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Showing posts from February, 2020

New titles in the library

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According to the t-shirt Madonna wore in the video for Papa Don’t Preach (1986), ‘Italians do it better’, which was obviously a reference to horror films. Two new additions to the BFI’s Reuben Library delve into the dazzlingly stylish, brutally violent world of Italian horror cinema: Roberto Curti’s Blood and Black Lace and director Dario Argento’s autobiography, Fear.

Part of the Devil’s Advocates series, Curti’s book explores Mario Bava’s seminal giallo, which tells of a faceless killer stalking the halls of a luxurious Roman fashion house. Curti explores the production history of Bava’s cult film, contextualises it within Italian cinema and analyses the director’s unique approach to aesthetics and genre. He also gives consideration to the film’s historical impact (particularly in terms of its depiction of violence), its influence on future filmmakers and its impact on the giallo, the tropes and conventions of which it helped congeal.


In his autobiography, Dario Argento - aka ‘the …

A Brief History of the Necronomicon

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After my recent viewing of Evil Dead (2013), I found myself thinking about the subtle (and not so subtle) Lovecraftian elements, particularly the creepy arcane tome found in the cellar of the cabin. A prominent feature of the earlier Evil Dead films too, the Necronomicon is an ancient (fictional) grimoire containing summoning spells, incantations, the laws of the dead and various accounts of an unknowable pantheon of cosmic deities known as the Great Old Ones. The Necronomicon was created by HP Lovecraft and appeared in many of his stories. According to Lovecraft scholar ST Joshi, the author was likely inspired to create a fictional grimoire that could drive its reader insane and unleash incomprehensible cosmic horrors from the beyond, by a collection of short stories by Robert Chambers, The King in Yellow (1895). In his essay Supernatural Horror in Literature (1927), Lovecraft describes this collection as: “a series of vaguely connected short stories having as a background a monstro…

Evil Dead (2013)

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Fede Álvarez's remake of Evil Dead (1981) throws out the splat-stick humour of Sam Raimi’s original shocker and ups the ferocity to nearly unbearable levels to create a dark, surprisingly bleak and frequently horrifying film. The basic plot – a group of friends fall prey to demonic forces while staying at an isolated cabin the woods – remains largely the same, but Álvarez introduces a compelling element involving addiction and grief to really flesh things out.

The screenplay – co-written by Álvarez and Rodo Sayagues – is an exercise in stripped back storytelling with minimalist plot. There is a welcome emphasis on the use of practical effects instead of CGI, which results in some truly startling make-up and gore, further enhanced by a raw physicality from the actors who all throw themselves into proceedings with grim aplomb. While the violence is certainly outlandish, it is grounded in a gritty realism quite far removed from Raimi’s original, which makes it all the more unsettlin…