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Month of Horror 2015: World Edition – Sweden: Hour of the Wolf (Vargtimmen)

Editor’s Note: These posts originally appeared starting here on the AV Club *stares off wistfully*. They are being reposted for completionist sake as this annual series continued onto the AVCAD and now here. Also, forgive the writing for I was younger and dumber and these were written to appear in comments so don’t include pictures and are far shorter and less thorough than the series is now. They have been preserved as they were.

Month of Horror: World Edition
10/10/2015 – Sweden: Hour of the Wolf (Vargtimmen) (1975)
Directed by Ingmar Bergman

Quick programming note. Due to Columbus Day apparently still being a thing and apparently one the USPS decides to take off for which has the very personal effect of delaying my Netflix discs, that long dead Italian bastard has forced me to shuffle things about. Corruption has been promoted to the 13th and Grabbers to the 15th while demoting The Silent House to the 14th (I will also be covering its American remake) and Rabies to the 21st.

Speaking of other awful Italian things, Dario Argento’s Deep Red or at least the version that they exported. Netflix’s copy of Deep Red is a piece of shit with the film being mostly dubbed (a scourge on film and something which makes me indescribably angry that it even exists for anything more than lost/unusable audio tracks) with plenty of unsubtitled Italian (which surprisingly three years of Latin years ago doesn’t help me with) and this combination made the film unwatchable (and won’t even get a replacement disc of any type until Wednesday) with no Italian language, English subbed version on Youtube to watch so you know what, this is why you have backups. Fuck you Italy, I have Sweden and Ingmar Bergman in my corner.

Italy may have a long history of horror, but Sweden’s dates back to the silent era with films such as The Phantom Carriage and Haxan. The intervening years haven’t been as kind, but they still managed to turn out one of the all-time greats in Let the Right One In. Ingmar Bergman has long been the gold standard of Swedish cinema turning out masterpieces such as Wild StrawberriesWinter Light, and everybody’s (who isn’t me) favorite The Seventh Seal. It feels weird to be discussing a horror movie from Bergman, but then again he is hardly the first acclaimed director to dabble in horror with Hitchcock (Psycho), Kubrick (The Shining), Francis Ford Coppola (Bram Stoker’s Dracula), and Werner Herzog (Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht which I will be getting to later) all doing so well into their careers.

I always have a problem classifying these surrealist dramas as horror, but as the film goes on, that classification feels more and more relevant. The film does a great job portraying the ever increasing madness of the lead expertly played (as always) by Max von Sydow. His character believes the people around him both real and imagined to be demons and it is hard not to believe him considering how surreal they all act. Everyone and everything seems to exist to torment him and it is very easy to feel sympathetic to his suffering. I could feel his pain when each person leaned in to touch him or encroach on his personal space and wanted them to go away as much as he did. Sven Nykvist black and white cinematography is great and makes excellent use of the low light settings to create a haunting atmosphere. The movie is slow paced in its reveals and moving forward of the plot, but at about an hour and a half it never feels dull and the pace is well earned. Even if it isn’t mentioned as frequently as his other works, Hour of the Wolf deserves consideration as one of Bergman’s best films.

Up Next: Harry Kümel’s Malpertuis representing Belgium which I have already checked and it’s A-OK.

Month of Horror: World Edition
Bonus Episode #4 – United States: Willow Creek (2013)
Directed by Bobcat Goldthwait

Found footage movies are a divisive genre, but unlike many people, I think the genre can and has been done well as films such as [REC]The Last Exorcism, and Paranormal Activity have proven. Not only does it give a justification for why a lower cost film looks, well cheaper, it also when handled appropriately can .Bobcat Goldthwait, a man known almost exclusively for dark comedies, is not someone I would have ever picked to helm a found footage horror movie, but here we are. While is does appear to be better looking than say The Blair Witch Project (a film I will keep coming back to here), there’s nothing visually making it really seem like anything more than what a first time filmmaker would do. Both films start the same way with interviews of locals and then both feature small groups wandering in the woods by themselves looking for a local mysterious creature. Here they are a lot quicker to actually get to the

The film definitely benefits by having one of the two leads clearly just on as a favor to her boyfriend and not actually believing any of this Bigfoot nonsense like a normal, intelligent human being would in real life. If it wasn’t for her, my eyes would have rolled right out of my head every time he spoke (which still came close to happening quite a few times). Not only that, but she took the threats seriously, rightly believing that being in the middle of the woods after being threatened by locals and with wild animals out there was hardly the place to be and wanted to get the hell out of dodge before anything bad happened without being obnoxiously whiny about it.

SPOILERS I admit I was not ready for the shock of the movie rather abruptly stopping in its tracks to become a single static shot of two people in a tent. I kept waiting for the scene to end an I had no idea if it was ever going to stop. I was able to deal with a lot of waiting in Paranormal Activity, with a lot of static shots of two people in bed (which I though was handled excellently) and only minimal things happening, but an excruciatingly long static shot of two people in a tent with only occasional noises really pushed my patience. It really shows the benefit of Paranormal Activity’s fast forwarding because the scene finally does start to get rather suspenseful, but by the time it does my mind has already started to wander because it took too long to even get there. Those dying sound effects that the boyfriend made was hilariously bad though sounding like something straight out of South Park with all the excessive gurgling and overacting END OF SPOILERS.

I’m left conflicted about the film because there are some really good parts and I did greatly prefer its approach to the premise over that of The Blair Witch Project, but I still remember plenty of times in the film having my mind start to wander off about other things I had to do. I guess I should go with my gut of how I felt at the end, which was pretty satisfied, but it feels wrong to judge something to positively which is so uneven just because it finished strong.

Up Next: Ingmar Bergman’s Hour of the Wolf representing Sweden.

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