BLOT: (22 Nov 2010 - 01:17:04 PM)
It is interesting, to me, that
Now, on to this movie proper.
We soon learn that the family in the farmhouse is not only the family in 1936, but is the family: only about five years older than they were then. The "He" is no longer human in any real sense of the word, now is a strange thing wearing a long coat, snarling like a beast, and with some sort of black mask wrapped around his face, kept locked up in a root cellar. The farmhouse's many glyphs keep the evil contained in a tiny space, and the whole premise rotates on the albatross wrapped around everyone's neck and who or what is actually evil.
The movie uses the delayed narrative technique to extend suspense: though nearly everything is known by key and otherwise quite vocal characters from the start of the movie proper, they take time to talk about it. Even when, say, one of the characters (mostly Evan) asks. Again and again. It is a frustratingly fake technique that only works if handled properly, and here it is not, only explained by the inexplicable nature of the creature on the farm. Maybe they were trying to give Evan some time to witness some things for himself so that he does not immediately disbelieve, or maybe the movie's makers realized that suspense and confusion could be tools to keep the audience going, which begs one big question: why did they start the movie off where they did? It starts out kind of in-flow (ignoring the monochromatic opening set in the past), and is played off as a second-act to a long horror movie as soon as Victor shows back in less than a quarter hour into the movie-main. The makers ellide the opening act, Victor's capture and torture at the hands of the family, and get down to brass-tacks, only they then feel the need to drag the plot. It tries to inverts the traditional horror movie pattern—something outside finds something inside, horror develops, secrets are indulged, horror unfolds—by starting us in the midst of a second cycle. It could have been a narrative kick, but instead, Joel Schumacher (director,
As creature-features go, it at least plays by the basic rules: the creature has certain strengths and weaknesses and the plot is a solving of their puzzle. Except one of the characters is the central fount of knowledge, making her a lithe Teutonic ex-pat version of Van Helsing, and casting the whole thing in something like a retelling of
It should also be pointed out that had this movie been made in the 1970s, one might have been more forgiving for the double whammy of barely hidden Swastika imagery in the runestones (one is the prime rune symbol itself, the other gets exposed later in plot). It is not so much that a Swastika is used, the Vikings did use them, presumably as funerary symbols linked to Thor; but the pre-Nazi idea of the Swastika as representative of the turning of life, and the holy concept of living strength, is overshadowed by the inherent Nazi corruption now associated with it. It is as though the symbol was retconned to suggest that all those people who used it represent the purity of life really meant black magic by it, so the Nazis were right in corrupting it. And sure, the idea can just as easily be that the Nazis in corrupting the meaning of the symbol also corrupt what the symbols mystical power might be, but without any proper narrative to handle this, the Occam's Razor leaves us with the "real Swastika" firmly tucked into the horror movie device explanation.
The final package wraps itself up partially, and kind of finishes out implying that is only the second act in a five act tragedy, and for that I appreciate it more had it merely ended with self-congratulations and fair-monster-hunting to you, too, rhetoric. I am sure the other three acts are forever lost, and hopefully they will stay that way. It is best to wonder what may be, rather than showing it to us and dashing all hopes...
Basically, a potentially Good, but not Great, movie with so many mis-beats and false notes that it ends up with a final score of Meh. This is one prime candidate for a later remake, solving out some of the questions of rune magic, the interim time between the one brother's capture and his escape, and a better balancing of what the creature might mean. Also, drop the second Swastika reveal. That's just silly.
LABEL(s): Horror movies
Written by Doug Bolden
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