Tag Archives: Daughters of Darkness

Fright Club: Aging in Horror Movies

Horror filmmakers have long focused their preoccupations with mortality o the act of death itself, perhaps what happens afterward. But there are those whose real worry is quite the opposite – rather than leaving a beautiful young corpse, it’s the idea of the long, slow death of aging. Here are our favorite movies on the horrors of aging – but first, a little PSA on a movie of our own!

Obstacle Corpse

We also used our latest episode to announce our own movie!

After she gets an invite to a mysterious pro-am obstacle course race, unprepared teen Sunny enters with her goofy best friend, Ezra, in a last-chance shot at proving herself to her survivalist dad. But when bloody bedlam breaks out and the pros start murdering their “plus-ones,” Sunny must finally find her killer instinct before she and Ezra end up coming in dead last.

Please help us reach the finish line and support a woman-led, smart horror comedy!

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/obstacle-corpse-a-horror-comedy/x/27088906#/

5. The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)

A fear of aging hangs over this film and story, but not simply of impending death but of the ravages of sin, guilt and shame. Due to some magical mystery, the beautiful young man never ages, although a painting of him not only shows his true age, it shows every ugly thing he’s ever done. As Gray stalks London indulging in debauchery, treachery and all things foul, his painting grows more and more grotesque.

We knew there would be a Dorian Gray somewhere in this list, but we’d originally planned to go with Oliver Parker’s 2009 film Dorian Gray starring Ben Barnes, Colin Firth and Rebecca Hall, mainly because it’s far more of a horror film than the 1945 film from Albert Lewin.

But upon rewatch, there was something so gorgeously unsettling in the way this film avoids specificity. That, and George Sanders, who was better at playing a cad than any actor of his time. Clearly the onscreen personification of source writer Oscar Wilde, Sanders gets all the best lines and delivers the film’s unnerving themes perfectly.

     

4. Daughters of Darkness (1971)

It was also pretty clear that we’d have to choose a vampire film for the list, as those tales are so very often about the lengths a body will go to fend off aging. It could have been Fright Night, it almost was The Hunger, but in the end we are lured by our favorite Countess Bathory tale, Harry Kümel’s languid classic Daughters of Darkness.

It’s a film about indulgence and drowsy lustfulness, and Delphine Seyrig is perfection as the Countess who drains others to keep her youth.

Seyrig’s performance lends the villain a tragic loveliness that makes her the most endearing figure in the film. Everybody else feels mildly unpleasant, a sinister bunch who seem to be hiding things. The husband, in particular, is a suspicious figure, and a bit peculiar. Kind of a dick, really – and Bathory, for one, has no time for dicks.

3. Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)

Even though we just talked about this one when we covered librarians in horror, we couldn’t leave it off this list. The Ray Bradbury classic, penned for the screen by the author and directed by Jack Clayton (The Innocents), the movie uses notalgia to its benefit because its very purpose is to seduce those longing for their lost youth.

The movie’s greatest strength, though, is the casting of its true hero, Jason Robards as librarian Charles Halloway, and its villain, Jonathan Pryce as Mr. Dark. (The entire adult cast is amazing, actually.) These two veterans go toe to toe in one scene, where Mr. Dark’s evil and Halloway’s goodness are on full display. It’s the kind of scene talented actors must crave, and these to make the most of it.

2. The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)

Horror filmmakers look at aging in a very specific way. Brilliant movies like Natalie Erika James’s Relic and Bryan Bertino’s The Dark and the Wicked saw it through the eyes of those who are watching their own ugly future.

Adam Robitel’s Alzheimer’s horror does the same. Its horror is less muted, though, and it works as well as it does because of a fantastic performance from Jill Larson as the aging, vulnerable, terrifying Deborah.

Anne Ramsay is nearly her equal, playing Deborah’s daughter who allows a student documentary crew in to make a movie aimed at raising awareness around the disease. What they find is a sometimes clunky but never ineffective metaphor for watching the person who has loved you more than anyone on earth turn into a demon.

1. Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)

Who wants to see Bruce Campbell play Elvis Presley?! We do.

Director Don Coscarelli (Phantasm) brings Joe R. Lansdale’s short story to the screen to depict the horror and sadness of aging, although its done with such humor that the film is impossible not to love.

Elvis never died, he swapped places with an impersonator who died and ever since then he’s been stuck living someone else’s life. And now he’s been stuck in this low-rent old folks home where his only real friend is a guy who believes he’s JFK (Ossie Davis). Obviously, when they realize that the recent spate of patient deaths is due to a mummy sucking the life from people through their assholes, who’d believe these knuckleheads?

The script is great and Coscarelli knows exactly how to make the most of budgetary limitations. The entire cast soars, but Campbell and Davis have such incredible chemistry that the film delivers not just laughs, message, and some scares but genuine tenderness.

Fright Club: Side Characters, Part 1

This episode is years in the making. We’ve talked about doing this, jotted down ideas and characters, debated — and now it’s finally here. Well, half of it, anyway. There’s just no way to reasonably fit the best side characters—those fully deserving a film of their own—in just one podcast. So here is our list, in alphabetical order (no need to rank them!). This one’s for the ladies.

Aunt Martha (Desiree Gould), Sleepaway Camp (1983)

Smartly dressed, thoughtful, loving, misguided, and as if a creature from an entirely different film. She made a decision and, sure, Angela probably should have been a part of that decision-making process. But it wasn’t Aunt Martha’s fault that Paul was a no-good cheater. Or that Judy was such an asshole. I mean, yes, that surprise at the end was due in large part to Aunt Martha, but as for the campers—they had it coming.

Mademoiselle (Catherine Begin), Martyrs (2008)

What a presence. Commanding, calm, wizened and weary, Catherine Begin’s Madamoiselle has such resigned decisiveness that it’s almost impossible to argue with her. She turns something that could have easily become torture porn into a mesmerizing glimpse at zealotry.

Minnie Castavet (Ruth Gordon) Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Ruth Gordon earned an Oscar as Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse’s busybody neighbor Minnie Castavet, wife of Roman and nonplussed chief operations officer of the coven. Yes, Roman made a good figurehead, but somebody has to just keep things moving. And as long as she ate the mouse, everything’s fine.

Mother (Fons Rademakers), Daughters of Darkness (1971)

One of the many glorious things about Harry Kumel’s decadent 1971 vampire fable is the way it feels like two or three different films colliding into one elegant bloodletting. Mother casts a looming shadow over one of those storylines, that of a young, beautiful couple recently married, Stefan and Valerie. Even before they’re ensnared in Countess Bathory’s love web, Stefan (an irredeemable asshole if ever there was one) needs to figure out how to break the news of his nuptials to Mother.

Whenever a new character makes you simply need to hear an entirely other story, one focused on whatever they’re not telling you about that character, you know you have a winner. The way Fons Rademakers pets his butler’s head, holds court in the greenhouse, and wields unspecified but somehow sinister power over Stefan begs for its own movie.

Mrs. Baylock (Billie Whitelaw), The Omen (1976)

From the moment she takes the screen, Mrs. Baylock is the new sheriff in town. She quietly yet immediately takes control of the Thorn household. If you didn’t know who was alpha, you only need to see who the dog listens to. Yep, Richard Thorn is in trouble. To say nothing of his poor, useless wife Catherine.

Tangina (Zelda Rubenstein), Poltergeist (1982)

Walks in the house, owns the place. Tangina is a force of nature with a soft little lilt and a no-nonsense approach to cleaning the Freeling house. Her confidence gives the character more than a huckster vibe, although there is a sense of showmanship to everything she does. But when she is addressing the living, it’s best not to give trick answers.

Zelda (Andrew Hubatsek), Pet Sematary (1989)

Scary as hell. Sure, the cat, little Gage, that guy with the brain on the outside of his skull—all of it has its horror charm. But the real nightmare in Mary Lamber’s adaptation of the Stephen King tale is Rachel Creed’s guilty memory of the sister who terrified and horrified her, the sister she believes died—at least in part—due to her own negligence and hatred. Thanks to the angular, monstrous vision of Andrew Hubastek in a nightdress, all contorting ribcage and spine, Zelda became easily the scariest thing in the film.

Fright Club: Lesbians in Horror Movies

Lesbians in horror have come a long way since Jesus DeFranco’s bloodthirsty nymphettes. In fact, we are now at the glorious point in history in which story leads can be lesbians for no particular reason—their sexual orientation not a metaphor for anything at all. They’re just characters. Nice!

There are so many great options that we had to leave many off. What were we looking for? Main characters whose sexuality is not showcased simply for titillation or as a twisted mark of the sinister. That doesn’t mean we’ve abandoned the villain, but if you’re looking for hot girl-on-girl action, well, yes, we have a bit of that, too, but who wouldn’t make out with Catherine Deneuve?

5. The Hunger (1983)

Director Tony Scott’s seductive vampire love story has a little bit of everything: slaughter, girl-on-girl action, ’80s synth/goth tunage, David Bowie. What more can you ask?

Actually the film’s kind of a sultry, dreamily erotic mess. Oh, the gauzy curtains. Catharine Deneuve is the old world vampire Miriam Blaylock—an inarguably awesome name for a vampire. David Bowie is her lover. But he suddenly begins aging, and she needs to find a replacement. Enter Susan Sarandon and her mullet as a medical specialist in unusual blood diseases and a fine actress who’s not above smooching other girls.

There are three reasons people will always watch this film: Bowie, Catherine Deneuve’s seduction of Susan Sarandon (classy!), and the great dark-wave Bauhaus number Bela Lugosi’s Dead. Together it’s a Goth Trifecta! And Goths do love them some vampires.

4. Thelma (2017)

We follow Thelma (Eili Harboe) through the uncomfortable, lonely first weeks of college we gather that her parents are very Christian and very protective.

Things could have gone all predictable and preachy from there, but co-writer/director Joachim Trier knows what you’re thinking and he plans to use it against you.

Thelma is a coming-of-age film at its cold, dark heart. The horror here lies in the destructive nature of trying to be something you are not, but here again, nothing in Thelma is as simple or cleanly cut as the beautiful framing and crystal clear camera work suggest.

Like Julia Ducournau’s magnificent coming-of-age horror Raw, Thelma dives into the issues swirling around post-adolescent freedoms and taboos in daring and insightful ways.

Thelma takes its time and lets its lead unveil a fully realized, deeply complex character full of contradictions—inconsistencies that make more sense as the mystery unravels. Though the result never terrifies, it offers an unsettling vision of self-discovery that’s simultaneously familiar and unique.

3. The Haunting (1963)

This may not seem like an obvious choice, but Theo (Claire Bloom) is a lesbian. And a great, badass character at that. That may not have been a widely held opinion when the great Shirley Jackson penned the novel in the fifties, or when the great Robert Wise directed the spooky and wonderful adaptation in 1963. But Mike Flanagan, director of the Netflix series based on the book, understood Jackson’s nuance and Wise’s subtlety and decided Theo would be out and proud. Good on ya, Flanagan.

In Wise’s original work, there is no overt mention of Theo’s sexuality, but there wouldn’t be, would there? It was 1963. Theodora is unmarried but refers to an “us” when discussing her home life. Her style, her confidence, her disinterest in being demure with the males, and the fact that Eleanor refers to her as “unnatural” all quietly make the case for us.

What’s great, though, is not just that a lead character is a lesbian, but that she’s a powerful and positive presence, and that she and Eleanor form a deep and supportive friendship. The Haunting (and Jackson’s magnificent novel) is about identity, and the fact that Theo is so very comfortable with hers is what makes this film an important addition to the list.

2. The Handmaiden (2016)

Director Park Chan-wook (Oldboy) mesmerizes again with this seductive story of a plot to defraud a Japanese heiress in the 1930s.

Weird is an excellent word to describe this film. Gorgeous and twisty with criss-crossing loyalties and deceptions, all filmed with such stunning elegance. Set in Korea, the film follows a young domestic in a sumptuous Japanese household. She’s to look after the beautiful heiress, a woman whose uncle is as perverse and creepy as he is wealthy.

Smart and wicked, stylish and full of wonderful twists, The Handmaiden is a masterwork of delicious indulgence.

1. Daughters of Darkness (1971)

Seduction, homoeroticism, drowsy lustfulness – this one has it all.

Countess Bathory—history’s female version of Dracula—checks into an all-but-abandoned seaside hotel. The only other guests, besides the Countess’s lover, Ilona (Andrea Rau), is a honeymooning couple.

Effortlessly aristocratic, Delphine Seyrig brings a tender coyness, a sadness to the infamous role of Bathory. Seyrig’s performance lends the villain a tragic loveliness that makes her the most endearing figure in the film. Everybody else feels mildly unpleasant, a sinister bunch who seem to be hiding things. The husband (John Karlen), in particular, is a suspicious figure, and a bit peculiar. Kind of a dick, really— and Bathory, for one, has no time for dicks.

Caring less for the victims than for the predator—not because she’s innocent or good, but because her weary elegance makes her seem vulnerable—gives the film a nice added dimension.

The accents are absurd. The outfits are glorious. The performances are compellingly, perversely good, and the shots are gorgeous. Indulge yourself.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFRuSbykaV0





Fright Club: Best Female Vampire Movies

An aching loneliness tends to be the overwhelming theme of any vampire film that focuses primarily on the female predator – unless, of course, the focus is girl-on-girl action. But even then, aching loneliness, too. Whether evil bloodsuckers or just tragic and doomed to feed off the living, there’s something peculiarly spooky about these ladies. Here we celebrate the vampiress with our countdown of the five(ish) best female vampire movies.

Listen to the podcast, complete with a live studio audience, HERE.

5. The Hunger (1983)

Director Tony Scott’s seductive vampire love story has a little bit of everything: slaughter, girl-on-girl action, ’80s synth/goth tunage, David Bowie. What more can you ask?

Actually the film’s kind of a sultry, dreamily erotic mess. Oh, the gauzy, filmy curtains. Catharine Deneuve is the old world vampire Miriam, David Bowie is her lover. But he suddenly begins aging, and she needs to find a replacement. Enter Susan Sarandon as a medical specialist in unusual blood diseases and a fine actress who’s not above smooching other girls.

There are three reasons people will always watch this film: Bowie, Catherine Deneuve’s seduction of Susan Sarandon (classy!), and the great dark-wave Bauhaus number Bela Lugosi’s Dead. Together it’s a Goth Trifecta! And Goths do love them some vampires.

4. Daughters of Darkness (1971)

Seduction, homoeroticism, drowsy lustfulness – this one has it all.

Countess Bathory – history’s female version of Dracula – checks into an all-but-abandoned seaside hotel. The only other guests, besides the Countess’s lover, Ilona, is a honeymooning couple.

Effortlessly aristocratic, Delphine Seyrig brings a tender coyness, a sadness to the infamous role of Bathory. Seyrig’s performance lends the villain a tragic loveliness that makes her the most endearing figure in the film. Everybody else feels mildly unpleasant, a sinister bunch who seem to be hiding things. The husband, in particular, is a suspicious figure, and a bit peculiar. Kind of a dick, really – and Bathory, for one, has no time for dicks.
Caring less for the victims than for the predator – not because she’s innocent or good, but because her weary elegance makes her seem vulnerable – gives the film a nice added dimension.

The accents are absurd. The outfits are glorious. The performances are compellingly, perversely good, and the shots are gorgeous. Indulge yourself.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFRuSbykaV0

3. Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

Leave it to visionary writer/director Jim Jarmusch to concoct a delicious black comedy, oozing with sharp wit and hipster attitude.

Great lead performances don’t hurt, either, and Jarmusch gets them from Tom Hilddleston and Tilda Swinton as Adam and Eve (perfect!), a vampire couple rekindling their centuries-old romance against the picturesque backdrop of…Detroit.

Not since the David Bowie/Catherine Deneuve pairing in The Hunger has there been such perfectly vampiric casting. Swinton and Hiddleston, already two of the most consistently excellent actors around, deliver cooly detached, underplayed performances, wearing the world- weariness of their characters in uniquely contrasting ways.

There is substance to accent all the style. The film moseys toward its perfect finale, casually waxing Goth philosophic about soul mates and finding your joy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-TbxI_oRSKI

2. Let the Right One In (2008)/Let Me In (2010)

Let’s be honest, we’ve combined these two films just to make room for an additional film in the countdown. In 2008, Sweden’s Let the Right One In emerged as an original, stylish thriller – and the best vampire flicks in years. A spooky coming of age tale populated by outcasts in the bleakest, coldest imaginable environment, the film breaks hearts and bleeds victims in equal measure. Kare Hedebrant‘s Oskar with a blond Prince Valiant cut falls innocently for the odd new girl (an outstanding Lina Leandersson) in his shabby apartment complex. Reluctantly, she returns his admiration, and a sweet and bloody romance buds.

Hollywood’s 2010 version is the less confusingly entitled Let Me In. Director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) managed to retain the spirit of the source material, while finding ways to leave his own mark on the compelling story of an unlikely friendship.

While the original had an ominous sense of dread, a feel of bleak isolation, and a brazen androgyny that the update can’t touch, Let Me In scores points all its own. Reeves, also adapting the screenplay, ups the ante on the gore, and provides more action, scares and overall shock value.

Together the films set the standard for child vampire fare, and neither one should be missed.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Hz0x67hMcg

1. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

Writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour has made the world’s first Iranian vampire movie, and though she borrows liberally and lovingly from a wide array of inspirations, the film she’s crafted is undeniably, peculiarly her own.

Set in Bad Town, a city depleted of life – tidy yet nearly vacant – Girl haunts the shadowy, lonesome fringes of civilization. The image is highly stylized, with a hip quirkiness and stationary camera framings that noticeably mine Jarmusch’s early work. Indeed, Amirpour seems an avid fan of American indies of the Eighties and Nineties, as well as the films of endlessly imitated French New Wave filmmakers and Sergio Leone – so that’s a mish mash. But Amirpour effortlessly balances the homages and inspirations, the cultural nuances alive in Girl giving every scene a uniqueness that makes the whole effort surprising.

Amirpour is blessed with a cinematographer in Lyle Vincent capable of translating her theme of loneliness in a dead end town, as well as the cultural influences and Eighties pop references, into a seamless, hypnotic, mesmerizingly lovely vision. The film is simply, hauntingly gorgeous.