Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Village of the Damned (1960 film)




Based on the novel The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham, Village of the Damned is the story of a British village where its women give birth to children who are mysterious and have powers. Directed by Wolf Rilla and screenplay by Rilla, Stirling Silliphant, and Ronald Kinnoch, the film is a look into a home that is unhinged by mysterious children who want to take over. Starring George Sanders, Barbara Shelley, Martin Stephens, and Michael Gwynn. Village of the Damned is a mesmerizing and eerie film from Wolf Rilla.

Set in a small British village, the film revolves its villagers who suddenly fall asleep for hours and then wake up not knowing what had happened as some of the women in the village have become pregnant as the children they would give birth to are very mysterious. It’s a film that plays into a community that is baffled by this mysterious event as well as be disturbed by this group of white-haired children who are much smarter than normal children and can read minds. The film’s screenplay starts off with this typical normal day in the village of Midwich where everyone is just doing what they do until they all suddenly faint and fall asleep for some mysterious reason.

Leading the investigation is Alan Bernard (Michael Gwynn) who is a military officer that was talking to Professor Gordon Zellaby (George Sanders) when the event happened as he wonders what had happened and how his wife Anthea (Barbara Shelley) and the other women in the village became pregnant. A few years go by after the pregnancy and birth is where things become really strange as the kids grow up faster than the other children as well as exhibit certain powers and ask big questions.

Wolf Rilla’s direction is largely straightforward for much of the film in terms of the compositions and its approach to suspense by not delving into the horror and drama immediately in the film except in the opening sequence. There are a few moments of minor suspense early on but much of it is dramatic as Rilla’s compositions in the medium shots and close-up play into the characters coping with what happen and this new situation they’re in. By the film’s second half where the children have arrived and have these strange powers, it does become a more suspenseful feature where Zellaby tries to understand what is going on. There are some wide shots in the film as it relates to the number of children who have these powers in Rilla needing to get all of them in the shot.

There are also these scary moments where the power of these children where their eyes would lit up as it would play into something drastic as it harkens to the dangers of what happens with society if it’s under the control of people who bring fear as it harkens to the times of the Cold War in the 1960s. All of which would play into Zellaby needing to confront these children as well as what they’re planning to do with society. Overall, Rilla crafts a chilling yet haunting film about a group of children terrorizing a village.

Cinematographer Geoffrey Faithfull does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white cinematography as it help play into the film’s evocative look and tone for much of the daytime exteriors as well as some chilling scenes set at night. Editor Gordon Hales does excellent work with the editing as it help play into the suspense and drama with some rhythmic cuts including a few stylish cuts for some of the intense moments of the film. Art director Ivan King does fantastic work with the film’s sets from the look of the homes where the characters live and work at to the look of the house where the children would go to in their attempt to start their own colony. Sound recordist Cyril Swern does terrific work with the sound in creating something that feels natural but also unsettling for some of the dramatic suspenseful moments. The film’s music by Ron Goodwin is superb for its low-key yet eerie orchestral score that play into the drama and suspense.

The casting by Irene Howard is amazing as it feature some notable small roles from Jenny Laird and Sarah Long in their respective roles as a mother-daughter duo who both become pregnant, Richard Warner as a man who is angry over his wife’s pregnancy as he returns home from the sea, John Phillips as General Leighton who wants to destroy the town believing it is dangerous because of the children, and Laurence Naismith as Dr. Williers who would examine the women and notice something odd about the children before and after they’re born. Michael Gwynn is superb as Alan Bernard as a military officer friend of Professor Zellaby who is trying to understand what is going on as he would have a confrontation with the children only to nearly be killed by them.

Martin Stephens is fantastic as Anthea’s son David as one of the children who has these strange powers as he is the leader of sorts of these kids who is very intelligent and cunning in his determination for power. Barbara Shelley is excellent as Anthea as the woman who would give birth to David as she copes with his powers as she becomes unsure of what she’s given birth to as well as the chaos he’s caused. Finally, there’s George Sanders in a brilliant performance as Professor Gordon Zellaby as a man trying to make sense of everything as well as engage in conversation with his son and the other children where he realizes that something about them isn’t right.

Village of the Damned is an incredible film from Wolf Rilla. Featuring a great cast, eerie visuals, and a gripping story on a community unraveled by evil and mysterious children. It’s a film that explore what happens when something mysterious and unexplained can lead to chaos and put the lives of a community at risk. In the end, Village of the Damned is a sensational film from Wolf Rilla.

Related: Village of the Damned (1995 film)

© thevoid99 2017

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Innocents (1961 film)




Based on the novella The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, The Innocents is the story of a troubled governess who watches over two children who are supposedly possessed as she believes the house is haunted. Directed by Jack Clayton and screenplay by William Archibald and Truman Capote with additional dialogue from Jack Mortimer, the film is a Gothic horror story set in a home that might be haunted. Starring Deborah Kerr, Michael Redgrave, Megs Jenkins, Peter Wyngarde, Martin Stephens, Pamela Franklin, Isla Cameron, and Clytie Jessop. The Innocents is an intoxicating yet eerie film from Jack Clayton.

The film follows a woman who is given the job to be the governess for a man’s niece and nephew as her job is to care for them while he’s away on business as she becomes disturbed by their odd behavior as she believes the home they live in is haunted. It’s a film that explores a woman dealing with her situation as she tries to get to know as well as befriend these two kids living in this mansion which also house a few staff members include a housekeeper who probably knows more than she lets on. The film’s screenplay explores life at this beautiful and serene home that seems to be tranquil but there is also something off about the house once Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) has arrived into the home. In meeting the young girl Flora (Pamela Franklin) and the housekeeper Mrs. Grose (Megs Jenkins), Miss Giddens seems to have gotten herself a job that will make her happy and more.

Yet, that all changes when Flora’s brother Miles (Martin Stephens) arrives after having been kicked out at school where things start off a little odd and then becomes more troubling due to Miles’ personality as someone who acts very mature and say a lot of mature things. Miss Giddens would then see mysterious people at the home thinking they’re alive as it is believed to be previous inhabitants in the home including the children’s previous governess. Miss Giddens would learn more about those previous inhabitants as she believes they are possessing the children as she wants to know what these inhabitants want.

Jack Clayton’s direction is definitely stylish for many of the visuals that he creates as it help sets a mood into this massive estate and land which is a character in the film. Shot partially on location at a mansion in Sheffield Park on Sussex with much of it shot on Shepperton Studios in Britain. Clayton would use some wide shots to establish some of the locations but also use the wide shots for some unique compositions that play into some of the dramatic tension that looms throughout the film. Especially in the way he would frame his actors for a shot where there’s an extreme close-up of one character in the foreground and a medium shot of another character in the background. There are also some unique compositions in some of the medium and wide shots that would play into some of the things Miss Giddens would see during the course of the film as she wonders if it’s real or not. There are also sequences that are surreal as it relates to what Miss Giddens is dreaming about as it would also include moments that are very extreme as it relates to Miss Giddens’ relationship with Miles. While there’s scenes that are straightforward, it is only to build up the suspense as it would lead to this chilling climax as it relates to the previous inhabitants of the home. Overall, Clayton crafts an evocative yet haunting film about a governess dealing with children who could be possessed by ghosts.

Cinematographer Freddie Francis does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white photography to help create moods with its usage of lighting, shades, and shadows to play into the suspense and horror as well as the usage of candle lights for a few scenes set at night. Editor James Clark does excellent work with the editing with its approach to rhythms to build up the suspense and drama as well as the usage of superimposed dissolves to play up the dramatic suspense in a few scenes. Art director Wilfred Shingleton does amazing work with the look of the rooms inside the house as well as some of the things found in the mysterious attic as well as folly near the lake at the estate.

Costume designer Sophie Devine, under the Motley pseudonym, does fantastic work with the look of the costumes as it plays into the film’s setting around the 19th Century with the dresses that Miss Giddens look to the clothes that the children wear. The sound work of Daphne Oram, with sound recordists Buster Ambler and John Cox, is incredible for the mixture of sounds in some scenes that add to the sense of terror as it is widely considered to be the early ideas of sound design as it’s one of the film’s major highlights. The film’s music by Georges Auric is superb for its orchestral score that is only used sparingly as it pops up on certain parts to help set the mood for the suspense and horror.

The film’s marvelous cast include some notable small roles from Isla Cameron as the housemaid Anna, Clytie Jessop as the ghost of the previous governess in Miss Jessel, Peter Wyngarde as a mysterious ghost who seems to be haunting and possessing Miles, and Michael Redgrave in a terrific small role as Miles and Flora’s uncle who hires Miss Giddens to be the children’s new governess. Pamela Franklin is wonderful as Flora as a young girl who is full of life and energy though she is also odd for the fact that she sings a song from a music box as she has no idea where she knows the song. Martin Stephens is excellent as Miles as a young boy who is kicked out of school as he’s also full of wonderment but there’s also something about him that is dark as he would say things that would disturb Miss Giddens.

Megs Jenkins is fantastic as Mrs. Grose as the housekeeper who is trying to understand what Miss Giddens is seeing as she also knows about the history of the house while aware that something isn’t right. Finally, there’s Deborah Kerr in a phenomenal performance as Miss Giddens as a governess who is hired to watch over the children of a rich man as she copes with the environment she’s in as well as the troubling behavior of the children as it’s one of Kerr’s finest performances.

The Innocents is a spectacular film from Jack Clayton that features a tremendous performance from Deborah Kerr. Along with its gorgeous visuals, eerie music soundtrack and sound design, and a haunting story set in a haunted house. The film is definitely a horror film that is more about mood rather than cheap scares to create suspense as well as show what atmosphere can do to create scares. In the end, The Innocents is a sensational film from Jack Clayton.

© thevoid99 2017

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Jigoku




Directed by Nobuo Nakagawa and screenplay by Nakagawa and Ichiro Miyagawa, Jigoku (Hell or The Sinners of Hell) is the story of a student who succumbs to guilt after leaving during a hit-and-run where he is chased by an evil doppelganger who would lead him to Hell. The film is an unconventional horror film set in modern Japan where a young man deals with his consequences as well as facing what could be his doom. Starring Shigeru Amachi, Utako Mitsuya, Yoichi Numata, Torahiko Nakamura, Fumiko Miyata, and Hiroshi Hayashi. Jigoku is an astonishing yet horrifying film from Nobuo Nakagawa.

The film follows a man that had everything going for him as he’s engaged to his professor’s daughter and is set for a nice future until he is pursued by a mysterious doppelganger who would get him involved in a hit-and-run where the man who was hit dies. It’s a film that isn’t just about the exploration of guilt but also a man dealing with the consequences as his life descends into total chaos due to these strange events that would have some form of involvement from this mysterious stranger who is there to stir things up. The film’s screenplay by Nobuo Nakagawa and Ichiro Miyagawa takes a simple three-act structure that takes place in three different locations during the course of the film as it relates to its protagonist Shiro Shimizu (Shigeru Amachi) and his life in Tokyo where he’s just this theology student trying to live his life as he’s constantly followed by this mysterious man in Tamura (Yoichi Numata) who always says very dark things and would put Shimizu in danger. Notably as Shimizu would encounter things that would affect him as he tries to right the wrongs only for everything to go wrong.

The second act takes place in a rural retirement community where Shimizu is visiting his dying mother where he meets a young woman named Sachiko (Utako Mitsuya) who looks a lot like his fiancée Yukiko. Yet, Tamura would follow him as would two women who are related to the man Tamura and Shimizu hit and ran during a night in Tokyo. One of these women is the man’s girlfriend who would have a brief tryst with Shimizu as she and the man’s mother would follow him where a lot of chaos ensue into what Shimazu’s father is doing in creating a tenth-anniversary party for the retirement community. The film’s third act is set in Hell as it’s about all of the sins that Shimizu has committed as well as those who had been around him.

Nakagawa’s direction is definitely stylish for the way he would present the film as it would start off with a brief surreal sequence of what Shimizu would endure in Hell to something more normal as he’s in a classroom. Much of Nakagawa’s direction for the scenes in Tokyo and at the rural retirement community does have bits of style but much of it is straightforward to play into the drama of what Shimizu is dealing with. There are a few slanted angles in some scenes as well as moments that are surreal whenever Tamura would pop up as it play into the sense danger that Shimizu would encounter. Nakagawa would use some wide shots to establish some of the locations though much of it is presented in medium shots and close-ups. That approach to the compositions would play into the moments of chaos including a meeting with Shimizu and Yoko (Akiko Ono) on a bridge as it is very tense as it relates to everything Shimizu had done as it relates to the hit-and-run. Eventually, the aftermath as it relates to this anniversary party would showcase these elements of horror as it sets the tone for what is to come in the film’s third act.

The film’s third act which takes place in Hell is definitely one of the most horrific and terrifying sequences in film. It has these vast settings where Shimizu and many of the characters he encounter would endure their own ideas of Hell. The usage of the wide shots play into the look of Hell from this eerie river to images that of a pool of fire and people walking endlessly in circles. In Hell, Shimizu would have some revelations about himself as well as seeing the sins of people he know or had just met as show a world where it’s torment that never ends. Even as Shimizu learns more about who Tamura really is and why he had been involved in Shimizu’s life. Overall, Nakagawa creates a rapturous yet unsettling film about a man’s consumption of guilt that would lead him down to Hell.

Cinematographer Mamoru Miyagi does incredible work with the film’s cinematography from the natural lighting approach to the scenes in Tokyo and in the small town to the more stylish array of looks for the scenes in Hell with the help of Hiroshi Ishimori in the lighting to help create moods for these sequences. Editor Toshio Goto does excellent work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts for some scenes as well as freeze-frames and other stylistic elements to play into the suspense and horror. Production designer Haruyasu Kurosawa does amazing work with the look of Hell in all of its settings as well as the way the community retirement home look in its party scene. The sound work of Kihachiro Nakai is fantastic for the array of sound effects and textures that are presented for the scenes set in Hell as it help create this atmosphere that is very unsettling. The film’s music by Chumei Watanabe is brilliant for its mixture of jazz, pop, and traditional Japanese music to play into this array of styles that play into the drama as well as the suspense and horror.

The film’s phenomenal cast include some notable small roles from Kanjuro Arashi as Hell’s king in Lord Enma, Sakurato Yamakawa as a fisherman who would catch fish that would later be poisoned, Hiroshi Shinguji as a corrupt police detective who desires Sachiko, Koichi Miya as an immoral journalist, Tomohiko Otani as a neglectful doctor at the community home, Jun Otomo as Sachiko’s father who is a troubled painter that is struggling with alcoholism, Kimie Tokudaji as Shimizu’s ailing mother, Akiko Yamashita as Shimizu’s father’s mistress Kinuko who would pursue Shimizu, Fumiko Miyata as Yukiko’s fragile mother, and Torahiko Nakamura in a terrific performance as Professor Yajima as Yukiko’s father and Shimizu’s mentor who is coping with a picture presented by Tamura that has him coping with his own sins from the past. Hirisho Ayashi is superb as Shimizu’s father who runs the community home which he uses for his own selfish reasons while cheating on his ailing wife with a young woman.

Hiroshi Izumida is wonderful in his brief role as Kyoichi “Tiger” Shiga as a gang leader who is the victim of the hit-and-run that Shimizu was involved in while Akiko Ono is fantastic as Kyoichi’s girlfriend Yoko who is a prostitute that had a brief tryst with Shimizu only to learn more about what he did. Kiyoko Tsuji is excellent as Kyoichi’s mother who vows vengeance for the death of her son as she is eager to find out who did it with Yoko’s help. Utako Mitsuya is amazing in a dual performance Shimizu’s fiancée Yukiko and the neighbor girl Sachiko as two figures of purity and morality who give Shimizu a reason to do what is right and to remind him of what is good in the world. Yoichi Numata is brilliant as Tamura as a mysterious man who constantly follows Shimizu as well as have a mysterious sense of knowledge about what everyone has done as gets them to face their own guilt. Finally, there’s Shigeru Amachi in a remarkable performance as Shiro Shimizu as a theology student who gets involved in a hit-and-run as he copes with the guilt of his actions as well as the chaos in his life that would eventually lead him to Hell.

Jigoku is a phenomenal film from Nobuo Nakagawa. It’s a film that is definitely a must-see for anyone that is interested in Japanese horror as it is widely considered to be the film that laid the groundwork for a lot of modern J-horror films in the years to come. Notably for its immense art direction, dazzling visuals, unsettling score, and themes of guilt and torment all taking place in a world called Hell. In the end, Jigoku is a tremendous film from Nobuo Nakagawa.

Nobuo Nakagawa Films: (Vampire Moth) – (The Depths) – (Black Cat Mansion) – The Ghost of Yotsuya

© thevoid99 2017

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Ghost of Yotsuya




Based on a play by Nanboku Tsuruya, Tokaido Yotsuya kaidan (The Ghost of Yotsuya) is the story of a samurai who wants to marry a woman against the wishes of her father by killing him only for things to go terribly wrong due to his ambitions. Directed by Nobuo Nakagawa and screenplay by Masayoshi Onuki and Yoshihiro Ishikawa, the film is an exploration of greed and ambition. Starring Shigeru Amachi, Katsuko Wakasugi, Shuntaro Emi, Ryuzaburo Nakamura, and Noriko Kitazawa. Tokaido Yotsuya kaidan is an eerie yet gripping film from Nobuo Nakagawa.

Set during the era of ancient Japan, the film revolves around a ronin samurai warrior who wants to marry the daughter of a lord only to be rejected as he responds by killing her father and another lord. It’s a film that explores a man’s need for position in the world of the samurai and lords as he does whatever it takes to do that as he would marry the daughter of a lord only to reject her in favor of another lord’s daughter. The film’s screenplay explore the desires of Iemon Tamiya (Shigeru Amachi) as a samurai with no master who is eager to rise up the ranks in society as he approaches a couple of lords who were walking on their way home as they reject Iemon’s offer only to be killed with the help of Iemon’s co-conspirator Naosuke (Shuntaro Emi).

After killing the son of a lord in Yomoshichi (Ryuzaburo Nakamura), Iemon takes Oiwa (Katsuko Wakasugi) as his wife while Naosuke would take Oiwa’s sister Osode (Noriko Kitazawa) his bride in the hope they would raise their own social status. Even though Oiwa would give Iemon a son, it’s not enough until Iemon gets the attention of the revered lord Kihe Ito (Hiroshi Hayashi) who would hand his daughter Ume (Junko Ikeuchi) to marry him. He and Naosuke would conspire a way to get rid of Oiwe as they would involve an admirer of Oiwe in Takuetsu (Jun Otomo) where it would only cause a lot of trouble for Iemon.

Nobuo Nakagawa’s direction is definitely stylish for the way he would open the film with this scene from a kabuki play as it sets the stage for what is to come. The following sequence is this long scene that is presented in one entire take where Iemon talks to two lords about marrying Oiwa leading to a samurai duel where it’s presented in a wide shot with a dolly track to capture everything that is happening. Nakagawa’s usage of the wide shots would play into a lot of the coverage into this area where it show the air of ambition in Iemon as he is determined to rise up in the ranks. Much of the film’s first and second act is about Iemon’s desire to be important as Nakagawa would use some close-ups and medium shots to capture his life with Oiwa in their small and dilapidated home. The film’s third act is where the horror would emerge as it relates to everything Iemon has done where it involves ghosts, snakes, and surreal hallucinations as there’s elements of guilt but also revenge on the part of those Iemon had wronged. The film’s climax isn’t just about Iemon dealing with the consequences of his actions but also be confronted by those he had affected both dead and alive. Overall, Nakagawa creates an entrancing yet eerie film about a ruthless samurai warrior who kills and manipulates those for his thirst of power and status.

Cinematographer Tadashi Nishimoto does incredible work with the film’s colorful cinematography with the usage of the Eastman color film stock and Shintoho Scope format as it captures a lot of detail into the way many of the exteriors setting look as well as the array of lighting for some of the interiors and the horror scenes are presented. Editor Shin Nagata does excellent work with the editing as it’s largely straightforward to play into the impact of the suspense and drama as well as going into more stylistic form for the film’s third act. Production designer Haruyasu Kurosawa does amazing work with the look of some of the exteriors in the ponds and places in rural Edo as well as the home that Iemon lived in with Oiwa. The sound work of Yoji Dogen is fantastic for its approach to sound effects from the way it captures natural sounds to the moments it would play into the suspense. The film’s music by Michiaki Watanabe is brilliant for its mixture of discordant string music as well as the usage of percussions that help add to the sense of terror in the film.

The film’s superb cast include some notable small roles from Hiroshi Hayashi as the warlord Kihe Ito, Junko Ikeuchi as Ito’s daughter Ume that Iemon is pursuing, Jun Otomo as a kind admirer of Oiwa in Takuetsu as a man who becomes a pawn in Iemon’s scheme, Noriko Kitazawa as Oiwa’s sister Osode who finds herself married to Naosuke as she wonders what is really going on, and Ryuzaburo Nakamura as Yomoshichi as the son of a Japanese lord who is trying to go after a samurai who killed his father only to be targeted by Naosuke and Iemon early in the film. Shuntaro Emi is excellent as Naosuke as Iemon’s assistant and conspirator who helps him rise to ambition in the hope he can get a share of the money and glory as he later starts to see strange things.

Katsuko Wakasugi is brilliant as Oiwa as the daughter of a warlord who becomes a victim of Iemon’s ambitions due to neglect and manipulation where she copes with everything she’s dealing with and her eventual discovery of his ambitions. Finally, there’s Shigeru Amachi in an incredible performance as Iemon Tamiya as a ronin samurai who is determined to be important in the rank of the samurai as he would marry the daughter of a warlord only to neglect her in favor of another warlord’s daughter as it’s a very dark performance of a man who schemes and such only to deal with the consequences of his actions.

Toikado Yotsuya kaidan is a phenomenal film from Nobuo Nakagawa. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous visuals, a compelling story, and an eerie music soundtrack, it’s a film that is this unconventional ghost story of sorts that showcases the fallacy of ambition and greed where a samurai would face his own actions. In the end, Toikado Yotsuya kaidan is a sensational film from Nobuo Nakagawa.

Nobuo Nakagawa Films: (Vampire Moth) – (The Depths) – (Black Cat Mansion) – Jigoku

© thevoid99 2017

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Thursday Movie Picks (Halloween Edition): Dolls




For the second week of October 2017 as part of the Thursday Movie Picks series hosted by Wanderer of Wandering Through the Shelves. It’s the second week of the Halloween edition of the series as the subject is on dolls who either come to life to create a shitload of chaos or be used as something for the protagonist to cope with. Here are my three picks:

1. Child’s Play



An obvious pick as it revolves around a kid who gets a popular doll for his birthday unaware that the doll had been possessed by an infamous serial killer who just wants to kill. It’s a fun horror film that has a kid haunted by this doll as the kid is accused of killing people when it’s really the doll. There’s some fun kills in the film as it would lead to a very popular franchise with a bunch of cool kills and other funny shit.

2. Pinocchio’s Revenge



This straight-to-video film from the 1990s is also about a serial-killing doll but it’s Pinocchio who is given as a present to a young girl. It is a rip-off of Child’s Play but the puppet is wooden and plays innocence. It’s an OK film that is most notable for a scene in which Pinocchio stares at the babysitter who is seen in the nude as she’s taking a shower. That’s the highlight of the film.

3. May



Though it’s not really about a doll but rather a portrayal of a troubled young woman trying to connect with other people as well as be fascinated by aspects of their bodies. Still, it is a great film from Lucky McKee that features Angela Bettis in an incredible performance as the titular role as the film is edited by Rian Johnson of Brick fame. Yet, the film does involve a doll that May has which she keeps in a glass case as it’s her only friend as it would play into the film’s third act that relates to May’s desire to find the perfect friend.

© thevoid99 2017

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Rope




Based on the play by Patrick Hamilton, Rope is the story of two college friends who kill a friend inspired by their philosophy professor in the idea of committing the perfect murder. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock and screenplay by Arthur Laurents from a story by Hume Cronyn, the film is the first film of Hitchcock to be shot in color as it is set entirely inside an apartment. Starring James Stewart, John Dall, Farley Granger, Joan Chandler, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Constance Collier, Douglas Dick, and Edith Evanson. Rope is a thrilling and evocative film from Alfred Hitchcock.

Set entirely in a New York City penthouse apartment, two college friends kill their roommate and hide him inside a chest where they hold a dinner party for guests who are unaware that there’s a body inside the chest. Among the guest that is invited to this party is a philosophy professor whom they admire as he becomes very suspicious of what is happening as one of the hosts acts erratically during the course of the party. Arthur Laurents’ screenplay, with un-credited work from Ben Hecht, never steps out of the setting with the exception of the opening credits sequence outside of the penthouse.

It begins with two young men in Brandon Shaw (John Dall) and Phillip Morgan (Farley Granger) strangling David Kentley (Dick Hogan) to death as they put him in this chest in their belief that they have committed the perfect crime. It’s all part of their plan to prove that their intellectually superior to the people they invited including the man that gave them this idea in Rupert Cadell (James Stewart). During the course of the party, everyone is wondering where Kent is including his father (Sir Cedric Hardwicke) and his aunt Mrs. Atwater (Constance Collier) as Cadell notices something is off as he is also wondering about Morgan who starts to drink heavily.

Alfred Hitchcock’s direction is definitely entrancing for the fact that it’s got a lot of long takes and takes place almost entirely inside this penthouse as the only scene not in the penthouse in the opening credit sequence. In using the penthouse as the setting for the entirety of the film, Hitchcock’s usage of tracking camera shots and long takes would allow him to capture what these two men are doing as well as this dinner party. All of which is taking place in real time where there is a lot of coverage into what Hitchcock is capturing with the camera. There are close-ups that would zoom out to go into a medium or a wide shot while there are also these unique compositions of what is happening as it’s all about the attention to detail of what is happening while a character is talking to someone. Even where Hitchcock is focused on a certain object or whatever thing the character is talking about as that person is off-screen. It would eventually lead to Cadell trying to see what is really going on as well as confront his own theories about superiority and inferiority. Overall, Hitchcock crafts an inventive yet intoxicating film about two men who hold a dinner party while hiding a dead body in the middle of the living room.

Cinematographers Joseph A. Valentine and William V. Skall do brilliant work with the film’s gorgeous Technicolor cinematography in creating a look that is colorful while providing some unique lighting early in the film as well as creating different mood for the exterior background. Editor William H. Ziegler does excellent work with the editing as it is very straightforward for a film that only contains ten shots in total with invisible cuts coming during close-ups of a character’s attire. Art director Perry Ferguson, with set decorators Howard Bristol and Emile Kuri, does fantastic work with the look of the penthouse apartment in all of its interiors including many of the objects in the living room as it help play into what is really inside the chest that the guests don’t know about.

Dress designer Adrian does wonderful work with the look of the dress of one of the guests who is baffled by the lack of her appearance of her fiancée. The sound work of Al Riggs is terrific for its naturalistic sound in the way many of the events in the room are presented as well as a few sound effects played outside of the apartment. The film’s music by David Buttolph is superb as it is mainly an orchestral score that appears in the opening and closing credits of the film with additional work from Francis Poulnec that is played on piano by the characters as well as other piano pieces provided by music director Leo F. Forbstein.

The film’s incredible cast feature notable small roles and performances from David Hogan as the unfortunate victim in David Kentley, Edith Evanson as the part-time housekeeper Mrs. Wilson who is also suspicious over what is going on, Douglas Dick as a friend of David in Kenneth Lawrence who is wondering where David is as he also has feelings for David’s fiancée Janet, and Constance Collier as David’s jovial aunt Anita Antwater. Sir Cedric Hardwicke is fantastic as David’s father Henry Kentley as a man who is aghast into Shaw’s view of things while wondering where his son is while Joan Chandler is brilliant as David’s fiancée Janet Walker as a columnist who is eager to meet David as she is concerned about his absence as she also deals with her former boyfriend Kenneth.

Farley Granger is excellent as Phillip Morgan as a co-conspirator of the murder who becomes consumed with guilt as he tries to keep it together throughout the party. John Dall is amazing as Brandon Shaw as another co-conspirator of the murder who is convinced nothing go wrong as he is a man of arrogance that thinks he had committed the perfect crime and has succeeded in being smarter than everyone. Finally, there’s James Stewart in a remarkable performance as Rupert Cadell as a former professor who had been the one who gave Shaw and Morgan the ideas of superiority and inferiority as he becomes very suspicious about what is going on at the party as well as being baffled by the way Morgan and Shaw have conducted themselves.

Rope is a tremendous film from Alfred Hitchcock. Featuring a great ensemble cast, a unique premise, and an unconventional yet rapturous presentation. The film is definitely one of Hitchcock’s quintessential films in terms of laying out the suspense as well as keeping it inside an apartment where many aren’t aware there’s a dead body inside a chest. In the end Rope is a spectacular film from Alfred Hitchcock.

Alfred Hitchcock Films: (Number 13) - (The Pleasure Garden) - (The Blackguard) - (The Mountain Eagle) - (The Lodger) - (A Story of the London Fog) - (The Ring) - (Downhill) - (The Farmer’s Wife) - (Easy Virtue) - (Champagne) - (The Manxman) - (Blackmail) - (Juno and the Paycock) - (Murder!) - (The Skin Game) - (Mary) - (Lord Camber’s Ladies) - (Rich and Strange) - (Number Seventeen) - (Waltzes from Vienna) - (The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934 film)) - (39 Steps) - (Secret Agent) - (Sabotage) - (Young and Innocent) – The Lady Vanishes - (Jamaica Inn) – (Rebecca) – (Foreign Correspondent) – (Mr. & Mrs. Smith) – Suspicion - (Saboteur) – (Shadow of a Doubt) – Lifeboat - Bon Voyage - (Spellbound) – (Notorious) – (The Paradine Cage) – (Under Capricorn) – (Stage Fright) – Strangers on a Train - I Confess - Dial M for Murder - (Rear Window) – To Catch a Thief - (The Trouble with Harry) – (The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956 film)) – (The Wrong Man) – Vertigo - North by Northwest - Psycho - The Birds - Marnie - (Torn Curtain) – (Topaz) – (Frenzy) – (Family Plot)

© thevoid99 2017

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Babadook




Written and directed by Jennifer Kent that is based on her short film Monster, The Babadook is the story of a woman taking care of her troubled six-year old son when their life turns upside down by a book that features a creature the boy has been dreaming about. The film is an exploration of a woman dealing with grief as well as the things that could be troubling her son. Starring Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall, Hayley McElhinney, Barbara West, and Ben Winspear. The Babadook is an exhilarating and entrancing film from Jennifer Kent.

The film follows a widow who lost her husband in a car accident on the day her son was born as the boy has been erratic and energetic until she finds a book about a monster that would eventually come to life to haunt both of them. It’s a film in which a woman copes with loss as she tries to move on as well as dealing with her six-year old son who is wild and claims he sees a monster which got him kicked out at school. During the course of the story, the woman in Amelia Vanek (Essie Davis) is dealing with these situations as she would become haunted by this mysterious creature known as the Babadook.

Jennifer Kent’s screenplay starts off with Amelia trying to maintain some normalcy in raising her son Samuel (Noah Wiseman) who has an active imagination and wants to do magic but is also troubled claiming he has strange nightmares. Upon finding this book to read to him at night, she thinks it’s just a simple book but it appears in strange places only to see Samuel act more lively and scared than usual with some telling Amelia that he's got some serious problems. Yet, Amelia would also unravel upon seeing things as it adds to what she read and what this mysterious creature would do.

Kent’s direction does have a sense of style in its approach to suspense and horror yet it is very straightforward in terms of playing into the drama as well as building things up. Shot on location in Adelaide in South Australia, the film does play into a world that is typical of suburbia where Amelia works at a nursing home to care for the elderly while her son goes to school and such. The air of suspense and horror doesn’t come until the second act during Amelia’s attempts to get rid of the book as well as Samuel’s increasingly erratic behavior. Kent would use some wide shots to establish bits of the location as well as emphasizing the space inside the house yet much of the compositions would have Kent use medium shots and close-ups. Especially in the scenes where Amelia becomes unhinged by these strange images she’s seeing as well as what Samuel is claiming to see.

One aspect of the film that is key to its horror is the book that is created by its illustrator/designer Alex Juhasz as it is this pop-up book that is about this monster that haunts those who call for it. By the time the film reaches the second act where Amelia starts to see things and wonder if she’s really hallucinating or this monster in the Babadook is actually preying on her. Things definitely intensify during the third act where Kent’s approach to suspense and horror really come ahead where Amelia would start to lose aspects of herself as if the Babadook had possessed her just like the book had predicted. All of which would eventually lead to this climax into what the Babadook wants and Amelia needing to protect her son from this mysterious creature as it also forces her to confront loss. Overall, Kent crafts a chilling and gripping film about a woman trying to protect her son from a monster created from some mysterious book.

Cinematographer Radoslaw Ladczuk does excellent work with the film’s cinematography with the natural look of the scenes in the daytime to the array of lighting queues and set-ups for the scenes set at night. Editor Simon Njoo does brilliant work with the editing as it has some inventive rhythmic cutting to play into the suspense and horror while knowing how to build it up. Production designer/co-art director Alex Holmes, with set decorator Jennifer Drake and co-art director Karen Hannaford, does fantastic work with the look of the house that Amelia and Samuel live in as well as the basement which features some of the things Amelia’s late husband had. Costume designer Heather Wallace does nice work with the costumes as it is largely casual with the exception of a magic cape that Samuel wears.

Hair/makeup supervisor Tracy Phillpot does terrific work with some of the gory makeup for some of the film’s climax while much of it is straightforward. Visual effects supervisor Marty Pepper and prosthetics supervisor Dale Bamford do amazing work with the look of the Babadook with the usage of puppets, stop-motion animation, and some computer-created visual effects as it is one of the film’s highlights. Sound designer Frank Lipson does incredible work with the sound for some of the sound effects as well as the way the Babadook would make sounds to help create that sense of terror. The film’s music by Jed Kurzel is superb for its orchestral-based music to help play into the suspense and horror without using it as a crutch as well as not appear in certain places while music supervisor Andrew Kotako creates a soundtrack that mainly feature a few contemporary pieces as well as some pop and whatever was playing in Amelia’s television.

The casting by Nikki Barrett is great as it feature some notable small roles from Chloe Hurn as Samuel’s cruel cousin Ruby, Adam Morgan as a police sergeant, Benjamin Winspear as Amelia’s late husband Oskar, Daniel Henshall as a co-worker of Amelia’s in Robbie, Hayley McElhinney as Amelia’s sister Claire, Barbara West as Amelia’s elderly, Parkinson’s stricken neighbor, and Tim Purcell as the model for the Babadook. Noah Wiseman is remarkable as Samuel as a six-year old boy with an active imagination who is dealing with the strange things he is seeing claiming that the Babadook exists as it is a terrifying yet energetic performance. Finally, there’s Essie Davis in a phenomenal performance as Amelia as a single mother still dealing with the loss of her husband as she is also overwhelmed by her son where Davis displays a physicality in the scenes during the third act that is intense as well as showcase a determination in that balance of fear and insanity as it is a performance for the ages.

The Babadook is a tremendous film from Jennifer Kent that features spectacular performances from Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman. It’s a film that plays with the conventions of the horror genre while maintaining its focus of the relationship between a mother and son as well as how they cope with death and what they could find though grief. In the end, The Babadook is a magnificent film from Jennifer Kent.

© thevoid99 2017