I¬†feel like I may have reached a point that every new blogger dreads. I‚Äôm calling it The New Blogger Slump and it is the make or break period that every blog that came before has had to go through. As you can see, it has been a while since my last post; September was good, but October has proven to be even better. I am very happy to return to my online space¬†and am eager to share all I have experienced and learned in that time.
This House is haunted…
One of the more amazing things I was able to do¬†earlier this month¬†was attend an advance screening for my most anticipated film this year: Guillermo del Toro’s gothic masterwork…Crimson Peak.¬†While I personally am not in the business of writing reviews, I suggest this one¬†written by Dalin Rowell at The Daily Geekette if you are looking for some more insight into the film.¬†Now that Crimson Peak¬†has opened in wide release there are many articles and interviews out citing del Toro’s cinematic inspiration and singing his well deserved praises. I thought I’d throw my hat into the ring and take this time to explore a few films that have haunted screens before Crimson Peak.
4. El espinazo del diablo¬†
To describe it as haunting does not begin to cover the beauty of El espinazo del diablo¬†(The Devil’s Backbone). This heartbreaking story is one of del Toro’s most personal films and it features one of cinema’s most memorable ghosts. “¬ŅQu√© es un fantasma?” is the question¬†The Devil’s Backbone¬†explores and the answer is bound in tragedy. Set during the end of the Spanish Civil war, the film follows Carlos (Fernando Tielve), a young boy who is abandoned at a rural orphanage after his father is killed. It is here that he learns of another young boy named Santi. A name spoken of only in whispers and the subject of speculation among the children of the orphanage. Young Carlos must not only try to fit into his new surroundings, but uncover their deepening mystery, as we all do.
The Devil’s Backbone¬†is a prime example of del Toro’s style, subject matter and cinematic intentions. The atmosphere in the film is incredibly complementary to the story as a whole and the mise-en-sc√®ne¬†perfectly reflects it.¬†Although it is a tale that includes the presence of an apparition, the film does not aim to terrify audiences in a traditional sense. The scares are different, subtle even. Del toro’s vision(s) aims to reveal that the real monsters do not live under our beds, hide out in our closets or float through our walls. Real evil is personified; it is flesh and bone and it walks among us. Del Toro’s resounding impact is seen most clearly when he uses elements of gothic horror and magical realism to expose his audiences to these realities.
3. The Uninvited¬†(1944)
Long before the ghosts of¬†The Devil‚Äôs Backbone, and¬†Crimson Peak, there were those in¬†The Uninvited.¬†A¬†spectacular tale¬†directed by¬†Lewis Allen, The Uninvited¬†is¬†set in Winward house, a mansion resting atop a cliff on the haunted shores of Cornwall England whose beauty is in spite of its emptiness. When London siblings¬†Roderick (Ray Milland)¬†and Pamela (Ruth Hussey)¬†Fitzgerald stumble in while on vacation they both fall head over heels with the place and decide to buy it. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs wonderfully simple to buy a house‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ Roderick exclaims after the deal is made. However, the history of Winward and the events to come are anything but simple.
We discover Winward house is possibly haunted very early in the film; upon hearing the rumors, Roderick and Pamela begin to wonder if their impulse buy was a mistake, keeping their uneasy feelings at bay by cracking jokes about the unsettling energy that permeates certain rooms.¬†The house also has ties to a young woman named Stella who refuses to let it go and, like the character of¬†Edith in¬†Crimson Peak, has to fight against falling under its spell.¬†In films like these, old houses become the perfect scapegoat for any unnatural sound.¬† An odd creak or squeak can be easily blamed away on a loose floorboard or old staircase but we know the truth.
Last night, I dreamt I went to Allerdale‚Ä¶I mean Manderley again.
“Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderley¬†again.”¬†Those are the first lines spoken as Hitchcock‚Äôs¬†Rebecca¬†begins. The camera glides across the grounds of the illusive mansion, allowing viewers to float and dream with the narrator. Gothic, romantic and filled with suspense, Rebecca¬†is a gorgeous adaptation of ¬†Daphne du Maurier‚Äôs popular¬†novel of the same name.¬† In keeping with the traditional tropes of Gothic Romance, this film follows a young woman (played by¬†Joan Fontaine) who is working in Monte Carlo as a¬†paid companion to an aristocrat. Here she meets¬†Maximilian ‚ÄúMaxim‚ÄĚ de Winter, the handsome but brooding stranger who steals her heart.
No longer a paid companion, the young woman takes on a new title: Mrs. de Winter. There are myriad comparisons I can make to¬†Crimson Peak¬†at this point, but I wouldn‚Äôt want to spoil anything about either film. Nervous,¬†na√Įve and desperate to make a good impression, the new Mrs. de Winter finds herself in a most precarious situation. The genius of¬†Rebecca¬†is that it functions as a ghost story sans ghost. Our heroine (and the rest of the mansion for that matter) is haunted by a memory, the previous Mrs. de Winter is everywhere and nowhere, existing in both empty and occupied spaces. She stirs up the past from beyond the grave.
1. The Innocents¬†
Based on¬†Henry James‚Äôs classic novel¬†The Turn of the Screw¬†and masterfully directed by¬†Jack Clayton¬†(The Great Gatsby, Something Wicked This Way Comes),¬†The Innocents¬†is arguably the mother of all gothic horror films. Rich in atmosphere and tension (both sexual and supernatural), Clayton and his crew spin an eerie web that is so thick it leaves the viewer trapped from the beginning. The film follows Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) a young and inexperienced, but fiercely passionate, woman who takes a job as governess to two children who prove to be anything but innocent.
Honorable Mentions:¬†Kill Baby Kill (anything Mario Bava),¬†The Changeling (1980),¬†The Haunting (1963), The Haunting of Julia,¬†Pan’s Labyrinth,¬†The Others, Jane Eyre¬†(any version but I adore the 2011 release)¬†and¬†The Orphanage.
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Photography by:¬† Jackson Notier
I hope this post introduced you to something new or rekindled some old loves! Season of the witch is upon us and each film is perfect for a fall night in. When you do venture out be sure to see Crimson Peak, now playing!