Archive for devil

Films That Haunt Me: ANGEL HEART

Posted in Films That Haunt Me with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 25, 2016 by smuckyproductions

 

What happens when the director of “The Wall” takes a walk with Satan? Throw in voodoo motifs, grimy noir atmosphere and a strikingly subdued Robert DeNiro, and you have a small idea of what this film promises. Just a small one, though. Today we discuss one of horror’s unsung classics, Alan Parker’s ANGEL HEART.

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Set mainly in 50s New York, this nasty piece of work follows a private detective on his latest assignment – to track down a man who has evaded fulfilling a contract with the client, one Louie Cypher (think about it). As the detective follows the trail, he finds himself chasing corpses, all while assaulted by nightmarish images of gushing blood, desecrated churches and screaming people. Someone is murdering all of his leads. But as the danger increases and he goes further from home, he approaches a truth that he could not imagine – nor does he want to.

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The atmosphere and imagery of this film are masterful Its New York and New Orleans are equally visceral, with vivid color palettes and gorgeous production design. The world is gloomy, spooky, and dangerous. It seems perfectly plausible that Satan would be stalking behind the scenes. New York is filled with grey snow, brown steam and blue shadows; New Orleans with green jungle, dark skies and, naturally, bright blood.

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By contrasting the two locations so clearly, Parker creates almost two separate films – one a noir mystery, the other an experimental thriller with strong voodoo threads. But the surrealism remains present throughout both halves. The horror here is fantastical, dream-like, and the imagery reflects this. Parker creates a hybrid between Argento and Lynch, then fills it with Satanic undertones. (If only Lynch would make a movie with the devil, too.)

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This potent combination gives birth to a film that totally throws off expectations. You might see the ending come a mile away, but the way it unfolds, and the things you see in the process, are unbelievable. That is the greatness of this dark dream – the disparate elements congeal into something that has not been seen in horror since. It leaves one wishing that more directors were so bold with their vision, and so wide-reaching in their influences. There are issues with it, of course – mainly the questionable treatment of Lisa Bonet’s character, who is sexualized to a gross degree – but it is worth watching for its originality alone.

For those who want a fresh gust of graveyard air into their horror viewing routine, ANGEL HEART offers a great promise. Its mystery reaches deep into the psyche and comes back with an evil revelation. Follow the clues if you dare.

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Films That Haunt Me (Halloween edition): THE SENTINEL

Posted in Films That Haunt Me, Halloween with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 14, 2015 by smuckyproductions

This hasn’t come up too often on this site yet, but I have a particular obsession with occult thrillers from the 60’s and 70’s. Due to the success of films like “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Exorcist,” along with a real-world paranoia of cult figures (Manson and clan), this subgenre was booming. While most offerings are not worth remembering, I was struck by a lesser-known thriller from the later 70’s, eerily titled THE SENTINEL.

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The plot is, by now, pretty familiar: a young woman moves into a spooky, low-priced apartment building that has a sinister secret. Plagued by bizarre visions and neighbors who seem more than a bit off, the woman hurries to get to the bottom of the forces surrounding her – but she doesn’t know that she has already been chosen to fulfill a destiny that determines the fate of the world.

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It’s clear to see how much this film influenced others of its time. The depiction of Hell and its inhabitants is shocking, even by today’s standards, and has been copied more times than we realize. Unique, surreal visuals and sequences permeate the film and give it an artistic quality that elevate the fear from run-of-the-mill Devil-chills to a more psychological dread. And the twists, in my opinion, are brilliantly done. The supernatural events lead up to a reveal that is, if not surprising, intensely disturbing.

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What really draws me to “The Sentinel” is its distinct 70’s atmosphere. I swear, there was something about the celluloid that makes the aura so different from any other era in film. The camera itself presents the quality of looking into a dream, which lends itself to the horrific aspect of the story and heightens it. Films like this one, along with “The Omen” and “Halloween” (amongst dozens of others), carry something incomparable in the very fact that they used this type of celluloid. This, in part, is what makes me fall in love with these types of films. And this one has everything – Catholic guilt, midnight rites, and an entrance to Hell.

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For atmosphere, visuals and a good ol’ Satanic ghost story, it’s hard to find a better offering than “The Sentinel.” It’s a celebration of all that was great about 1970s horror.