Dear friend,

this week most of Europe was busy watching the UEFA football championship; I’ve tried too, but I haven’t been able to watch more than twenty minutes of a match without questioning what the point is in spending time watching such a widely accepted non-violent form of Nationalism. But then, millions of football fans could ask me what is the point of spending time watching a reasonably widely accepted non-violent form of violent acts simulation? To each their own…

  • The House of the Devil external link to Letterboxd Created with Sketch. , written and directed by Ti West, US, 2009: still using Scott Derrickson’s Top 100 Horror list on Letterboxd external link to Letterboxd Created with Sketch. as a watching guide, and in combination with the (very mild) hype for MaXXXine, I saw the first of Ty West’s 80s-inspired films. This one has When a Stranger Calls vibes, as wannabe babysitter with very poor judgement Sam (Jocelin Donahue, whom I knew as Abra’s mum in Doctor Sleep) explores a dark old house for what feels like an eternity, dances like nobody’s watching to her walkman music, but very carefully never checks the children. It also has bad pizza, a supporting role for Greta Gerwig and a very quiet Tom Noonan (whom I still identify with Francis Dollarhyde thirty years after watching Manhunter). You need to be very very patient with this film, as following Sam gets repetitive after a while, but the ending is rewarding enough. ⭐️⭐️⭐️½

  • Absentia external link to Letterboxd Created with Sketch. , written and directed by Mike Flanagan, US, 2011: before horror was ’elevated’, Mike Flanagan already paired grief and guilt with haunting creatures. Flanagan’s debut film, about a woman trying to help her sister move on after the disappearance of her husband seven years earlier, doesn’t feel fully mature in terms of plot and themes, but does what it can with its limited budget, even enlisting Doug Jones (with his own face, for a change). I am always happy to see how this director kept in touch with his actors, and the lead actress Katie Parker is no exception, having appeared through Oculus, Bly Manor, Doctor Sleep and House of Usher. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • The Blackcoat’s Daughter external link to Letterboxd Created with Sketch. , written and directed by Osgood Perkins, US, 2015: back to Derrickson’s list, and in preparation for the upcoming Longlegs, I really struggled with Perkins’ debut film, which I found really obscure (visually and plot-wise), and ultimately dishonest with its audience. Plus, I couldn’t ignore dark Totoro. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Dream House external link to Letterboxd Created with Sketch. , directed by Jim Sheridan, written by David Loucka, US, 2011: at some point in my life, I’ll be old and wise enough to know that if a film has a very well known cast and director, and still I’ve never heard of it, there is a reason. Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts can’t do much to improve a plot that screams early-2000s. I definitely don’t like screenwriter Loucka’s stories (author of one of the few films I abandoned halfway through: House at the End of the Street). Maybe the movie’s redeeming quality is the subsequent marriage of Craig and Weisz, but I don’t know if the timelines match. ⭐️⭐️

  • The Innocents external link to Letterboxd Created with Sketch. , directed by Jack Clayton, written by William Archibald and Truman Capote, UK/US, 1961: this film is considered to be the best adaptation of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, and, it comes with high praise by Derrickson, Mike Muncer from Evolution of Horror external link , and pretty much any other horror fan ever; but, like the other literary-horror-masterpiece-adaptation-into-a-masterpiece-horror-film The Haunting of Hill House, it left me pretty cold. I read the book too long ago to remember its plot, but, due to The Haunting of Bly Manor again, I knew the basic elements, and maybe I wanted something more explicitly unnerving. But I understand the problem is me, struggling with cinematographic sensibility from sixty years ago. I like the ambiguity, but I think it’s undone by the ending. ⭐️⭐️⭐️½

  • I tre volti della paura/Black Sabbath external link to Letterboxd Created with Sketch. , directed by Mario Bava, written by Mario Bava with Marcello Fondato and Alberto Bevilacqua, Italy, 1963: on the other hand, I enjoyed two-thirds of this film from sixty years ago; granted, it’s much less serious than The Innocents, and that helps. I didn’t care too much for the longer, central, Corman-y The Wurdulak episode, but the opening one (The Telephone, set in a flat that reminded me a lot of Wait Until Dark) and especially the closing one (the Edgar-Allan-Poe-y The Drop of Water) were great fun. The Italian version is definitely superior to the American re-cut and re-scored one: it may lack Boris Karloff’s story introductions (which make it even more like a TV anthology show), but includes the sublimely jokey ending. If you’re interested, I have found a very good analysis of the film on Cathode Ray Tube external link . ⭐️⭐️⭐️½

In summary:

  • 6 films; I’m back to full-horror mode
  • 4 original films, an adaptation and a third (The Wurdulak is adapted from A.W. Tolstoy), plus two-thirds for which the source is not clear
  • 3 American films, 2 American-produced films with (mostly) US writers but a mostly British cast
  • an Italian film with cast members from Italy, France and the US

Despite not being fully convinced, The House of the Devil must be the film I enjoyed the most this week.