ENTER THE DEN OF SIN: OLD AND CREEPY, THE HORROR FILMS OF VAL LEWTON

After an extended break where my boyfriend’s mother called and insisted to do our taxes over the phone, a few people left and a few more people showed up so that by the time we started “I Walked With a Zombie,” we had 12 people crammed into our tiny suite. The extension of the break was eased by the fact that one of the people who showed up was our friend Damon freshly returned from Asia with an armful of Japanese porn. Had this not happened there could very well have been bloodshed.

The first thing we got excited about was spotting the name “Sir Lancelot” in the opening credits. I later found out that this was the name of the calypso musician in the film and that he appeared in other Lewton movies including “Ghost Ship” and “Curse of the Cat People”. Incidentally, Lancelot is his real name (although I doubt he was actually a knight). But this kind of set the tone for how the rest of the night would go as people were becoming more and more chatty and I think I left a bruise on my boyfriend’s arm while poking him to get him to shut-up. The other thing that we caught onto right away was the fact that the main character, Betsy (Frances Dee), was a Canadian. I’m assuming this was done to further explain her choice to move to the West Indies (it’s snowing outside in the scene where she decides to take the job), but we were still really excited. God, we’re such nerds.

The plot itself is kind of a Jane Eyre redux complete with an overly harsh Plantation manager and a creepy woman locked in a tower. There are lots of long shadows and dames wandering around in flowy ‘40s style nightgowns. However, instead of a governess, our heroine is a plucky nurse and there’s voodoo magic to complicate things. Most of the peanut gallery was unfortunately rather disappointed with the zombies, being raised on Romero and Fulci et al, but I at least appreciated the fact that the supernatural elements were tied rather faithfully to actual beliefs and presented in what seemed to me a fairly respectful manner, especially for the time. The downer ending was also a nice touch.

Rumblings from the peanut gallery: This was probably one of our more in-joke heavy nights with references to “Spetters”, “The Devil Rides Out”, “The Beast”, “Burial Ground” and “Flesh and Blood” as well as the assertions that “The Seventh Victim” would have been better if Christopher Lee were in it running around punching people (but wouldn’t everything, really?) and that “I Walked With a Zombie” would have been better with Ice Cube (just for the record, not my personal opinion).

However, the most pressing issue concerning everyone in attendance was why aren’t these movies available on DVD? Considering how influential and how effective they are to this day, their unavailability seems nothing short of criminal. I mean, who’s in charge of this stuff? I personally believe filmdom could greatly benefit from the accessibility of these virtual lessons on how to build tension and suspense. No special effects, no computer generated whatevers, no telegraphed “surprise” twist endings, just plain old scary. And if you don’t believe me go watch them yourself.

Mariko McDonald and her boyfriend host a weekly film night in their apartment, affectionately known as the Den of Sin. It’s kinda like evil film school. Monthly screening schedules are available at http:filmgurlland.blogspot.com and if you happen to live in the Vancouver, BC area and are interested in catching a screening please drop her a line at filmgurl79@hotmail dot com. Suggestions, hate mail and cute pictures of cats also accepted.

And of course you can always offer up some juicy Back Talk>>>




Posted on May 6, 2004 in Features by
Buffer


If you liked this article then you may also like the following Film Threat articles:
Popular Stories from Around the Web

Tell us what you're thinking...





Comments are governed by the Terms of Use of this Site. Click on the "Report Comment" link if you feel a comment is in violation of the Terms of Use, and the comment will be reviewed appropriately.