Last week, I wrote about The Bunny Game (in retrospect, I may have been undeservingly kind). In that review, I mentioned a scene that reminded me of the cuts in the video “Close (To The Edit)” by The Art Of Noise.
I had to watch it again to verify that I what I remembered was actually what I saw.
It was. What I didn’t remember was how unnerving it was, which got me thinking again along the lines of one of my earliest posts: creepy scenes that aren’t in horror movies.
The Art Of Noise, Close (To The Edit) (Zbigniew Rybczyński, 1984)
Before choppy, accelerated movement became a horror cliché, there was “Close (To The Edit).” Like I said, I forgot how bizarro this was. The music is weird enough. So is the band. By far the most unsettling part of the video is the girl. It’s bad enough that she could have fit right in to Pat Benatar’s “Love Is A Battlefield.”
It’s far worse that she looks like she could crawl out of your television and go all Ringu on you.
White Lightning (Joseph Sargent 1973)
I like Burt Reynolds movies. There I said it. There are actually two unpleasant things about this movie. The first (and originally the only one I planned to point out) is right at the beginning. While the opening credits roll, Sheriff J.C. Connors (Ned Beatty) murders a young couple. He and a henchman tow a canoe into the swamp. The victims are tied in the canoe which is full of cinder blocks. He then blows a hole in the canoe with a shotgun. They struggle as it sinks, and the bad guys paddle away.
It’s a simple scene. No gore. But it’s one of the most chilling things I’ve ever seen. I feel kind of the same way when the rednecks kill Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda in Easy Rider, and the hippy kills Robert Blake in Electra Glide In Blue.
The second thing I didn’t realize until I revisited White Lightning. There’s a Michael Shea story called “Fat Face.” For reasons I can’t adequately explain, when I think of the character Fat Face, I picture a cross between Sheriff Connors and Butterball from Hellraiser.
Lene Lovich, New Toy (1981)
If “New Toy” sounds like something you’ve heard before, you may be a Thomas Dolby fan. He wrote it a few years before “Hyperactive.” I saw this video one morning just before I ran out to catch the bus to school. I was shaken up until some time after lunch. There isn’t anything visually that’s all that disturbing except maybe one image around 1:51 that looks like it could have come out of Blair Witch Project (if you found that dismaying which I sadly did not). The worst part is right near the end with Lovich repeating, “New toy!”
It’s the voice. I don’t know if there is a particular pitch or timbre or whatever that has this effect on me, but it happens with alarming frequency. Segments of The Shining and A Clockwork Orange have me convinced that Kubrick was kind of a sadist. Judge Doom’s death in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is no picnic either, and the whole “Help me!” thing in The Fly freaks me out completely.
Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950)
I know. Some folks would classify this as Grande Dame Guignol. I wouldn’t. A forerunner of the subgenre certainly, but to me not quite a horror movie. The “ready for my close up” scene is iconic, but I would point out a couple of Lovecraftian stories that make it even weirder. First is Caitlín R. Kiernan’s “Pickman’s Other Model (1929).” It features Vera Endecott, a silent movie actress described as “a woman whose loveliness might merely be a glamour concealing some truer, feral face,” and compared to such contemporaries as Musidora, Theda Bara, and Pola Negri.
There’s also “the Innsmouth look” which Lovecraft details at length in “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” and Brian McNaughton deals with in “The Doom That Came To Innsmouth.” McNaughton’s narrator describes how his grandmother “was always claiming famous people as ‘really one of us,’ Gloria Swanson and Edward G. Robinson, for instance.”
Put all that together then watch Gloria Swanson creep toward the camera and into your nightmares—right behind the kid from “Close (To The Edit).” Probably holding a meat cleaver.