01 November 2010

Horror movie reviews: "Psycho killer, qu'est que c'est"*

Due to being struck down with the dreaded lurgy, leaving the house this weekend was a bit of a struggle. Oh, I managed it for a short period on Sunday, to avail of free tickets from le cool Dublin (more on that anon), but the rest of it was spent indulging in what we’ve decreed will be our new Halloween ritual: snuggled up on the couch watching a mega-scary-horror-movie-screamathon.

First, a disclaimer: I love horror but it is a confused and confusing genre, spanning everything from gothic to thriller to gorefest. Once upon a time I wrote a college essay I was particularly proud of but can now only vaguely recall it being about horror films and sexism, violence, pornography and, erm, postmodernism. I know, sounds like a compelling read. But the point is that I’m kinda conflicted about liking horror as a genre and yet… I do. I like that the films can be tense or jumpy or chilling or gross or all of the above, and are often very, very funny, to boot.

So! Moving on, and in order of our viewing pleasure, here’s what we saw and what we made of it.

Orphan: Made in 2009, Orphan is an American horror/thriller featuring that pretty woman from Up In The Air and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s husband, who adopt a ‘different’ 9-year-old girl with fairly predicatable consequences. I gave it 6/1o on Twitter but at least 2 of those points were because I love, love, love evil children.  (This in no way refers to my nieces, in the unlikely event that their mother happens to be reading.) Himself reckons it had a decent twist but I had it figured out pretty early on. Worth a watch.

Suspiria: This 1977 Italian horror is only gorgeous! Well, gorgeous and gorey, like, you know the way. Dreamlike and atmospheric with super-stylish sets, Suspiria was compelling and unsettling from the opening credits. Based around a German school of dance and occult sciences, the plot takes a backseat -- but when it looks and feels like this, who cares? 8/10

30 Days of Night: Dark Days: For a low budget, straight-to-dvd sequel -- based on a comic book series about vampires –- this 2010 release is a much better film than it has any right to be. Would have been inestimably improved by giving more screen time to the eerily captivating vampire queen Lilith, played by Mia Kirshner (I’d never heard of her either).  More action than horror, but a solid 6.5/10

The Innocents:  Another US offering but based in England this time, The Innocents is a 1961 psychological ghost story based on the Henry James novel, The Turn of the Screw. I’d previously seen 2001’s The Others, also based on James’s book, but these are two very different films and viewing one won’t spoil your viewing of the other. Tense and mysterious, with children who are both enchanting and unnerving, The Innocents remains stubbornly, deliberately ambiguous. Prompts much discussion. Another 8/10.

The Disappeared: Of all the movies we had to see this weekend, the plot of this 2008 psychological thriller was the least appealing to me.  A UK indie flick, The Disappeared centred on lead character Matt, who struggles to come to terms with the disappearance of his kid brother. Well, when I’m wrong, I’m wrong – and in this case, I was wrong. Harry Treadaway, who plays Matt, gave a powerful and affecting performance and the grim surrounds of the UK council estate where the action played out gave a gritty realism to the entire proceedings. This just edges out the golden oldies with an 8.5/10.  

Psycho Live: And so to Sunday, and the aforementioned freebies won from ultra stylish -- and free! -- newsletter, le cool Dublin (latest issue here). Watching Hitchcock classic Psycho on the big screen at the National Concert Hall, accompanied by the RTE Symphony Orchestra -- conducted by John Wilson -- was a rare treat and rounded off our Halloween horrorfest to perfection. 

While the live rendition of Bernard Herrmann’s classic score certainly enriched the experience and added to the atmosphere, the biggest surprise of this event was that it was received as comedy by the attending audience, who laughed throughout and clearly knew almost every line. I’d only watched this once or twice before and had never noticed how hilarious some of the dialogue is – and intentionally so (apparently, Hitchcock thought of this film as a comedy -- who knew?!).

Bravo, Mr Hitchcock, bravo.  A clear 10/10.

*Post title: Lyric from Talking Heads, Psycho Killer
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