Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hallowscreams part 3

V/H/S- Anthology films are a typically mixed bag, balancing the very good with the very bad. The DIY movement’s edition of this genre, “V/H/S”, suffers from the same fate. First- the really good, including the first and last episodes, which on their own, would make for terrific feature length efforts as they both not only swirl with creatively creepy ideas, but they both seem to have a keen sense of mise-en-scene when it comes to camera placement and light and shadow. The first, called “Amateur Night” and directed by David Bruckner, features three college kids who hook up with the wrong girl at a bar and experience terrifying results, gets the proceedings off with a bang. Some of the images within this segment are truly unnerving, including the POV shot of a woman standing statuesque, covered in blood in the center of a dimly lit motel room. The final episode, directed by a collage named Radio Silence, tells the story of a group of guys who show up to a Halloween party only to find the house deserted and an occult ceremony going up upstairs. The sheer momentum of this episode, including demon-like arms reaching out of the walls, reveals a huge appreciation for the less-is-more horror maxim and positions the directorial team as an unusually creative bunch. The remainder of the episodes vary from mildly annoying (a skype episode where paranormal stuff happens every night) to the downright boring (Ti West’s travelogue that turns torturous for senseless reasons). The overall affect of “V/H/S” is also greatly diminished by its found footage style of filmmaking… which nowadays seems to imply not an actual technique, but a disguise for cheap budgets and complete lack of artistic direction. Regardless, “V/H/S” did manage to give me some unsettling moments, alone, later in the dark… and that speaks for something.

Fascination- No Halloween viewing would be complete without a Jean Rollin film, and his 1979 film “Fascination” is yet another enthralling, lurid and surreal exploit. Either one has the temperament for Rollin films or not. And in “Fascination”, he continues to disturb without a hint of special effect or bloody fang. The story, which deals with a robber hiding out in a large castle with two seductive women, succeeds through carefully modulated camera placement and a heightened sense of light and shadow. Just watch how he frames an exterior view of the castle, with the warm glowing interior light making a specter like shadow on the water below, or the insidious way he frames lips and eyes. It’s all a gothic, slow-burn treat. Something of a story does begin to take place as the two women (Franca Mai and Brigitte Lahaie) seduce, taunt and mentally toy with the criminal-on-the-lam while hinting at the arrival of devious friends later on in the night. And their arrival, filmed in dreadful long shot, is another bewitching treat. “Fascination” won’t scare you outright, but its lingering sense of madness and erotic subjugation will haunt.

El Vampiro- Fernando Mendez’s “El Vampiro” is an interesting, if not rudimentary, entry in the Dracula franchise a few years before Hammer films jumped into the fray revitalizing the classics. Filmed and released in the mid 50’s by the CasaNegra film company (which boats an impressive slate of horror titles in which “El Vampiro” is the first), the film maintains a strong visual atmosphere while transposing the Dracula story to a small village hacienda in Mexico. Arriving home after many years due to the death of her aunt, Marta (Ariadna Welter), soon becomes the target of dark-eyed Count Duval (German Robles). A lot of the film’s running time is spent explaining the vagaries of the vampire legend (its various rules and by-laws being the use of mirrors, crosses and a stake through the heart), yet “El Vampiro” also does a terrific job of visually instilling dread and horror. Long shot and close-up are used effectively and the spare black and white images of a lonely hacienda and the cob-webbed underground tunnels where the count and his clan carry out their nasty business are genre foundations done right. Released on Spanish region 2 DVD discs, I’m looking forward to exploring more of CasaNegra and their old fashioned stories.

No comments: