Saturday, July 25, 2009

Hour of the Wolf

directed by: Ingmar Bergman Year of Release: 1968 Running Time: 90 minutes

Hour of the Wolf refers to the hour between night and dawn, the time when most people pass on and infants are born. This title suits Bergman's very personal vision of an artist giving in to insanity, an insomniac unable to sleep due to his fear of the unknown or his own demons that stalk him during this hour. Shot in black and white, the art-house film follows a painter and his young wife who move to a isolated, densely wooded island where the only neighbors are ghoulish, sinster aristocrats who reside in Gothic mansion at the top of the island.
Hour of the Wolf is perhaps the most pure representation of a nightmare I have seen, it's sometimes very freighting but also highly surreal, bizarre, deeply personal, confusing and disorienting. Real life nightmares aren't perfectly linear,easy explained, easily accessible, flashy, thrill a minute rollarcoasters that horror movies about nightmares often are. Bergman's film is the complete opposite and a thus challenge to watch, it's not entirely audience friendly. While its frustrating at times, it's hard to ignore Berman's genius. Hour of the Wolf is still a unique, unnerving and quietly freighting film that is best watched in the semi-lucid state that comes in the wee hours of night to get the the full effect.

Rating: 3/5

This film is avalible currently on DVD from MGM which is out of print, but also avliable in-print in a Bergman Boxed set.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Man Bites Dog

Director: Remy Belvaux and Andre' Bonzel Year of Release:1992 Running Time: 95 min

Man Bites Dog a chilling look at the media's fascination and sometimes symbiotic relationship to violent crime. Set in modern day Belgium, the film follows a group of aspiring filmmakers who follow around Ben, a vicious yet charismatic serial killer and document his horrific exploits. Has the filmmakers become more personally involved with Ben's personal life and take a more active role in Ben's activities, the line between observes/reporters and accomplices becomes blurred and finally shattered. Shot in stark black and white, the film's low budget feel adds greatly to its realism, but it's unmistakeably well made and acted, with Benoit Poelvoorde giving a magnetic, bloodcurdling performance as the chilling, talkative Ben. With it's pervasively bleak, somewhat nihilistic worldview and cold, savage scenes of brutality and cruelty, Man Bites Dog is a disturbing and sometimes tough film to watch, but viewers who choose to do so will find this to be a thought provoking, unflinchingly visceral, if sometimes a bit exploitative look at our collective voyeurism.

Rating: 4/5

Availability: Man Bites Dog is available from the Criterion Collection.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

City of the Living Dead

Director: Lucio Fulci Year of Release: 1983 Running Time: 93 min

Widely considered to be in the top tier of gorehound favorite Lucio Fulci's work, City of the Living Dead is a supernatural horror film laced with bouts of explicit gore. Set in the sleepy New England town of Dunwich, a local priest commits suicide and opens he gates of hell, unleashing all sorts of ghastly chaos upon the residents as a psychic tries to seal them and put a end to the horror. One of Fulci's strengths as a director is creating an appropriate atmosphere to suit the film and in that regard COTLD is one of his strongest efforts. The film oozes Gothic style and a feeling of impeding doom permeates. Another strength and claim to fame is his incredible use of gore, in that respect, COTLD has several set pieces that are notorious among gorehounds, particularity the nauseating entrail vomiting scene. Has a horror film the result is less successful; there are some genuinely frightening moments and the atmosphere is top notch, but the pacing is painful, leading to quite a few boring, shoddy stretches; likewise, while Fulci films are rarely known for their compelling characters, the ones featured here, not to mention the acting are particularly wooden and completely uninteresting. All in all I didn't have an enjoyable time watching City of the Living Dead, it was pretty dull save for the aforementioned strong points, although die hard fans and Fulci devotes will want to check it out.

Rating: 2/5

The most widely circulating and available edition and is the Blue Underground dvd.