If you’ve never taken a look through some Polish movie posters, then get your Google Image Search going and type in that phrase. Wildly creative and often downright baffling, these are almost addictive to look at, especially being used to the bad-Photoshop, overused-template movie posters we get in this country.
Here are some great Polish posters for horror films:
For a while now, I’ve been collecting pictures of old “ghost shows” and horror-themed fair attractions. This particular spiritualism-inspired exhibit developed into things like spookshows and the usually-disappointing clattering old fair rides (which I always still loved), but seem to not be around so much these days.
It should be no surprise that kindly, loony Werner Herzog would decide to give remaking one of the landmark films of early cinema a whirl. It should also be no surprise that he nailed it, imbuing it with some dark (dark dark) humor and a Hoover-sucking sense of doom while maintaining the original’s style and theatricality. It is brooding, dense with ominous set-pieces:
Herzog also gives us a scope that feels greater than that of the original. Dracula (not Orlok in this version, since apparently there was no Stoker heir to upset anymore), exudes and embodies decay. His arrival into civilization precipitates destruction and death.
Kinski’s centuries-lonely Count.
Alone in a rotting castle.
Giggling Renfield; “Der meister ist hier!”
Plague spills into Wismar.
The townspeople celebrate, mourn life, welcome the end.
Cinematographer Jörg Schmidt-Reitwein's brilliant chamber-drama compositions and lighting recall Murnau's stylized sets; he punctuates, however, with occasional kinetic, handheld movements which are startling and exciting.
There’s a great cast, too: Kinski, Isabelle Adjani, Bruno Ganz, among others.
This is also an ideal, moody, slow-burner that is perfect for October-watching. Once again, unfortunately this isn’t on Netflix Instant, but it really shouldn’t be hard to find at your local video rental store, if those still exist by the time you read this.
Spookshows were theatrical performances popular from the 1920s-early 1960s. In the heyday of spiritualism and the waning days of vaudeville, this form of entertainment found a unique popularity. It began as a kind of augmented seance routine, using lights and smoke and typical medium histrionics, and by the 60s, they were generally nothing more than people running around in monster costumes. It’s a tradition that always sounded like so much fun to me; I always wished there were still a few of them around (I know there are a handful of revival spookshows, but I’ve never been anywhere near them.).
Since I’ve never been able to find any video of a spookshow performance, we’ll have to settle for the artwork, which was still pretty awesome:
Here’s a great article in the New York Times that highlights the incredible(ly bizarre) career of filmmaker-provocateur José Mojica Marins, aka Coffin Joe. Mojica managed to nearly single-handedly create a horror film scene in Brazil. Combining shock value and an amazing DIY, hyper-macabre aesthetic, his films are engrossing, gruesome events; they are fascinating for their sheer audacity and rabid creativity.
This is a pretty cool list; lots of great horror films on it. However, it’s typical of most “__ Scariest Movies of All Time” lists in that the choices, as far as scariness, seem pretty arbitrary. Some of the movies on this list are scary, some are kind of creepy-ish, and some are downright funny. So I can’t make any guarantees as to how scary a lot of these are, but the large majority of them, in my opinion, are definitely worth watching.
Har-har, yet another Hallowe’en-time movie suggestion:
This one is Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1932 kind-of-talkie/kind-of-silent Vampyr.
Made shortly after his brilliant but commercially-disappointing Passion of Joan of Arc, Vampyr follows a young man, Allan Grey,
who, while staying a country inn, is given an envelope by a mysterious stranger, marked “open upon my death”.
Allan then goes wandering through a castle, with all sorts of bizarre, shadowy imagery dancing around him, and strange characters at every turn.
And a dense, delightfully macabre atmosphere. I should also say at this point that the film was shot by Rudolph Maté, who also worked his magic with Dreyer on The Passion of Joan of Arc. Like on that film, composition is stark, utilizing lots of dead space. However, the lighting in Vampyr is much sharper and more dramatic than in Passion, creating a sense of the ominous; daggers of darkness, the unknown.
There’s more, of course. Allan Grey just sort of wanders into a story that seems to flicker in and out of reality, involving vampires,
But what works best in Vampyr is how we’re allowed to wander about with Allan, through this atmospheric, half-waking, half-sleeping nightmare world. The camera glides like a ghost through dimly-lit rooms and corridors, beautifully framed and illuminated, lyrical horror.
Dreyer also does what he does best in capturing faces:
Vampyr certainly has more chilling mood and uncanny ambiance than you’ll find in nearly any other horror film; it’s distinctly cinematic, gorgeous, engrossing, and I think it’s perfect for this time of year.
Oh, and this one is also available on Netflix Instant. So, yeah.
The Monster Channel is the first 24/7 interactive horror movie channel, featuring classic horror movies and TV series, retro trailers and commercials, features hosted by the nation’s new generation of horror hosts and you!”
Internet Archive (archive.org) is an incredible online resource; it’s a free digital library of seriously mammoth proportions. And so they have a seriously mammoth collection of public domain horror movies that you can either download or stream.
So if you like horror movies and have a decent internet connection, here’s a new way to make your October even shorter: