Tag Archives: supernatural horror

Rattlin’ Bog


by Hope Madden

A bog is a nice spot for horror, eh? You think you’re walking along a lovely field when suddenly, you’re sucked in. Like quicksand, only mossier.

Betriek (Sallie Harmsen) and her daughter Hanna (Noor van der Velden) live with Hanna’s grandparents on the edge of one such Dutch mire in Nico van den Brink’s Moloch. A body just turned up out there, perfectly preserved for maybe hundreds of years.

And then another appears. And another. And another—each a female from a different era. The discoveries trigger other unusual behaviors, all of it corresponding with the town’s celebration of an unsavory history.

It sounds a little contrived, a little familiar, but van den Brink’s naturalistic approach to the story offsets any hokeyness. Harmsen’s spooked but reasonable lead makes for a clear-eyed hero, one who rails against her lot in life quietly but surely. Her choices sometimes feel erratic but never unnatural, and the cast around her shares a lovely and reasonably strained chemistry.

All performances are more raw than polished, which amplifies an authenticity struggling to anchor the supernatural elements.

Because scary stories are scarier if you believe them.

Not that the film ignores its spectral side. Ringing bells, musical interludes, moments in an aquarium and other highlights of the film’s sound design lend Moloch a supernatural eeriness that deepens its dread.

Van der Velden shows keen instincts for allowing his tale to unravel in its own time. Close attention to detail allows a rich understanding of the story Moloch tells. Whether you devote that kind of attention to the film or not, Moloch gets its point across.

Halloween Countdown, Day 28

Jacob’s Ladder (1990)

Jacob’s Ladder isn’t exactly a horror film, but it is as unsettling and creepy as any movie you’ll watch. The entire 113 minutes transpires in that momentary flash between life and death, with both light and dark trying to make a claim on Jacob Singer’s soul.

Tim Robbins plays Singer with a weary sweetness that’s almost too tender and vulnerable to bear. In a blistering supporting turn, the recently (and far too soon) deceased Elizabeth Pena impresses as the passionate carnal angel Jezebel. The real star here, weirdly enough, is director Adrian Lyne.

Known more for erotic thrillers, here he beautifully articulates a dreamscape that keeps you guessing. The New York of the film crawls with unseemly creatures hiding among us. Filmed as a grimy, colorless nightmare, Jacob’s Ladder creates an atmosphere of paranoia and dread.

By 1990, the Vietnam film has run its course, but with some distance from the post-Platoon glut, the “flashback” crisis that underlines Singer’s confused nightmare feels less stale. It allows the movie to work on a number of levels: as a metaphysical mystery, a supernatural thriller, and a horror film.

The horror is peppered throughout, and there are several scenes that will make your skin crawl.

The storyline is challenging and may seem like a sleight of hand more than anything, but Robins’s deeply human performance and some memorable scares make it a standout for the season.