Horror: "Dagon" and "Candyman"

From Forum Without a Name:

Belatedly saw Bernard Rose's Candyman and it's wonderful, not a straight-out serial-killer movie but something altogether more complex: malevolence seducing innocence (or at least your regular girl-off-the-street scholar with above-average will of her own), the necessity of belief for existence, the cyclical nature of violence and passing on of guilt, so on and so forth, stuff Clive Barker--who's also an interesting filmmaker, but not as talented as I think Rose is--has always used in his stories.

Rose's style is wonderfully suggestive; the scenes are more intense than actually gory (well, most of the time), and the colors and textures are ravishing (and at times overwhelming--the visit to the public toilet where the Candyman comes from is something else)--this and Paperhouse mark him as an interesting filmmaker (I always thought his Anna Karenina was underrated). Also Virginia Madsen--she goes a long way towards making this all emotionally plausible, even moving.

Chris J. mentioned Stuart Gordon's Dagon, I finally got the chance to see it, and I can't believe it's gotten so little attention. It's much more ambitious than Re-animator, concurrently has more flaws (an equally demented sense of humor might have gone a long way, along with the equivalent of Herbert West--but how often can we find anyone as demented as Dr. West, or his colleague/rival?), but there's stuff here that goes beyond that first effort, including the early scenes at the village, that moment when the woman and her husband realize something's wrong (other than they're in a sinking boat and her leg's pinned between the boat's hull and a rock), and the hero's first view of his hotel room (looove that bathroom; love the second bathroom even more (what is it with good horror filmmakers and toilet bowls?)).

First-rate atmosphere and sense of building terror, but when Gordon has to pull out stops Re-animator style he does so without any hesitation (the scene I'm thinking of ranks up there with the best of Re-animator's gross-out scenes--is perhaps better because it's so realistically staged and shot). The ending has the kind of strange beauty needed to make the best and most memorable horror films. Rose is terrific, but Gordon--with his first film, this and King of the Ants, I think he's some kind of an underappreciated genius.

Tonya J.: Maybe I need to watch Dagon again - had a bad reaction the first time I watched it (it seemed so cheesy or I was in a stinking bad mood).

PS - nice, nice analysis of Candyman - I enjoyed that film; not many people shared my opinion at the time.

The bad stuff in Dagon--the cheap CGI effects--are kept to a minimum; it's the accumulation of creepy details, from the pale sailors to the webbed fingers to the beautiful woman in bed who seems unable to stand, that get to you. And I like it that even the unlikelihood of someone getting away with so much for so long is explained away.

But above all, the camerawork--Gordon's mentioned his debt to Polanski, for developing handheld shots that look over the protagonist's shoulder, so you're always looking through his eyes and never sure what's behind him, or lurking round the corner. Not many filmmaker can do that sort of thing very well (I'm thinking of Rob Zombie, Danny Boyle, Bore Verbinski, that hack who did the Dawn of the Dead remake, among many, many others).

The Great Beast: I love the Lovecraft adaptations, and the actor who plays West is one of my favorites.

On Jeffrey Combs as Herbert West: I guess he's key to what makes Re-Animator so memorable--it's the sight of him looking so intently at his next experimental objective, no matter what horror stands in his way (or rises up thanks to him), that's so unutterably funny. Plus the wonderful David Gale as Dr. Carl Hill, who literally loses his head and finds his libido along the way, makes a fitting nemesis.

Oh, and Barbara Crampton's creamy skin doesn't hurt my appreciation of the film at all (though I did enjoy the lovely presences of Raquel Merono and Macarena Gomez, who debuts on this picture--these Spanish women, they are muy beautiful)...

I forgot to mention Francisco Rabal in Dagon as the old man, who's simply magnificent here (he's had a long career, which included starring in Bunuel's Viridiana and playing the lead in Nazarin). It's his last onscreen performance, and I think a fitting finale.

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