The besties review
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While I did enjoy watching Diabolique, I have to say that a lot of my enjoyment came after the fact, when I learned just how influential the film has been.
Though many movie fans probably view Psycho as the genre-defining horror film of this era, it was actually Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Diabolique that inspired Hitchcock to make Psycho. Diabolique invented many horror and murder mystery tropes that we still see today, including the now commonplace “twist ending.” Though this quiet slow burn thriller may seem derivative to modern audiences (as it somewhat did to me), you have to remember that this movie is from 1955, so it predates nearly every other film of this style. Sometimes movies are simply entertaining and sometimes they act as historical artifact of film history. Diabolique is one of those films that happens to be both.
I was a bit disappointed by Black Sunday. Based on the poster and premise, I really felt like the film would build on the gothic styles of the Universal Classic Monster movies while adding something distinctly “1960s Italy” to it. Unfortunately, I found the movie kind of bland. The opening sequence was really fun, but everything that followed could have been boiled down into a generic fifteen minute film. Still, if you’re into gothic black-and-white imagery, I suppose Black Sunday would fit the bill.
Country: The Netherlands/France
While I was surprised to see that Stanley Kubrick referred to The Vanishing as the most terrifying movie he had ever seen, upon reflection I think I’m starting to understand what makes this movie so good.
Movies like Se7en, Zodiac, or even Halloween amplify fear by keeping the killer’s identity a secret, but in The Vanishing, we see the killer and know exactly what he looks like/who he is from the onset. The Vanishing is not a whodunit, but a whydunit. By following both the kidnappers and the boyfriend of the victim, George Sluizer allows the audience to examine what happens beyond just the basic plot. By the end of the film, in the one truly harrowing scene that I will not spoil, you can’t help but feel like you are there as well. Sluizer preps the audience for his film’s final moments by letting them get close to both men.
Tetsuo: The Iron Man
This brief, low-fi, steampunk body horror film is easily one of the most interesting and entertaining films I’ve seen in a while. I can’t really imagine a better way to watch this than just to watch it.
That said— don’t watch this if can’t handle an hour full of freaky shit! Sounds and visions of oozing wounds, scraping metal, and bloodcurdling screams saturate the film, and nearly everything will make you wince a little… a lot of it will make you wince a lot!
And I have to admit— this typically isn’t my type of film. I’ve been rather underwhelmed by most of the Cronenberg I’ve seen and I found David Lynch’s Eraserhead to be nearly unwatchable in parts— but for some reason Tetsuo really clicked with me. Can’t wait to delve into some more Japanese horror going forward.
P.S. After a brief bit of internet research, I see that this movie was partially inspired by Akira, which I watched last year for the first time. Maybe this is super obvious (especially considering that both movies have a main character named Tetsuo), but I found myself comparing this movie Akira a lot. Would make a great (though intense) double feature!
The Devil’s Backbone
The more I watch Guillermo del Toro’s films, the more I come around on the fact that the plot is rarely the most important element. Production design, aesthetic, atmosphere, music and genre all seem to be the motivating factors of a del Toro film, and The Devil’s Backbone is no different. What this movie really reminded me of is the 2017 Mexican gothic fantasy, Tigers Are Not Afraid. They’re both Spanish-language films about young kids who have to fend for themselves against adult tyrants, and they both use ghosts as a mode for exploring the characters’ psyches.
There are no pure scares in this, though there are plenty of events that should scare you. Running a secret school for abandoned boys in the middle of the desert during the Spanish Civil War comes with its fair share of danger. As far as horror movies go, this is sort of like “horror lite,” but if if a historical drama with a gothic-tinge is more your speed then definitely give this one a watch.
What is 5 Film Film Festival (5FFF)?
In short, 5 Film Film Festival is an ongoing personal project to help me watch more classic films. For each mini “festival,” I will choose a random theme (be it a genre, actor, director, etc.) and curate five movies that fit that theme to watch for the first time. When I started this journey, I posted my brief, unpolished thoughts on Letterboxd. I like this more informal, less pretentious mode of watching older movies, so as I begin documenting the project here on the site, don’t expect a lot of in-depth analysis— every “review” will read more like a “first reaction.”
If you’re like me, and you have more than a few blind spots in your cinematic knowledge, then consider joining me on this lifelong endeavor. Watch along, recommend themes, and organize some mini festivals of your own!