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
10/21/2015 – Israel: Rabies (Kalevet) (2010)
Directed by Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado
Despite not having nearly the reputation for cinema that other nations do, Israel has (especially recently) turned out such great documentaries as Waltz with Bashir and The Gatekeepers, such acclaimed movies as Big Bad Wolves (from the directors of today’s film) and The Band’s Visit and such interesting (for very different reasons) if not totally successful movies such as Ajami, Lebanon, and An American Hippie in Israel. As part of this new trend, 2010 saw the release of their first horror film Rabies.
I love the way the film builds up the anger everyone seems to be suffering from. It is a thin line between just a heightened reality with reactions seeming a bit over the top but still largely in line with what you’d expect from a movie before actually getting into the actual horror concept. There’s some nice interactions between the three groups of people which makes us care a bit more about them and informed their actions though that positive faded as the movie went on. The cops while not exactly shocking in being less than stellar at their jobs, one pretty despicable cop and one cop who looks the other way, do start to seem less believable when they start to do a lot of standing around with stupid looks on their face. And then there’s Petra (from Jane the Virgin) who I rather enjoyed when they weren’t having her do her best Judith O’Dea in Night of the Living Dead impression. She spent too much of the movie in shock which was realistic at first but then started to get silly and culminated in me yelling “DO SOMETHING” on more than one occasion.
The film handles all the technical details sufficiently. The cinematography, editing, and music don’t really stand out, but I don’t need that out of every movie and it is just great not to have to nitpick them. The film does do a good job with the gore which is ever present but not really a dominating presence and I really liked what they did with the kills. Boy have I missed having a slasher that wasn’t actually a dark comedy (sorry TCM 2) and enjoyable to watch (not sorry in the least TCM 3) even if it is not a traditional one and the main slasher villain rings up SPOILERS exactly one kill and it is that of a dog albeit is quite a graphic fashion. Having a character explode is probably second on the list of most unintentionally funny ways for someone to die in a film (aside from the previously mentioned hit off-screen by a previously unseen car) though in this film it works by keeping it barely on screen, foreshadowing it, and as a piece of dark comedy END OF SPOILERS. The rest of the kills are fairly standard stuff but they were appropriate for the setting and believable in a way slasher kills frequently aren’t (not always an insult).
SPOILERY STUFF AHEAD There’s ultimately no explanation for what happened which simultaneously helps the film by its ambiguousness (is it just simple escalation combined with misunderstandings like say Tucker & Dale vs. Evil or if this is a Cabin Fever like situation with something in that area helping things along) and also leaves a bit of an empty feeling at the end. I don’t know what I wanted more of, but something just felt missing and unsatisfying as the movie just kind of ends because they didn’t have much left to kill anymore. It builds to a conclusion which never comes. This may have been more traditional, less interesting ending, but it would have been much more satisfying narratively END OF SPOILERS. I may be too stupid to see the political parallels of this movie, and it certainly seems like something that would have filled the movie out a bit, but even after having these parallels explained to me by other reviews it still seems like a big stretch. It is possible to be too subtle. Don’t get me wrong; I really liked the movie, it just felt (like so many of these other films) to be a step or two away from being something great.
Month of Horror: World Edition
Bonus Episode #12 – United States: Hands of a Stranger (1962)
Directed by Newt Arnold
It took me a long while before I finally realized why I didn’t recognize the film (despite recognizing the basic plot) and had no mention of seeing it in my records before. The movie is a Hands of Orloc adaptation even if doesn’t really advertise that, and it is a very pale imitation of Mad Love (the first sound adaptation) which was bolstered by a great Peter Lorre performance and really very good overall. In fact I’ll spoil the rest of the review now and just say go watch that instead. Hell Hands of a Stranger isn’t even as good as the vaguely related and later Idle Hands though it is at least better than The Crawling Hand. Even beyond the fact that it has already been adapted better before, the whole movie has such a generic feel to it that it is like watching a movie you haven’t see in such a long time that you can’t even be sure you saw it. You recognize the basic beats and you could have sworn you saw it in the past, but everything just feels off and not at all how you remember it.
The film is plagued from top to bottom with melodramatic acting that may not be out of place in a 50’s-early 60’s American horror movie, but feels especially bad here. The pianist’s sister is hilariously terrible when called upon to emote which she is far too often. It’s the kind of performance that really makes you respect the Bette Davis’s of the world who make that melodramatic style work for the most part. The music is stock bad horror stuff with the cuts to “shock” moments (which are so telegraphed a blind man could see them coming) being accompanied by stock loud, quicker, sharper strings especially when they show the frequently indescribably strange face the lead gives busted me up every single time. It was almost a parody of itself. The “special” relationship between this brother and sister is surprisingly commented upon (who doesn’t like a good oblique assurance to the fact that two family members aren’t incestuous as a way to introduce their relationship).
The film ends with a damn Shakespeare quote popping up as text out of nowhere (“What’s past is prologue”) but you aren’t fooling anyone movie. The quote may be vaguely relevant but this film should know it is just standard anti-scientific progress “horror” B-Movie and not even a good one. It’s the kind of shit that makes up much of TCM’s yearly October horror movies and gets watched because “eh, its horror, might as well”.
Up Next: Dick Maas’s The Lift representing the Netherlands