By Less Lee Moore
Last year I recommended ten films to watch in “Ten Instruments Of Evil.” In this issue of Popshifter, I’ve upped the ante to a baker’s diabolical dozen.
1. Alice, Sweet Alice (a.k.a. Communion); Alfred Sole, 1976 (United States)
I remember hearing about this movie as a kid and being far too chicken to actually watch it. It definitely lives up to its reputation, featuring creepy music, Catholic iconography, sexual repression, and those translucent plastic masks that New Orleans Mardi Gras Krewe members wear (which are terrifying, anyway). My only complaint is that much of the acting is of the bad 1970s TV kind: everyone shouts to denote emotion. The awesomely ambiguous ending more than makes up for it, however.
2. Blood and Black Lace (Sei donne per l’assassino); Mario Bava, 1964 (Italy)
This tawdry tale of cheating and couture is a giallo classic where even the innocent victims aren’t all that innocent. Stunningly lit and superbly shot, it’s like a black and white film noir, but drenched in vivid color. If I could jump into the screen and spend some time in this movie, I would, serial killers be damned. One can definitely see this movie’s huge influence on then-fledgling Italian horror master Dario Argento.
3. The Brood; David Cronenberg, 1979 (Canada)
The trailer calls it, “A film so terrifying, it will devastate you totally.” Maybe not totally, but I haven’t stopped thinking about it. The Brood has the cold, clinical feel of much of Cronenberg’s other work, but painted in earth tones. The dichotomy is fantastic; it actually FEELS like Halloween watching it. It’s part family drama, part science fiction, and wholly original. We aren’t really sure what’s going on until we are deeply invested in the movie but the glimpses we catch are truly disturbing. Child actress Cindy Hinds’ performance is one of the most authentic in any horror movie I’ve seen.
4. The Changeling; Peter Medak, 1980 (Canada)
The Changeling is another film I’d known about for years, but never seen until now. It’s a wonderful, old-fashioned ghost story oozing with ambiance and a few genuinely horrifying moments. With elements of The Shining, The Haunting Of Hill House, and even The Fall Of The House Of Usher, its “secret” is unraveled slowly and the payoff is perfect.
5. Daughters Of Darkness (Les lèvres rouges); Harry Kümel, 1971 (Belgium/France/West Germany)
Without using the word vampire or even showing any fangs, Daughters Of Darkness captures the seductive, sinister dread of the Gothic origins of bloodsuckers far better than most movies. As Countess Elizabeth Bathory, Delphine Seyrig is absolutely mesmerizing, a perverted antithesis to the eternally optimistic St. Kitten from Neil Jordan’s film version of Breakfast on Pluto. There are plenty of themes to sink one’s teeth into here, not the least of which are feminism and sadomasochism. And then there’s “Mother,” who I’m still trying to wrap my head around.
6. Ganga & Hess; Bill Gunn, 1973 (United States)
Granted, there are lots of unanswered questions and a few scenes that drag on, but there is also much to love in this unique art house film that transposes the Eastern European origins of vampires onto an African tribe. There is compelling interplay between the Christian act of consuming the blood of Christ and the vampire’s equally critical need to feed. Ganja & Hess is the only vampire film I’ve ever seen which uses a sonic motif to express that need, and it is one that is thoroughly haunting. The beautiful Marlene Clark portrays Ganja with charisma and startling strength.
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