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Saturday is Horror Day #11 – Nosferatu (1922) – (x-posted at Full Moon Dreaming)

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 Nosferatu (1922)


A young married man  named Thomas Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim) is sent on a business trip by his employer Knock (Alexander Granach). The purpose of his trip is to help finalize the sale of a house in England to a distant customer, Count Orlok (Max Schreck) in Transylvania. Although missing his wife Ellen (Great Schroder). Hutter dutifully makes the trip. But the closer to the Count’s home he gets, the more the people become nervous and afraid for him. He can’t even get transportation all the way to his destination, as the driver refuses to go any closer. But as he sets out to walk the remaining distance, a carriage appears, and its strange driver beckons to Hutter to get in.

Hutter finds the castle eerie and the count peculiar. But business is business, and once he is done he can


return to his beloved wife. While going through some papers, Hutter accidentally drops a miniature of his beloved, which the Count picks up. The odd nobleman seems quite taken with Hutter’s pretty missus, to his consternation. Things get even eerier when at night, he spies the Count loading coffin-shaped boxes onto a wagon, all by himself! When Hutter investigates during the day, he discovers the Count lying in a coffin, and realizes he has to get out of there as soon as possible! But he is stricken by a strange illness, and begins to wonder if he will ever make his way home.

Ellen anxiously awaits her husband’s return, in the company of her husband’s friend, Harding, and Harding’s sister Ruth (Ruth Landshoff). In the meantime, the Count has acquired passage for himself and his boxes on a ship bound for England. But strange things begin to happen on this vessel. Sailors grow sick and die, but no one can determine the cause. And when the ship pulls into the port, there is no one left alive.

 

The village begins to be troubled by mysterious deaths for which the citizens find a scapegoat – the increasingly erratic Knock, who has fallen under the Count’s spell, albeit from a distance, and who looks forward to the master’s arrival.

Hutter returns at last, to Ellen’s relief, and she finds the book he was reading while in Transylvania, Nosferatur, which gave him such terrible nightmares. He warns her not to read the book but she can’t help herself, and finds herself drawn to the mysterious Count. According to legend, only a beautiful maiden can break the curse of Nosferatu, by keeping him in thrall until the cock crows, and with her blood. Ellen knows what needs to be done…

This is the German film that started it all, the first cinematic version of Dracula, even before Bela Lugosi enchanted us so so me years later. Director F.W. Murnau has given us a cinematic classic. The reason  it wasn’t called Dracula, even though it’s taken from the novel by Bram Stoker, had to do with problems with the Stoker estate  This film is silent, and being silent, of course everything is told in the actor’s actions, as well as the dialogue cards. To those unused to silent films, the action may come across as melodramatic and over the top. But even almost a hundred years later, Nosfterau has a presence that can’t be denied. The music, the cinematography, the editing, as well as the performances, add up to a classic horror film which stands the test of time. This is my first time viewing it, but won’t be the last. One of the scenes which impressed me was the arrival of the ship, an ordinary event, and yet so not ordinary considering what is about to unleased on an unknowing city. Next time I’ll watch it at night, I’m sure it will add an element of gothic horror.

I recommend this film, and give it a solid 4 stars.

Saturday is Horror Day #4 – Black Christmas (2019), Stoker (x-posted at Full Moon Dreaming)

Reviewed by: Julie Lynn Hayes

Black Christmas (2019) – Hawthorne College is going on Christmas break, and all the students are 

preparing to leave for the holidays, including the Mu Epsilon sorority. The ladies of the sorority take their sisterhood very seriously, and are especially protective of one of their number, Riley (Imogen Poots). Three years before, Riley was drugged and attacked by a member of a campus fraternity. Despite naming her attacker, nothing was done to him, and Riley’s veracity was questioned, leading her to doubt herself and never put herself forward. Three years have passed since then. The sorority sisters plan a little revenge in the form of a musical number they perform for some of the college students, which accuses the frat of condoning what happened. Needless to say, the boys aren’t happy.

Hawthorne College is not particularly forward in its thinking, and evidence of this can be found in the form of Professor Gelson (Cary Elwes), who teaches the Classics. Just listen to him speak for a few minutes, and you can see that he is the type of chauvinist women have been fighting against for years, with his men first attitude. There is a petition being circulated to have him fired, which the boys are not happy about, and neither is the Prof.

The sorority sisters begin to receive strange text messages, allegedly from the account of the university’s founder, Calvin Hawthorne. Disturbing and strange messages. Then the sisters begin to disappear.

This film is a loose remake (at least I assume it’s intended that way ) of the 1974 Black Christmas, as both take place on a college campus and involve a sorority whose members are being killed. I reviewed the first version earlier, and while it was no great shakes in the horror department, it possessed a certain charm which this version lacks. The first film had some quirky, a bit off-the-wall characters, including the Laughing Policeman, and the weird House Mother. In the new version, there is no House Mother, and the police have much less presence. Although the newer Black Christmas looks better, that is deceptive. The plot is actually worse than the first one *****POSSIBLE SPOILERS***** In the first one, a killer hides in the attic and comes down to kill the girls. In this one, there is a, for lack of a better word, cult among the fraternity brothers, based around the statue of the founding father (please, don’t confuse him with the Founding Fathers), and some sort of magic involving black gunk (still don’t know what that was). Hooded figures with bow and arrows and creepy masks.

At the heart of this story is a basic man vs woman theme, in which the sorority sisters must show they are woman, hear them roar, and defeat the evil gender. If this sounds like a hokey premise for a film, trust me, it is. The only name in the cast is that of Cary Elwes (are you so hard up for money?). As soon as I realized he was in the cast, I assumed he would end up as the bad guy, especially after all the chauvinist nonsense he was spouting. The film isn’t really what I would call scary, it’s largely about Riley redeeming herself for her previous inability to have power over her attacker. It’s about getting even, and women refusing to be less than men. But as a horror film, it leaves something to be desired. I’m going to give this one two stars. My honest advice is to look for something better to watch.

Stoker

Tragedy strikes on India Stoker’s 18th birthday when her beloved father Richard is killed in a freak accident, leaving India (Mia Wasikowska of Alice in Wonderland) and her mother (Nicole Kidman) behind. During the funeral, India spies a strange man, watching from a distance. Later, at the house, he introduces himself to her as her Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode of A Conspiracy of Witches), come home. An uncle she was not aware she even had.

India is a solitary teen, preferring her own company to that of others. She never seems to fit in, which makes it especially  hard now that she has lost the person she felt closest to. The boys at school tend to tease her, making crude sexual innuendos and nicknaming her Stroker. One boy, Whip, is better than the others, and helps her out of a difficult situation.

There is something about India’s handsome uncle that draws her to him, and he is obviously obsessed with her. He follows her constantly, looks out for her, and steps in when she needs his help. They are birds of a feather, and they are drawn together, like magnets. And yet India dislikes him at the same time, no matter how attractive he is. But when she sees her mother flirting with him, India becomes jealous. The question is is she upset that her mother can show interested in someone who isn’t her father, or is she jealous because Charlie is hitting on India’s mother?

What are the boundaries of family love?

Stoker 1Stoker is an interesting psychological study which explores the various relationships among the main characters. India and Charlie, India and her mother, Charlie and her mother, in particular.  ****SPOILERS AHEAD*** It isn’t until the end of the film that we learn where Charlie has been, after the discovery of the letters he wrote to India for years (having never met his niece), which were hidden from her. Letters speaking of his love for her and his plans for their future together. These letters were written from the mental institution where Charlie resided for some twenty years after killing his little brother when he was a child.

 

The attraction between India and Charlie is definitely sexual in nature, and there is a palpable sexual tension there. When India ends up killing Whip, who tried to assault her, Charlie helps her bury the evidence, which is when India learns this is not his first rodeo. Afterward, as India showers, she masturbates to images of Charlie killing Whip.

stoker8

 

The film is well made, and was directed by Chan-wook Park, known for his films The Handmaiden, Thirst and Oldboy. I’ve seen The Handmaiden and Oldboy, and highly recommend them. I will be watching Thirst soon. Stoker was written by Wentworth Miller, whom you might remember as an actor from Prison Break.

Altogether a lovely and dark film about a seriously dysfunctional family. I think I’ll give it 4 stars.