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Showing posts from April, 2009

Let the Right One In

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2008
Dir. Tomas Alfredson

Lonely 12 year old Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) is bullied by his classmates and all but neglected by his mother. One night, while sitting on the climbing frame outside his housing complex, he meets Eli (Lina Leandersson) who has just moved into the flat next door to his with her strange guardian Håken (Per Ragnar). And so a gentle friendship begins. Eli gives Oskar the strength to hit back when he is bullied, and Oskar takes it all in his stride (the way only 12 year olds can do) when he realises Eli is a vampire…

‘Can I come in? Say that I can come in.’

Written by John Ajvide Lindqvist and adapted from his own novel, Let the Right One In has, like its little vampire protagonist, subtly worked its way into the minds and hearts of audiences everywhere. Emerging from relative obscurity, it has found a large enough audience to become the sleeper hit of the year so far. And rightly so.

The two leads deliver mesmerising performances. Kåre Hedebrant as Oskar is compel…

Inferno

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1980
Dir. Dario Argento

When poetess Rose (Irene Miracle) discovers an old book written by a mysterious architect, she believes that the New York building in which she resides is also home to one of the Three Mothers – powerful witches who bring suffering and death to all who encounter them. She asks her brother Mark (Leigh McCloskey) to come and help her, however prior to his arrival she is stalked through the building’s labyrinthine interior and slain by an unseen, and presumably supernatural assailant. It is up to Mark to follow the cryptic clues left by his sister and solve the mystery of The Mother of Darkness, before it is too late…

Preceded by Suspiria (1977), Inferno is the second instalment of Argento’s only recently completed Three Mother’s trilogy - Mother of Tears (2007) is the final film.
In Suspiria, we are introduced to the notion that three powerful witches, residing in different parts of the world, ensure that hopelessness, sorrow and death hang heavy upon those soul…

Theatre of Blood

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1973
Dir. Douglas Hickox

Edward Lionheart (Vincent Price) is a Shakespearian actor who refuses to act in anything other than plays written by the Bard. He has extreme delusions of grandeur that are eventually quashed when he is panned by an influential circle of critics and is publically humiliated at an award ceremony. Faking his own suicide in order to return and have his revenge, he gathers together a merry band of meths-drinking misfits to aid him in his opulent quest to obtain bloody vengeance on those critics who ruined his career. Also along for the ride is his loyal daughter Edwina (Diana Rigg), who has fun in a myriad of different roles and disguises. Ludicrous and ever more elaborate deaths mount up as two woefully inept and utterly incompetent cops attempt to track him down and learn some stuff about the Bard as they go.

Theatre of Blood has more than a few similarities with Price’s earlier ‘themed death’ film, The Abominable Dr Phibes (1971). Both films feature crazed ind…

Night of the Eagle

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1962
Dir. Sidney Hayers

Based on the novel Conjure Wife by Fritz Leiber, Night of the Eagle follows the intriguing story of highly sceptical college professor (is there ever any other sort?), Norman Taylor (Peter Wyngarde), who discovers his wife Tansy (Janet Blair) has been practising witchcraft to protect them both from his dangerously jealous colleagues.

Norman is an uncompromisingly logical sort. After his wife reveals to him that his colleagues’ wives are using black magic to ensure his untimely demise and she is countering their efforts by also dabbling in the occult, he fears she may be losing her mind. Tansy normalises witchcraft and speaks very matter-of-factly about it, even as she unpacks her groceries in one scene. She has hidden lots of little trinkets around the house to ward off evil forces, such as specially blessed spiders in little jars and various other bizarre accoutrements – Norman forces her to burn them and as she does, he accidentally burns a photo of himself…

Interview with Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni

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Independent, daring and fiercely intelligent, Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni has not only acted as a dark muse for numerous filmmakers throughout her career, she is also an artist in her own right. Consistently exploring painting, music, performance and writing as ways to more fully understand and express herself, what sets Cataldi-Tassoni apart from other artists, is her astute directness and uncompromising gravitation towards subjects that many other artists would only shirk from – these, she embraces openly and confronts unflinchingly.
Not content to use one form of art as a means of expression and self exploration, Coralina also writes and performs her own music; music that is imbued with the same idiosyncratic style, innate melancholy and evocativeness that seeps from her paintings. And then of course there is her film work with Italian horror Maestro Dario Argento, who has cast Coralina no less than four times in his films. Coralina has claimed that she comes to life in her various d…

Shock

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1946
Dir. Alfred L. Werker

After witnessing a brutal murder from her hotel room window, Janet Stewart (Anabel Shaw) falls into a state of catatonic shock. When she awakens, she discovers she is being held in a private hospital and treated by the sinister Dr Cross (Vincent Price), who she realises is the man she saw commit the heinous murder!

Shock is not just an ‘old dark house’ type thriller with a mental hospital and a two dimensional villain. Its twisted and slyly subversive story, in which a perfectly sane woman is made out to be insane so her accusations of murder are not taken seriously, unravels as a tightly constructed and provocative little chiller.

Janet seems quite frantic and preoccupied from the moment we meet her. She forgets to pay her taxi driver as she rushes into the hotel where she is to meet with her estranged husband. We learn that she was wrongly informed of his death in the war, and that he is actually still very much alive but had been a prisoner of war. She i…

Rorschach & Black Lace

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As I sat in the cinema last night, thoroughly enjoying the spectacle of Watchmen as it unflinchingly flickered across the cinema screen, I was struck by a number of striking similarities between the character of Rorschach and the masked killer from Mario Bava’s stylish and kitschy horror thriller from 1964 - Blood & Black Lace.

Rorschach, a troubled vigilante, shares an undeniable visual companionship with the killer/s in Blood & Black Lace, spurned to bloody action by greed and lust.

Their garbs are irrepressibly comparable. Fedora hat, leather trench coat, black leather gloves and a startlingly blank face mask.

Killers in giallo films usually boast a host of repressed anxieties, often stemming from some trauma they had previously suffered, or from distinctly Freudian sexual anxieties.
Not only sharing visual similarities, the darkly troubled Rorschach also shares a few psychological traits with many a killer from the Italian subgenre. His character’s particular flashback s…

Interview with Robbie Bryan - Director of iMurders

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iMurders is a forthcoming horror film directed by Robbie Bryan. After a bizarre love triangle leads to a tragic shooting, the members of an online chat-room begin to fall victim to a mysterious assailant who stalks and kills them in the privacy of their own homes. The key to unlocking the savage murders lurks in the dark past of the one of the chat-room users. But will it be too late to prevent more murders?

The film stars a few familiar faces and stalwarts of the genre, including Gabrielle Anwar (Body Snatchers), Tony Todd (Candyman), William Forsythe (The Devil’s Rejects), Billy Dee Williams (The Empire Strikes Back) and Charles Durning (When A Stranger Calls). iMurders is the directorial debut of screenwriter Robbie Bryan (The Stand-In) and promises thrills, chills and many bloody spills. Behind the Couch caught up with Robbie Bryan recently for a chat about filmmaking and the sinister side of the world wide web…

How did the idea for iMurders germinate?

Well that goes back to my ve…

Suspiria

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1977
Dir. Dario Argento

The arrival of American ballerina, Suzy Banyon (Jessica Harper), at a prestigious dance academy in Freiburg, coincides with a series of savagely brutal murders. Suzy slowly begins to realise that the academy is actually a front for a coven of witches led by the diabolical Mater Suspiriorum – The Mother of Sighs – who plans to unleash untold suffering and pain upon the world. With her friends falling prey to evil supernatural powers and no one to believe her seemingly outrageous story, Suzy must face her deadly foe alone…

The first film in a trilogy, Suspiria precedes Inferno (1980) and the only recently completed final chapter, Mother of Tears (2007). With Suspiria, Dario Argento created one of the most vivid, nightmarish and hallucinogenic horror films of all time. Deeply influenced by the drug-addled and lurid writing of Thomas De Quincey, Argento also borrows from Lewis Carroll, the Brothers Grimm and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). The dark tale of…

Dracula (1931)

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Dir. Tod Browning

After my post yesterday about Bram Stoker and the fact that the whole of Dublin is reading Dracula this month, I found myself craving a peek at Universal’s classic adaptation of Stoker’s novel again. Featuring Bela Lugosi in his most memorable role, and some of the most iconic imagery from the whole Dracula mythos, courtesy of controlled direction from Tod Browning, Dracula is always a darkly bewitching film to indulge in.

Opening with the spooky bit from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, the film’s highly dramatic and romanticised mood is instantly evoked. This adaptation opts to open with Renfield, not Jonathan Harker, travelling to Transylvania on business with the mysterious Count Dracula. Now seeming like rudimentary cliché, he stops off briefly at a local inn and is warned of the dastardly Count and his dubious ways. Quashing the local’s protests to turn back and ignoring their hushed whispers of ‘the Nosferatu’, he continues on his way and meets with a sinister carria…

Bram Stoker

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In light of the fact that Dracula is this year's Dublin: One City, One Book's selected text, I thought it appropriate to delve into the background of the novel's author: Bram Stoker.

Born in Dublin in November 1847, Bram Stoker was a sickly child and bedridden for much of his formative years.
As a young man he attended Trinity College in Dublin and excelled in athletics as well as his studies. He graduated in 1868 with a degree in mathematics and began working as a civil servant in Dublin Castle.
This experience inspired him to write his first book, the rather riveting sounding Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland. This thrilling epic took the form of a handbook of legal administration and was published in 1878.


At this stage, Dracula was but a mere twinkle in Stoker’s eye, and the budding writer busied himself with some freelance journalism and theatre criticism. Soon after attending a performance of The Rivals at the Theatre Royal, Stoker met Henry Irving an…

Dublin: One City, One Book – Dracula

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Now in its fourth year, Dublin: One City, One Book is a project set up to encourage the population of Dublin to read the same book during the month of April each year. The project was instigated to help promote awareness of great home-grown literature and make it more accessible, in a city that has spawned one of the greatest literary heritages in the world.

This year’s selected text is Bram Stoker’s sinister and full blooded classic Dracula, a book that has seized the imagination of countless readers in a vice-like grip throughout the decades, and been adapted for cinema, stage and television more times than Count Dracula has had hot virgin blood… Well, maybe not.

All manner of fiendish Dracula-inspired events will be taking place throughout Dublin city during the month. If you find yourself in the vicinity and feel so inclined - why not check out a few...

Click here for more information.

Bay of Blood

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1971
Dir. Mario Bava

AKA
Twitch of the Death - Nerve
The Ecology of Murder
Last House on the Left - Part II
Before the Fact
Bloodbath
Bay of Death
Carnage
Chain Reaction
New House on the Left (!!)

A wheelchair bound Countess is murdered by her conniving husband who makes it look like she has committed suicide. He doesn’t even have time to rub his hands together and cackle manically, as he is then bumped off by an unseen assailant who disposes of his body in the bay. Soon, a group of relatives and randoms including the Countess’s daughter (Claudine Auger) and her husband (Luigi Pistilli), an illegitimate son (Claudio Camaso), a sleazy businessman (Chris Avram) and his devoted secretary (Anna Maria Rosati) converge at the bay to lay claim to the property and its potentially lucrative and undeveloped surroundings. Also residing in the bay is an obsessive bug collector and his fortune-telling wife. When four teens show up to party in an empty villa, the stage is set for a slew of bloody murders …