13 O’Clock Episode 34 – An Appreciation of the Giallo

A masked, black-gloved killer stalks the streets of Rome, hacking away at underdressed ladies with a flashing, phallic blade. A hapless tourist witnesses one of these murders, but is brushed off by the police, and is forced to try to reveal the killer on her own, before she becomes the next victim.

If this plot sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the most common story arc of the classic Italian thriller/horror genre, the giallo. This distinctive film style has many fascinating aesthetic and narrative flourishes, and is largely responsible for kicking off the American slasher film boom of the 1970s and 1980s. On this episode, Tom and Jenny discuss one of Jenny’s very favorite film styles, giving a history of the genre, a breakdown of the most commonly seen tropes, and opinions about the best giallo films. Sharpen your straight razor and shrug into your black trenchcoat as we take a deep red journey into the lurid, murderous world of the giallo. Bring in the perverts!

Download the audio file from Project Entertainment Network here, or watch the YouTube version here. Also, don’t forget to follow the 13 O’Clock Podcast blog, subscribe to our YouTube channel, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.

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Scary Silents: Some Modern Short Silents

Yes, I have returned at long last! Did y’all miss me? Of course you did. Again, sorry I was away for so long; it’s just that I was up to my ass-crack in design work, trying to finish up the Vegan Black Metal Chef’s rad cookbook (which made $70,000 on Kickstarter, because the internet is an awesome place sometimes). But now that’s mostly been squared away (and of course I will post the link when the book is available on Amazon), so I am returning to my patented horror ramblings (and the crowd goes wild. Yay).

I was planning to do something with my Scary Silents series, but I also wanted to write something I could cross-post in some of the other categories, just so I could feel like I was killing a couple hobos with one brick, as it were. So what I decided to do was browse YouTube for some modern, black and white, silent short films (as I did for my previous post on 1991’s Begotten) and give some of those a gander to see what people of the 21st century were doing with the silent film aesthetic. There are a few good ones floating around out there, and these were the best ones I came across, so let’s get right to it, shall we?

Fetal
Directed, photographed, and edited by Tony Falcon

This one didn’t have an actual title on the video itself, but the film title came up at the end. Maybe they didn’t want to spoil what the movie was about before you watched it? If that was the case, I guess I just spoiled it, so sorry about that. But even if you know the title, this is still really nicely done, beautifully filmed, with some pretty shocking, gross imagery. It’s only a little over four minutes long, but still makes quite an impact. Disturbing in the best way.

The House In Spain
Directed by Chris Hyde

I liked this one a great deal, because it had a lot of that “horror out of the corner of your eye” thing that I dig so much. Main character Jay has flown to his father’s house in Spain after his father ostensibly committed suicide, but it turns out that the death wasn’t quite as self-inflicted as it appeared. Eerie, subtle, and effective; give it a watch if you’re into the Paranormal Activity type vibe.

Witcher
Written and directed by Neil Westwood

This one was pretty straightforward and more atmosphere than plot, but still looked great; the imagery actually reminded me of the aforementioned Begotten a bit, as well as the infamous Häxan. A photographer out in the woods stumbles across a gift box with a note reading, “Do Not Open,” which of course he disregards, much to his eternal chagrin. I think. Props for nice use of a plague doctor getup.

The Unfortunate
Written and directed by Travis Dahlhauser

A decent quasi-homage to Psycho, about a burglar who REALLY breaks into the wrong house. The first half is a nice slow burn, though I thought the use of Bernard Herrmann’s famous “slashing violins” score was a tad over the top. Great little short, though, and pretty impressive that it was made entirely by one guy, and that every scene was done in one take.

Hopefully I will be back to posting on this blog as regularly as I did before, so stay tuned, and until next time, Goddess out.

The Goddess’s Ten Favorite Creepy Books from Childhood

I told you guys I’d be back to this blog shortly, and here I am. Before I get into today’s post, I wanted to acknowledge the horrible news I heard earlier this morning: one of Nick Cave’s 15-year-old twin sons, Arthur, has died in a tragic accident, falling from a cliff in Brighton. As I’ve written before, Nick Cave is a musical and literary hero of mine, and I cannot begin to imagine what he and his family are going through right now. For what it’s worth, I extend my most heartfelt condolences.

And now on to less soul-crushing subjects. It is perhaps fitting that I chose today to focus on childhood books I loved and that helped to shape my writing identity. These ten books, among the hundreds I read growing up, have stuck with me for various reasons over the years, and I would recommend any of them unreservedly to older children and adults alike. To make the experience more authentic, I even tried to find the cover art I remembered for each book, though I failed in a couple of circumstances, because the 60s and 70s were a long time ago, folks. So, without further ado, here they are, in descending order:

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10. The Face of Danger by Willo Davis Roberts (1972)

I have no idea why this little trade paperback made such a lifelong impression on me, but such are the quirks of the writer’s brain, I suppose. It’s not strictly a horror story, being more of a gothic thriller/mystery type of thing, and it’s not really for children either, I guess, but after discovering it in one of the towering piles of books in my grandfather’s old house, I read it over and over again in total and abject fascination. It tells the tale of a homely woman named Sharlee whose face is so drastically disfigured in a car accident that plastic surgeons are basically obliged to give her an entirely new face, one that is strikingly beautiful. I was transfixed by the idea of a lifelong plain Jane suddenly being thrust into the entirely unfamiliar milieu of the beautiful people (and all their fabulous gowns, not gonna lie), and the struggles that ensued. Sharlee is whisked away to a remote mansion by her new, wealthy suitor, where it comes to pass that there’s some pretty shady shit going on with the family she meets there, relating back to the woman whose visage hers was modeled after. I haven’t read this in years, but I remember it being pretty harrowing in a “dark romance novel” sort of way. Fun fact: While I was researching this blog post today, I discovered that Willo Davis Roberts also wrote one of my other beloved childhood books, the profoundly depressing child-abuse saga Don’t Hurt Laurie. I was kind of a morbid kid, you guys.

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9. The Ghost of Opalina, or Nine Lives by Peggy Bacon (1967)

I must have checked this out of my elementary school’s library at least a dozen times. I adore ghost stories, and I adore cats, so a book that combined those things was of course going to be like a magnet to my wee, nugget self. It’s essentially a frame story about three children who move into a rambling old house and find a talking ghost kitty with glowing opal eyes in the attic. Opalina, as she’s called, tells them all about her nine lives and the people who had lived in the house over the decades. Even though I was never a huge fan of “historical” fiction growing up, I was absolutely spellbound with this one, and I remember the illustrations (done by the author) being charming as well.

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8. The Ghost of Windy Hill by Clyde Robert Bulla (1968)

This little blue hardback was a frequent resident of my backpack and bedside table after I bought it from one of those wonderful book fairs Scholastic periodically held at my school. If I remember correctly, there didn’t actually end up being a ghost in the story (and please correct me if I’m remembering it wrong), but there was a fantastic creepiness about it just the same: The old drafty farmhouse, the mysterious woman in white with her rag bag, the tragic Bruno and his horrible father. I have a vivid memory of the mentions of the spring house (which I had never heard of before and found intriguing), and the placing of bells on the doorknobs to try to catch the “ghost.” Good stuff.

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7. The Witches of Worm by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (1972)

More feline frights! Jessica is a cat-hating pre-teen who finds a blind, hairless little kitty she grudgingly adopts and contemptuously names Worm. But apparently there’s more to Worm than meets the eye, because soon afterward, Jessica begins behaving strangely, as if the cat is possessing her and making her do terrible things. Is Worm a witch’s familiar? Is Jessica projecting her own unhappiness and destructiveness onto the defenseless animal? It’s a fascinating psychological study that never clearly states whether there’s anything supernatural going on. As an aside, I believe this was the first audio book I ever listened to (on a series of cassettes, because I am old).

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6. The Mystery of the Fiery Eye (Three Investigators Classics) by Robert Arthur (1967)

I was a big fan of the Alfred Hitchcock-sponsored Three Investigators series. They struck me as much cooler than the Hardy Boys books, which always came across a little too goody-two-shoes for me (I was also way more into Trixie Belden than Nancy Drew, but that’s neither here nor there). I read most of the 43 books in the series at one stage or another; I think I felt an affinity with chubby smarty-pants Jupiter Jones, and I absolutely fucking loved the idea of the investigators’ headquarters being in a trailer that was hidden under a pile of scrap in a junkyard and accessed through a series of tunnels. My favorites in the series included The Secret of Terror Castle, The Mystery of the Screaming Clock, and The Mystery of the Silver Spider, but Fiery Eye was hands-down my jam. I’ve had a long fascination with gemstones anyway, particularly rubies, and I was also enchanted by the busts of historical personages that figured prominently in the mystery.

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5. The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (1972)

Snyder’s second appearance on the list. I first heard about this book on that old PBS show with John Robbins. Does anyone else remember it? He had one called “The Book Bird” and one called “Cover to Cover”, and he would feature a book or two on each episode (I distinctly remember White Fang, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Sea Egg, The Bridge to Terabithia, Tuck Everlasting, and Misty of Chincoteague being highlighted). Excerpts of the book would be read and he would illustrate them. I loved the crap out of that show, and though I found a few episodes of it on YouTube, the episode lists on the internet don’t mention The Headless Cupid (or Ellen Raskin’s Figgs and Phantoms, for that matter, which I also swear I saw on there), so now I’m thinking my entire childhood was a lie and I don’t know how to behave. At any rate, this book had everything that preteen me loved: weird teenage girls, possible witchcraft, a ghostly mystery in an old house. The main character of Amanda, with her pet crow, crazy braids, and silver forehead triangle, was one of the aspirational figures of my youth. I thought she was the coolest chick ever.

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4. The Ghost Next Door by Wylly Folk St. John (1972)

I loved this book so much as a kid, and for a long time afterward I only remembered the cover and the general story outline, but not the title. But thanks to the miracle of Google-Fu, I was able to track it down and revel in the magic once again. A little drowned girl, a spooky blue rose, a cement owl with marble eyes, and that vague sense of ambiguity about whether the ghost is real all added up to a chilling read. Easily one of my childhood favorites, and one that still holds up when read as an adult.

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3. Alfred Hitchcock’s Supernatural Tales of Terror and Suspense by Various Authors (1973)

I wrote a post about another of these Hitchcock-edited anthologies, Stories That Scared Even Me, right here, but this one got just as many read-throughs, and I still own a worn hardback copy of it. There are only eleven stories, but all of them are great, and I have to give it props for introducing me to what is still one of my favorite short stories of all time, “The Triumph of Death” by H. Russell Wakefield (which I discussed a bit here). Other standouts include a second Wakefield story, “Mr. Ash’s Studio,” a rare Raymond Chandler tale called “The Bronze Door,” a creepy undertaker yarn called “The Pram” by A.W. Bennett, and a horrific model-train story by Alex Hamilton, “The Attic Express.”

WestingGame

2. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (1978)

I liked all of Ellen Raskin’s books, but this one was my favorite by a mile. It’s more mystery than horror, but I was so delighted by it that for years I’ve been contemplating doing a similar puzzle-style story (it’s actually in the planning stages at the moment, though I still have a lot of bugs to work out). The characters are hilarious, the writing sharp, the mystery intriguing. I actually re-read it just a few years back and I enjoyed it just as much. A classic. Why hasn’t there been a big-budget movie of this again?

HouseClock

1. The House With a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs (1973)

If you read this previous post, you shouldn’t be surprised that this came out on top, because it’s easily my favorite young adult book of any era, and I don’t see that changing at any point in the future (sorry, J.K. Rowling and Philip Pullman). Again, it hit all the right notes with me when I first read it: There was a creepy old house with secret passages and randomly changing stained-glass windows, witches and wizards, a hand of glory, necromancy, a scary countdown to doomsday, and those wonderful illustrations by Edward Gorey. Everything about this book was magical, and every time I reread it (which I do, quite often), I am transported back to that time in my childhood when all I ever dreamed about was ghosts and witches and hauntings and delicious creepiness that I wanted to utterly infuse my life forever (which it has, to a large extent, so I’ve got that going for me). I just can’t recommend this one enough; I wanted to live in its terrifying yet whimsical world, and if offered the chance to do so now, I would not hesitate to move right into that wacky mansion in New Zebedee and pile ice cream on my hat. Just talking about the book makes me want to dive back into it and forget about reality for a while, so I’m off to snatch up my purple-globe-topped cane, peer into my history-reenacting egg, and resurrect the corpses of some evil, long-dead wizards. If I don’t bring about the end of the world through these activities, I will return with more of my nostalgic and rambling posts very soon. So until next time, Goddess out.

The Goddess Sings the Praises of “Stories That Scared Even Me”

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There is nothing I love so much as a well-told and terrifying short story. Sure, novels are great, and can conjure an entire world that you can lose yourself in for days or weeks at a time; but there is something about that sharp jolt from a short tale that can be read all in one sitting (though perhaps not forgotten so quickly as that). Short stories are my preferred medium for writing as well, and I hope one day to be able to create something even partially approaching the nightmarish impact of some of my favorite short stories of all time: Lovecraft’s “Pickman’s Model.” Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death.” Oliver Onions’s “The Beckoning Fair One.” Charlotte Perkins Gillman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper.” H. Russell Wakefield’s “The Triumph of Death.” Clive Barker’s “In the Hills, the Cities.”

When I was a wee Goddess, one of my very favorite things was to go to the library and check out one of the giant horror anthologies that flew under the “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” banner. A shit-ton of them were published, and I think I probably read them all during my formative years. The stories contained therein were a huge influence on little nugget me, who was already starting to show a penchant for the literary and the horrific. My grandfather, knowing of my predilections, gave me one of the anthologies out of the vast, dusty collection of books he kept in teetering stacks on the floor of his creepy, overstuffed house. I still have it, though its pages have fallen completely out of its binding from the many rereads it underwent over the years. It was published in 1967, only five years before I was born. It was called Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Stories That Scared Even Me. Even the title intrigued me! THESE STORIES SCARED ALFRED HITCHCOCK, YOU GUYS. THAT’S HARDCORE.

Sadly, this incredible collection is now out of print, but used copies can be found pretty easily, and if you’re into a lot of the horror fiction that came out from around the 1920s to the 1960s, I would recommend you pick up a copy, because it is the most consistently great horror anthology I’ve ever read. There isn’t a dud among the 25 tales featured, and there isn’t a story in there that isn’t excellent at the very least. The collection has something for damn near everyone: Weird monsters (Fishhead, Men Without Bones, It, The Troll, Out of the Deeps)! Dystopias (Not With a Bang, X Marks the Pedwalk)! Creeping suburban horror (Tough Town, One of the Dead)! Jack the Ripper (The Knife)! Vampires (The Real Thing)! Nazis (Evening at the Black House)! I’ll provide a full table of contents at the bottom of the post, if you’re curious.

It’s difficult to choose my five favorite stories out of such an embarrassment of riches, but for the purposes of this blog post, I’m going to attempt it. Wish me luck.

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“A Death in the Family” by Miriam Allen deFord

I briefly mentioned this story before in my post about season two of “Masters of Horror,” and I also mentioned that it had been turned into a partial episode of “Night Gallery.” It’s the tale of a lonely undertaker who has an entire “family” of stolen, preserved corpses in his basement to keep him company. His secluded little world is disrupted, however, when kidnappers drop the murdered body of a beautiful little girl on his doorstep, and he must wrestle with the decision of either doing the right thing by the girl’s family, or adding the perfect daughter to his own. The whole tale just oozes a cold, chilling atmosphere, and the helpless empathy you feel with the bereft protagonist gives this one a real emotional punch.

sliceofbloodycake

“Party Games” by John Burke

Since I was about the same age and personality type as the main protagonist of this story, the quietly sly Simon, this story really resonated with me when I first encountered it. Fairly violent, but in a pleasingly understated and very British way, the story follows the tragic arc of Simon’s ill-fated birthday party, and examines the vengeful depths that might be lurking just below the surface of even the shyest and most innocuous of little boys.

Natchez-36

“Curious Adventure of Mr. Bond” by Nugent Barker

Really more of a novella than a short story, this tale is told in three rough parts. Mr. Bond is a traveler who goes to a succession of three oddly-named inns, and slowly begins to discover the terrible secret connection between them. I like this one a great deal because it has sort of an eerie fairy-tale feel, and the gruesome outcome is satisfyingly icky.

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“The Road to Mictlantecutli” by Adobe James

I’m always down for a good devil story, and this one takes a fairly original and somewhat dreamlike path. Saturated in the atmosphere of the American Southwest and shrouded in Aztec myth, this story of an unsympathetic fugitive from the hangman who has his own ghastly “Hotel California” experience out in the desert is blood-red perfection.

indian-mirror-costa-concordia-cruise-liner-sunk

“Journey to Death” by Donald E. Westlake

The premise is simple: Two men are trapped in an airtight game room when their cruise ship plunges to the bottom of the ocean. But the execution is skin-crawling, the tension palpable, and the resolution grim. A shining example of taking a bare-bones frame and building a towering edifice of terror upon it.

And here, as promised, is the entire list of stories featured in this fantastic collection. Check it out; you won’t be disappointed. Until next time, Goddess out.

“Fishhead” by Irvin S. Cobb
“Camera Obscura” by Basil Copper
“A Death in the Family” by Miriam Allen deFord
“Men Without Bones” by Gerald Kersh
“Not with a Bang” by Damon Knight
“Party Games” by John Burke
“X Marks the Pedwalk” by Fritz Leiber
“Curious Adventure of Mr. Bond” by Nugent Barker
“Two Spinsters” by E. Phillips Oppenheim
“The Knife” by Robert Arthur
“The Cage” by Ray Russell
“It” by Theodore Sturgeon
“Casablanca” by Thomas M. Disch
“The Road to Mictlantecutli” by Adobe James
“Guide to Doom” by Ellis Peters
“The Estuary” by Margaret St. Clair
“Tough Town” by William Sambrot
“The Troll” by T. H. White
“Evening at the Black House” by Robert Somerlott
“One of the Dead” by William Wood
“The Master of the Hounds” by Algis Budrys
“The Real Thing” by Robert Specht
“Journey to Death” by Donald E. Westlake
“The Candidate” by Henry Slesar
“Out of the Deeps” by John Wyndham

 

 

The Goddess’s Favorite Creepy Movie Scenes, or Little Red Smiting Hood

If you’ve done even a cursory reading of my other blog posts in this series, you’ll know that the films and scenes I tend to write about are not focused so much on shock or gore as they are on conveying a sense of deep, lingering unease. I feel that movies and scenes that can accomplish this feat successfully are much rarer, for instilling a lasting dread in a viewer is always going to be far more difficult than simply making them jump in their seats or showing them something that turns their stomach. As I mentioned before, I’m not going to belittle horror films that take the easy way out; I’ve enjoyed a great many of them, after all. But my favorite horror is always going to be predicated upon that tightening noose of apprehension, that eerie, nightmarish imagery that sticks with you for sometimes years afterward, that subtly creeping menace that makes you almost regret ever even watching the thing in the first place.

As a case study, I now present a discussion of what I feel is one of the finest horror films of the 1970s. It’s a critically adored piece of filmmaking, but I definitely feel that it sometimes gets short shrift in the “popular” culture of horror films. Part of this may be due to the fact that it’s British, and perhaps more restrained and adult-oriented than the usual horror fare; in fact, it could almost be classified as an “art film.” Part of it may be due to its fractured, confusing narrative and its obsessive repetition of themes. Whatever the reason, though, I hope that those of you who have never seen it will sit down in a darkened room and give it a chance, because I guarantee that you will be in for a truly unsettling experience. One caveat, though: if you’re going to watch it, you might want to wait to read my recap until afterward, because I’m going to spoil the hell out of it. With that warning, let’s continue, shall we?

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Donald Sutherland is well-known for having the best epic eyeroll in the business.

1973’s Don’t Look Now was based on a short story by Daphne du Maurier (who also wrote Rebecca and The Birds, both of which, of course, were adapted to film by Alfred Hitchcock) and was directed by Nicholas Roeg, an idiosyncratic filmmaker known for such works as Performance, The Man Who Fell To Earth, and the Roald Dahl adaptation The Witches. Roeg’s signature directorial style (and also his visual style, as he started out in the biz as a cinematographer) is all over Don’t Look Now, from the disjointed plot construction to the recurring instances of symbolism. It’s definitely a film that rewards multiple viewings and reveals hidden layers with each rewatch.

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Ah, an innocent little girl skipping along right next to an ominous body of water. What could possibly go wrong?

In brief, Don’t Look Now is the story of a married couple, John and Laura Baxter (Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie) who are grief-stricken after the accidental drowning death of their daughter Christine (Sharon Williams). To help deal with their loss, John accepts a job restoring an old cathedral in Venice, and the couple move from England to Italy in order to get away from their painful memories.

But naturally, things never work out that simply in a horror film. They have only been in Venice for a short time before Laura is approached by two sisters, one of whom is a blind psychic, in a restaurant bathroom. The psychic tells Laura that her daughter is with her and is happy, even describing the distinctive red raincoat Christine was wearing when she drowned. Laura is overjoyed at the news and believes unreservedly, but John is far more skeptical, and gently tries to discourage Laura’s “fancies.”

However, it soon becomes clear that something untoward is going on, no matter how skeptical John may be. Not only is there a murderer running loose around Venice, but John begins seeing fleeting glimpses of what appears to be a child in a red raincoat around the city. Laura, still heartened by the psychic’s pronouncement, agrees to go to a seance held by the two sisters, at which they tell her that her dead daughter has informed them that John is in danger. John gets angry at all of this psychic nonsense, and he and his wife have a blistering argument where much of their resentments about their daughter’s death come to the fore.

The next morning, they receive a phone call. It turns out that the couple’s son, who is at a boarding school back in England, has been injured in a fall. Laura immediately leaves Italy to tend to him, while John stays behind. Strangely, though, John sees his just-departed wife later that very same day. She is dressed in mourning and standing on a funeral boat in the canal, along with the two weird sisters. He passes her in another boat, and calls to her, though she doesn’t seem to hear him. Confused by her presence when she is supposed to be in England, and concerned about the murders happening around the city, he calls the police and reports her missing. Suspicious police decide to have John tailed instead, as he combs the city for any sign of his wife or the sisters he saw her with. Then, in a moment of clarity, he calls his son’s boarding school and is informed that Laura is there, and had arrived precisely when she should have, judging from the time she left Italy. Severely confused now, John informs the police that his wife is fine and not missing after all. Then later, in the street, he sees the red-clad figure again and chases after it. It should go without saying in a movie like this, but it doesn’t end well.

Don't Look Now film

Taking a slight detour on the way to grandma’s house.

Director Roeg is a master at fostering a bizarre sense of dislocation in the viewer, but also at wrenching a cloying sense of menace out of every frame in this film. He does this through means both obvious and insidious. First of all, whenever Italian is spoken in the film, Roeg chose not to subtitle it, so that a non-speaker watching the film would feel just as adrift and confused as the characters. Secondly, he plays heavily on the theme of precognition, refusing to make clear whether what we are seeing on screen is happening in the present, the past, or the future, and deliberately chops up the narrative so that it is presented to us in a largely non-linear way. Thirdly, he uses several recurring motifs as portents of disaster: water, glass breaking, the color red, falling objects and people, the sense that “nothing is as it seems.” There is a constant sense of being stared at by hostile-seeming bystanders, there are subtle references to the murders which are never explicitly shown, and just an overall sense of displacement that contributes to the feelings of loss and relationship breakdown that the characters are experiencing. Roeg also makes great use of the dark, gothic back alleys of Venice to ramp up the creepy factor.

Several scenes stick out, but there are really only two that I’d like to briefly discuss. And before you get your hopes up, no, one of them isn’t the VERY explicit sex scene that caused so much controversy when this film came out in 1973. I may discuss it one of these days if I ever do a series on oddly hot moments that inexplicably turned up in horror films, but for now, let’s keep to the scary. Sorry, horndogs. 🙂

The opening scene is fantastic in establishing many of the themes explored in the film. The family is still in England at this point, and the daughter is not yet dead. Christine, in fact, is playing out in the yard in her red raincoat, while her brother idly rides his bicycle not far away. Inside the house, John and Laura are sitting before the fire. Laura is poring through a book looking for the answer to a question Christine asked her about frozen bodies of water (there’s one of those motifs), while John is looking through slides of the cathedral he is going to be restoring. In one of the shots, he notices a red-hooded figure seated in a pew before a stained glass window. He looks at the slide through a magnifying glass, and suddenly we see what looks like a red arm extending from the figure, though closer examination reveals that it is a tendril of blood, eerily working its way across the slide. The sight of the blood gives John a moment of precognitive dread, and he bolts from the house and out into the yard. Unfortunately, he is too late to save Christine, and is reduced to dragging her lifeless body from the pond and howling in agonized grief.

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The second scene I’d like to focus on is the final one, in which all of the director’s leitmotifs culminate in one of the most unsettling sequences in horror cinema. John has seen that elusive red-hooded figure again as he is walking in the street, and begins to chase after it. The blind psychic, of course, has had a vision that John is in mortal danger, and Laura, who has returned from England, begins to run after him. He follows the figure up a spiral staircase to the tower of a cathedral. Laura cannot get in, and is reduced to reaching through the locked gates and yelling for him. John opens a door, and sees the little red-hooded figure standing against the wall, with its back to him. He thinks he hears it crying, and he tells it that he’s a friend, that he won’t hurt it. “Come on,” he says, encouragingly. There is another shot of Laura reaching through the wrought iron gate and calling for him, and then a flashback of the photographic slide with the red-hooded figure sitting in the pew. And then, the red-hooded figure turns around, y’all.

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Aww, look, it’s my sweet little dead daughter!

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OH HELL NO.

Not a pretty little blonde-haired girl at all, is it? No, it is a disturbingly wizened little woman. She approaches John, shaking her head, and then there are intercut shots of the blind psychic screaming, of the Baxters’ son running across their yard in England, of John embracing a stone gargoyle. “Wait,” says John, and then the tiny, terrifying woman, who in case you hadn’t figured it out is actually the serial killer running loose around Venice, pulls a cleaver from her pocket and thunks John right in the neck. There is a confusing array of images encompassing the past and present: John falling backward, Laura screaming, John holding his dead daughter in the pond, Christine’s red ball, John holding his wife’s hand in a restaurant, a mermaid brooch one of the sisters had been wearing. It’s all set to the discordant sound of church bells clanging. John’s life essentially flashes before his eyes as he lies there and bleeds out upon the floor.

And thus John, who spent the entire film discounting the existence of precognition (even though he experienced it himself just before Christine’s death), has had his second vision fulfilled, even though at the time he wasn’t aware that it was a vision: when he inexplicably saw Laura and the two sisters on the funeral boat, he was seeing the future, and seeing his wife mourning HIS death, not their daughter’s. A fantastically crafted film all around, and one the Goddess enthusiastically recommends.

Until next time, Goddess out.