Horrificus Romanus: I, Claudius

It may be some time, if at all, since you last delved into the vicious and lethal grandeur of Rome as it was portrayed in I, Claudius.  After all, Robert Graves’s book was first published in 1934. The BBC series first aired in 1976. In Pittsburgh, it ran on WQED, the local PBS station. My father watched it religiously.

So it was with more than a little nostalgia that I recently took to the series again. Fair warning: the first three episodes? Slow going. But you owe it to yourself the wade through them. That’s when the intrigues, mayhem, and bloodshed take off exponentially.

This includes what I find to be several fine horror sequences, things that are horrific not so much in terms of gore (there really isn’t any, though some is strongly implied).

 

No, this is more often malevolence on a psychological level. Implacable Kafka-esque bureaucracy as in, say, The Trial. Creepy outright ickiness. Or just death on a grand scale.

Here, then, is a wee sample.Read More »

100th BLOG POST–100 Horror Movies!

When I started this blog back in 2016 on January 19 (Poe’s birthday), I figured I’d do it for a few months and give up. Two years and 99 posts later, here we are. Naturally, the only thing to do on such an occasion is to round up 100 Horror Movies for your dining and dancing pleasure.Read More »

A Cynic’s Look At Phantom Of The Opera (1943)

This post is part of the Singing Sweethearts Blogathon hosted by Rebekah at Pure Entertainment Preservation Society.

You might find it odd to find the denizens of Castle Blogferatu skulking about in such musical territory, especially on a day like this. The truth is, we like Valentine’s Day. The only difference is that here, all the hearts are, well, in jars.Read More »

K-Shop

Finally!

I’ve been waiting all this foul year of our lord for K-Shop to be available in the U.S. Oh sure, several friends suggested a few methods, some less savory than others, by which I could have watched the UK version on my computer, and while I’m not the most ethical creature I know, I am one of the more paranoid.

So I waited.Read More »

50 Favorite Horror Moments

No, this is not an original idea. I started this list literally 5 minutes after reading Patton Oswalt’s list in the “Collected Writings On Film” chapter of Silver Screen Fiend. It’s good. You should read it. Even if you’re not a big ol’ movie nerd.

Originally I was going to list my 100 Favorite Movie Moments as well. Some time maybe I will, but given the kind of blog this happens to be, I felt it was only fair to list my favorite Horror Moments.

A few other points: 1) My goal was 100. A bit overly ambitious, so I settled for 50. 2) Horror moments aren’t limited to horror movies. 3) “Favorite” means many things- well composed, stunning, disturbing, silly, beautifully shot, gorgeous color, or just makes me happy in that cold, dark place where my heart should be. 4) Alphabetized for your safety and protection and so I don’t have to rank anything on any kind of scale. Here. We. Go.Read More »

Le Moine

Ah, the wonders of M.G. Lewis. Oh sure, Walpole’s 1764 Castle Of Otranto is considered the first horror novel, but give me Lewis’s The Monk nearly 30 years later. Sinful monks, evil nuns, illicit sex, infanticide, The Inquisition, torture, and The Devil himself.

What’s not to love?

So imagine my excitement when, whilst putting together horror questions for a trivia night I run at Bearded Bird Brewing (every Sunday at 4 he said shamelessly), I looked up The Monk and found Le Moine, Dominik Moll’s film adaptation. Clearly, I had a professional obligation to watch it.

Read More »

The Good, The Mad, AND The Lonely: The Invisible Man

This post is part of the Movie Scientist Blogathon hosted by Christina Wehner and Ruth at Silver Screenings!

Here at Castle Blogferatu, we have a special affinity for scientists as our own good Dr. Terror will attest. Oddly enough, as much as I love horror movies, there are very few times I’ve wanted to be any of the characters. Literature, comic books, other movies, this happens to me all the damn time: Sherlock Holmes, Merlin, The Man With No Name, Zorro, Michael Morbius, and so on ad nauseum.Read More »

Grand Jeté And Grande Dame Guignol: Black Swan

This post is part of En Pointe: The Ballet Blogathon hosted by Christina Wehner and

Love Letters To Old Hollywood!

Tacked up in the torture chamber exercise room here at Castle Blogferatu is a list of directors I have a love/hate relationship with. Surprisingly, it’s not an extremely long list, but it does grow by a few directors every so often. Kubrick is always in the top three. So is Dario Argento. Certainly Aronofsky has a safe spot in the top five.

I mean, I loved Requiem For A Dream and Pi, but both stayed with me for a few days like a particularly disturbing nightmare. I feel just a little damaged by them.

Bastard.

Also, in truth, I never even knew I liked ballet until after the start of the 21st Century. The only reason I found out was because I saw, ironically, Swan Lake.

In Russia.

Hell of a way to start. I’ve been in love with ballet ever since, Swan Lake still being one of my favorites along with Giselle. I fully expected, therefore, to be emotionally tortured as well as fascinated by Black Swan.

My first hurdle was, of course, getting past Natalie Portman without thinking V For Vendetta. This is made more difficult by the fact that Mila Kunis is often just a little more interesting to watch.

But Aronofsky is certainly no slouch. First there are the mirrors, on one hand so obvious and necessary in a ballet studio. On the other hand, the plot is also rife with duplicity and moral ambiguity as evidenced early into the movie as Nina (Portman) sits in front of the mirror in newly ousted Beth MacIntyre’s (Winona Ryder) dressing room then steals some of her belongings.

There is also the wing/feather motif. They’re everywhere in the background: sculptures, dressing rooms, wallpaper, towels, blankets, even actual swan images over Nina’s left shoulder as she soaks in her tub.

How about contrast? Lily (Kunis) is always dark. Nina is always light. I also like the Nina/Lily subplot and really wanted Lily to be a delusion like Paul Bettany and Ed Harris were to Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind. Admittedly that would have made things more explainable and a therefore less hallucinatory viewing experience.

But one of the most interesting aspects of Black Swan is the fact that it has all the hallmarks of Grande Dame Guignol (as elaborated in Peter Shelley’s 2009 book Grande Dame Guignol Cinema). For starters there’s Nina’s mother, Erica (Barbara Hershey). She’s not just overprotective but cloyingly and weirdly so, infantilizing Nina in the process.

Erica also has hang-ups about the past. They’re not at the level of, say, Baby Jane Hudson, but they’re there (having given up her career to have Nina).

Nina is also imprisoned but, in a clever twist, by her own hand. She uses a pipe to barricade her door shut and try to gain some measure of privacy from her ever-hovering, nearly omnipresent mother.

As for the guignol aspect, well, it’s everywhere, and it escalates. Aronofsky starts with Nina splitting a toenail while practicing. There is her ever-worsening rash, her bloody fingernails, her hallucinated stripping of skin from her finger, the slamming of her mother’s hand in a door, the stabbing of Lily, and of course the finale.

Aronofsky’s guignol even crosses into body horror. In her delusions, Nina sees intensifying instances of her transformation into the Black Swan: gooseflesh, red sclera, backward-bending legs, and a clear reference to Cronenberg’s The Fly as she plucks a feather out of her shoulder. Her ultimate full commitment to her role and the onstage result are unnerving yet gripping.

Overall, Black Swan is often a stunning film to watch, not only in terms of the ballet itself, but also in terms of its metaphor for commitment to one’s art/field/role as well as the double-edged sword of reward/delusion that such commitment can become. To be fair, I wasn’t planning to watch it again.

Now I feel like I should.