The horror, the horror…

Let me first say that I am writing a piece about karma, it’s just taking a while to finish because it’s fairly long and I’m rather busy. But it’s getting there, so fear not, dear readers.

A ha! Of course, who am I kidding? No one reads this page. Wizard Smoke blogs for Wizard Smoke’s entertainment exclusively!

*chuckle*

Some things I like are good ghost or horror movies. Now, mind you I said good. That means I’m not into torture porn, sexploitation flicks, grimy slasher pictures or gory experimental horror. I keep my soul as clean as possible, like a New-Age obsessive compulsive. Not like some evangelical Christian though. There’s an important difference.

I mean, I can dig on the violence if the film is well-made so that the gore is contributing something to the flick. I just find that rarely it does. Oh well. There are a number of films that are genuinely horrifying in these ways that I’m not usually fond of (adaptations of Lovecraft tales come to mind, such as Re-Animator or From Beyond) so I don’t think it’s a genre limitation necessarily.

So most of what I like very much falls into the spectral horror category. I recently watched the classic film, The Haunting from the early 1960s. That one is a real gem and the recent remake with Catherine Zeta-Jones stands not even close to its shadow. I think one thing so exciting about movies like this, which really build up an eerie ambiance, is that they also build up the imagination of the viewer. So few consumer art products these days ask the audience to utilize their imagination, so most people don’t even have one anymore. They’re in recession. But good horror movies prove that everyone does have an imagination which is waiting to be tapped into. Such is proven with these eerie movies which don’t directly reveal the source of their horror, and so manage to pull that dreaded sense of impending doom — a sort of astral anticipation, out of its viewers. They force the viewers to see some sort of creative force in their own mind. Whether or not that’s malicious is up to you. But I like it! Haha!

Also, the twists in movies like The Haunting are done rather well, bringing the viewer to recognize that the horrific plot element in question was apparent all along, right in front of our noses — but we just didn’t recognize it. Doesn’t everything in life seem to function in that regard? It’s always right here but we can’t see it…

I also recently checked out the classic 1930s Fritz Lang movie, The Testament of Dr. Mabuse. That’s a masterpiece if there ever was one (not to mention, the previous Lang flick, M!). The film has tons of food for thought and (surprisingly unintentional) commentary on the then newly empowered Nazi Party. I love the statements being made about the field of psychology, also relatively new at the time. And having seen my share of occult drawings and auto-suggestive sigils, I think the way they present Mabuse’s work and scribbling is fantastic. Not to mention, it’s well acted and written and there are some excellent quotes and twists to this film too:

The ultimate goal of crime, is to create an empire of everlasting crime.

Plus, since it is a Criterion re-release, the DVD contains some crucial extras and commentary — including an interview with Lang in the early ’60s, where he describes his meetings with Goebbels and Hitler right before he fled Germany in 1933. Scary stuff.

But as far as straight-up ghost stories: one of the best horror/ghost movies of all time is The Changeling, from 1978 with George C. Scott. That is one freaky movie (watch it alone with the lights off, as per usual, if you feel so brave) particularly the seance scene. It’s the best seance scene ever put to film, without a doubt. I feel like the recent Spanish film, The Orphanage (by that Pan’s Labyrinth guy) tried to capture some of that same magic, but to lesser success. I can’t say much more except that The Changeling is genuinely inspired. I assure you, you’d be hard pressed to find eerier stuff for the money.

I am quite pleased that as my awareness and insight into the nature of ghosts and the occult has grown with age, these movies only get sweeter somehow… I have my own theories about the nature of ghosts which maybe I’ll write about in the future. But for now, feel free to list your own favorite spook-flicks!

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3 Responses to “The horror, the horror…”

  1. I found your insight into these films interesting. I recently explored Fritz Lang’s M (I have not seen Dr. Mabuse yet), and found it fascinating from a psychological perspective and within its historical context.

    http://davethenovelist.wordpress.com/2008/04/21/a-review-of-fritz-langs-m/

  2. Hi David, I’m glad you found this to be interesting and thanks for stopping by!

    You know, I think M! is probably the better film as a whole, but I really enjoy the character of Mabuse and how his messages are implemented into that later film. Both M! and Testament/Mabuse have horror elements that are almost like… maybe a modern transmutation of what Poe was doing with macabre fiction? That is, the stories just manage to peek into the realm of supernatural horror simply by functioning as absolutely superb psychological thrillers.

    Incidentally, as you’ll see whenever you find the Criterion release of the Mabuse film, there are other Lang films about the Mabuse character which look to be quite interesting.

  3. Wizardsmoke, thanks, I will definitely be checking out Mabuse. I thought there was a strong Poe connection as well in M in terms of how the story was told. You described it better than I could. Well said!

    –DHS

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