Yesterday a friend posted on Facebook that she had an unsuccessful horror movie festival at home and had decided she was going to have to pay to rent some good horror. My first thought, seeing as I am self-centered and paranoid, was that she had tried some of the movies on my blog and been sorely disappointed.
Of course many of the horror movies I put on my blog are not to everyone’s taste. Sometimes I wonder if they are to my taste (and that might be their charm). I tend to think of art or movies as I think of people and many of the films I love, particularly horror films, are freaks and geeks (without the benefit of a sentimental TV show to force you into empathizing with them).
Anyway, this Facebook post got me to thinking what I would put on my blog if I were to dedicate it to the “popular kids” rather than the cast-outs and the cool artsy kids (even though, I should note, the FB post was written by a cool, artsy chick.) After all, there ARE good bigger budget or well distributed horror movies from the last ten years or so. Just being on Video On Demand or Netflix or having been seen by more than ten people or having good production values doesn’t make a movie bad! I know plenty of guys who were celebrated for playing sports in high school and whose other attributes, more interesting from my perspective, were largely overlooked. It might be rare, but it happens.
So today I set out to do an “alternate universe” blog posting showing only fairly popular and well regarded movies from the past decade or so. Unfortunately a lot of these films just aren’t streaming for free. By coincidence, two of them that ARE streaming for free deal with the theme of an “alternate universe.” There’s no such thing as coincidences.
TRIANGLE was critically acclaimed and generated a lot of internet chatter from folk trying to “decode” its complex narrative turns. I have a feeling that some people (maybe all the folk who have actually seen the original CARNIVAL OF SOULS and are sick of the “twist ending” shocks or it’s-all-a-dream b.s. after THE SIXTH SENSE…or maybe all the people who knew the ending of “Lost” after the second episode…) avoided watching it because they were wary of their intelligence being insulted by pointless obfuscation. I can personally guarantee that TRIANGLE is not that movie. It’s much more sophisticated than movies like PRIMER, for example, though just from a quick survey of the basic plot it would seem to amount to the same nonsense. TRIANGLE is distinguished for working at several different levels at the same time. There are multiple interpretations of the events that unfold, both literal and metaphorical, but the director pulled off the amazing trick of supporting each of these possible interpretations simultaneously without any loose ends. It is, indeed, a puzzle. However, the puzzle is not pointless. The riddle contributes, in fact, to the underlying themes. Meanwhile, the underlying themes, as well as the polished style and top notch acting, lend urgency and pathos to the process of “solving” the puzzle. I should also mention it’s frightening, at times, and has some extremely startling imagery. Don’t read too much about TRIANGLE before watching it and if after watching you have any questions or doubt my claim that there are no “loose ends,” get in touch with me personally. We’ll work it out…
DEAD END had a long Video On Demand run through cable and so it’s reached a fairly large audience. It’s also one of my favorite horror films from the last ten years or so and I think it will become even more popular as time goes by. Directed by the same man who brought us CURTAINS, a Canuxploitation classic I posted to this blog in 2012, DEAD END transcends what might be interpreted as a trite narrative arc with a satirical take on family dynamics, a truly unsettling sense of foreboding, an oppressive claustrophobia that sneaks up on the viewer, and top-notch, spooky, original imagery. I am consistently surprised while watching it….constantly surprised from beginning to end…not by the plot, but by everything that happens within the plot. It’s a series of amazing set pieces that, like XTRO (its freaky, geeky cousin), adds up to something unhinged and wonderful.
Both of these films are contemporary variations of an old narrative that saw one of its early, fully realized literary manifestations in Ambrose Bierce’s short story “An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge.” Bierce’s story from 1890 has inspired countless variations throughout the years to the point that some horror fans may be sick of it (as I am of the countless variations of “Carmilla” by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu). Some variations are more creative and diverge more successfully from their source, however, and I think both TRIANGLE and DEAD END are examples of that.
“An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge” was famously filmed in 1962 by French director Roberto Enrico as part of a trilogy of short films he made of Ambrose Bierce’s civil war stories. Enrico’s film trickled into American pop culture when Rod Serling aired it, slightly edited, as a Twilight Zone episode. The film was also shown by teachers in classrooms for many years and so has most certainly warped many young minds for several generations. As I’m sure many (how many times can I write “many”? Many!) have already seen this short film, I’m posting an alternate version with a new score by British minimalist composer Michael Tanner. Like Philip Glass’s music for LES ENFANTS TERRIBLES, I find that Tanner’s score creeps into the imagery without altering its visual impact and makes the shock ending all the more startlingly effective.
I also highly recommend Enrico’s two other films from his trilogy, particularly CHICKAMAUGA which not only makes me cry but has an image of a clown in the midst of massacre that will send shivers of horror up and down your spine.
More about Enrico’s trilogy here (a very good article, actually):
More about the composer Michael Tanner here:
(This movie is only available in segments on Youtube so I have put them together into a playlist on Youtube for uninterrupted watching – apart from possible advertising interruptions)
(It appears that a few minutes have been edited out of this copy of DEAD END. My apologies, I didn’t watch it in full until after writing this post. This version is still worth watching if you can’t get a hold of an unedited version…nothing dramatic is missing from the narrative as far as I can tell, but I feel like some more disturbing images are absent…)
AN OCCURRENCE AT OWL CREEK BRIDGE