Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Dr. AC's Rec of the Week (C)

Greetings, blood brothers and sisters!

Time to once again delve into the elusive vaults of horror, unearthing forgotten gems and undiscovered treasures. Hope you've been enjoying the expedition thus far! This week, we'll "C" what we can find for you.

(Note: I realize that I've unwittingly started a trend where my two choices spring from two decades: the '80s and the 2000s. Oddly enough, the pair that I selected this week also follow that pattern. I suppose we could alter our course, but it's been fun thus far, don't you think? Let's see where this dark path takes us...)

Changeling, The (1980)
This stellar haunted house tale usually takes a back seat to the big budget envisioning of Stephen King’s The Shining, released the same year. But in many ways, Peter Medak’s smaller film, loaded with creepy atmosphere and tightly fashioned suspense sequences, surpasses any axe-swinging histrionics that Kubrick dishes out. As a grieving composer recovering from the deaths of his wife and daughter (a harrowing pre-credits sequence), George C. Scott anchors the picture with a compelling strength and vulnerability. Roused by a murdered child’s spirit in the mansion where he has retreated, Scott’s utter conviction with which he seeks to uncover the mystery is riveting. There’s also the neat subplot of Melyvn Douglas’ duplicitous politician, whose backstory proves more and more integral to the house’s healing. William Gray and Diana Maddox have crafted a marvelous script, one that functions not only as a pure ghost story but equally well as a character study charting Scott’s journey back from the abyss of tragedy and loss. Well worth seeking out.

Calvaire (2004)
This rare genre offering from Belgium presents a few novel twists on the well-worn “travelers off the beaten path” trope. After his car breaks down en route to the next holiday gig, low-rent crooner Laurent Lucas stumbles into a backwards backwoods community devoid of women. Taking shelter at a nearby inn, he soon finds himself captive in a nightmarish scenario that manages to surprise and unnerve without resorting to eviscerations. Kudos to director Fabrice Du Welz, who co-wrote the script with Romain Protait, for his skillful evocation of dread-filled atmospherics, as well as one of the strangest dance sequences ever to pass through a camera lens. Watch for appearances from Eurobabe Brigette Lahaie and High Tension’s Phillipe Nahon.

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