All of the films coming out this month are part of the horror/suspense genre. From the time of silent films, these stories have been part of the cycle of movies being shown to audiences. It is classical and always attractive to make. Two of these horror classics are being re-released for 4K, two more are from the 21st century, and a three-film set honors a director who was never revered during his lifetime. The horror films of the month from Criterion are worth seeing.
Tod Browning’s Sideshow Shockers (1925-1932)
Tod Browning started as a vaudeville and circus performer before being hired to act, write, and direct different melodramas where his past was part of the stories he made. In an era before the Code came in and censored certain topics, Browning told stories of the exotic, psychosexual, and inner beauty which was way ahead of his time. Three of his films are being brought out for Criterion: Freaks, The Mystic, and The Unknown.
Made during his tenure with MGM, these films unleashed his eccentric, shocking, and downtrodden characters which stand the test of time. Freaks is considered his magnum opus and the most direct from his past life in the circus, portraying those characters with disabilities that were sideshow acts while also being compassionate about them. Nearly forgotten, Browning’s legacy has built up a cult following which endures to this day.
Don’t Look Now (1973)
The first of two re-releases is Nicholas Roeg’s supernatural masterpiece starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie. After the drowning of their daughter, the couple relocates to Venice for work when images suddenly appear that foreshadow what is coming to them. Roeg’s story of grief and the memories that haunt us after is beautifully shot and edited, keeping viewers off their toes on what could be the actual thing that is creeping up behind them. It is the supernatural at its finest.
The second re-release is a staple of David Cronenberg’s filmography, a cyber tech body horror tale of cable TV and the disturbing connections it can have. James Woods is a TV producer looking for new programming for the channel and sees this disturbing show he wants. It is surreal and quite visually haunting, causing the necessary shock Cronenberg is known to produce as in Scanners and The Fly. TV is certainly today “the new flesh” that has controlled the public’s mind.
The Others (2001)
Director Alejandro Amenábar’s gothic horror story was also his first English-speaking film following the acclaim of Open Your Eyes, which was remade the same year as Vanilla Sky. Nicole Kidman plays a mother who stays with her two children on an island in 1945 towards the end of WWII. When three new servants move into the home, a strange phenomenon occurs in which the dead begin to reach out to the living. The darkness that shrouds everyone creates a sprint-tingling sensation for viewers that still seeps through twenty-two years after its release.
The debut of director Nikyatu Jusu features a young Senegalese immigrant (Anna Diop) to the United States who has left her son to make money as a babysitter for wealthy white couples. Willing to take some of the exploitation by them, memories of anger come upon her which threatens to destroy her from within. It won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, a first for a horror film, and displays a unique power that makes Jusu a director to keep an eye on.
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