6WH: Week 2 – Sixties Horror

At first, I didn’t think I’d have a recognizable theme this week, but then I realized that these three films were all made in the 1960s (even though one is probably more of a thriller than a horror film, I’m going to let it slide, especially since it does feature several horror hallmarks). So here we go:

  • The Others (trailer)
  • The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror: Bad Dream House (sorry, no vid online)
  • The Haunting (trailer)
  • The Innocents: The quiz I posted on Wednesday featured a question about picking a Freddie Frances directed movie, and my answer indicated that his fimography as a cinematography was more impressive, and The Innocents is a prime example of why. Speaking of that quiz, I think one of the questions could have been something like “The Innocents or The Haunting“, as these two films certainly share a certain thematic similarity. The Innocents isn’t as bold or striking as The Haunting, but that sort of subtlety is its defining characteristic. The film is an exercise in suggestive storytelling, so the lack of pyrotechnics is appropriate and even contributes to the film’s repressive atmosphere. This isn’t to say that the film is poorly made – it’s just that the filmmakers are so confident in their story (based on Henry James’ horror milestone, The Turn of the Screw) that they don’t feel the need to spice things up with flashy camera angles or stinging audio cues. The camera moves fluidly and the cinematography is gorgeous, but neither really calls attention to itself. The acting, especially Deborah Kerr’s performance, is very good, but again, not showy. Kerr’s repressed personality is well portrayed, but this doesn’t exactly set the screen on fire (nor should it).

    The story concerns a governess hired to take care of two children in a country manner. The children’s parents have died, and their uncle is a lifelong bachelor who is unwilling to change his ways, so he hires Miss Giddens (played wonderfully by Deborah Kerr) to take care of the kids. When she first arrives, she meets young Flora and all seems well. But then Flora’s brother Miles comes home early, having been expelled for reasons that are unclear. As the story proceeds, we get hints that the previous nanny and caretaker were lovers and that they’ve corrupted the children somehow. Like Miles expulsion from school, the servants transgressions are never really all that clear, and all we have to go on are certain suggestive cues.

    There are some genuinely creepy moments in the film, and there’s certainly something to be said for a subtle and suggestive story, but something rubbed me the wrong way about this film. It may have been the ending that left me a bit cold, or maybe it was just that I kept thinking about The Haunting as I was watching this movie. Director Jack Clayton has said that he wanted to get away from the popular horror films of the day (his contemporary competition would have been Hammer Horror), and in that, he has certainly succeeded (I like this film much more than the Hammer films I’ve seen). There’s a lot to like here and the film probably deserves a larger audience, but I also think there’s a reason this is a cult film that’s often overshadowed by the likes of The Haunting. **1/2

  • Freaks (trailer)
  • Shining (fake trailer)
  • Grindhouse: Don’t (fake trailer)
  • Carnival of Souls: Moody and atmospheric, this tale of a car crash’s lone survivor is short and sweet. The most notable thing about the movie for me is the soundtrack. Our heroine is an organist, you see, and she’s been hired to play for a local church. But after her accident, she seems strangely withdrawn… almost like she doesn’t have a soul! The organ-heavy soundtrack is quite evocative and Candace Hilligoss’s empty (in a good way) performance hits the perfect note. It’s difficult to tell a story with a main character who has no soul because, well, how can the audience relate to that? But Hilligoss imbues her performance with enough pathos that you can’t help but feel for her. Plus, she keeps seeing this strange ghoul-faced man all over the place, eventually leading her to explore an abandoned carnival, and as you might expect, things get even weirder from there, including an interesting but not entirely unexpected ending. **1/2
  • Rear Window (trailer)
  • Rear Window as Three’s Company (fake trailer)
  • The Simpsons: Bart of Darkness (sorry, no vid online)
  • Wait Until Dark: Perhaps less of a horror film than a mere thriller, this film does feature a number of striking horror-like sequences, enough so that I’m not going to disqualify it (plus, uh, I didn’t have any other sixties films lined up for this week:p). The plot is simple and maybe a little gimmicky. A doll stuffed with drugs accidentally makes its way to the apartment of Susy Hendrix (Audrey Hepburn), and a group of criminals (lead by a sinister, infamous-sunglasses-wearing Alan Arkin) conspires to get it back by conning Susy.

    Alan Arkin

    The gimmick here is that Susy is blind, leading to several scenes where our villains attempt to exploit their ocular advantage. Unfortunately for them, they’re not as smart as they think, and Susy pretty quickly figures out what’s going on (or, at least, she realizes that things aren’t as they appear). The film starts a bit slowly, but the tension mounts pretty evenly as the film proceeds, leading to a few standout sequences late in the film, including excellent use of darkness, sound, and an exceptional “boo!” sequence towards the end of the film that will probably shock you even though you were expecting it. ***

Not positive what will be next, but coming up will definitely be a week of Silent Era Horror and some Ozploitation.

Update: Yeah, I should probably mention some other folks doing some horror movie blogging as well. Ben has been infected by my efforts and inspired to watch some horror in preparation for the season (this time, he’s going for underwater horror), and of course, kernunrex continues his yearly marathon (which had originally inspired me in the first place). I haven’t looked around a ton, but I’m sure lots more folks will be starting up once we reach October…

2 thoughts on “6WH: Week 2 – Sixties Horror”

  1. Carnival of Souls is great. I had it buried in the middle of some public domain box set and watched it without knowing what it was. Quite a treat to discover it wasn’t a boring piece of crap like the rest of the set and, rather, a nice piece of surrealist ’60s horror.

    Re: Ozploitation – friend of mine says Not Quite Hollywood is a really fun documentary on the subject.

  2. I wouldn’t say I loved Carnival of Souls, but I can definitely see why it has the following it has…

    I saw Not Quite Hollywood last year and really enjoyed it… it made me want to watch a bunch of these movies! Alas, not a ton are actually available on DVD, still I found a few (and there are even a few on Netflix’s Watch Instantly)…

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