of gender over the years, one cannot dispute the fact that some of the most engagingly enigmatic characters in the horror genre — both past and present — have been female. …