Review Briefs


Let’s face it: traditional slasher flicks are not for everyone. But even those of us who get slightly queasy at the sight of blood like to be terrified from time to time. So for the discerning cowards amongst us, here is a selection of fine spine-tinglers.

Nosferatu (1922) Director: F.W. MurnauStarring: Max Schreck, Greta Schroder, Gustav von WangenheimLoosely based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula, this silent film directed by F.W. Murnau is possibly the freakiest vampire film ever made, for many reasons. First, Max Schreck, the actor who plays the bloodsucking Count Orlok, is just plain hideous. Surprisingly, the only makeup he wears is the fangs and false ears. Second, the film is part of the German Expressionist movement, which presented a distorted reality by means of set design, (primitive) special effects, use of light and shadows, and bizarre camera angles, all of which serve to disorient the viewer. But what truly makes it creepy is the fact that it is silent, and the audience is suddenly faced with a reality where it cannot hear the villain sneak up on it. The violin and organ score only add to the eerie atmosphere. As a silent film in the public domain, there are numerous DVD versions available: the KINO International version is the best, as the company worked with the F.W. Murnau Organization. For fans who would like to see another take on the subject matter, the 2000 film Shadow of the Vampire, starring John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe, imagines the film set had Schreck been an actual vampire. Rating: ***

The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959) Director: Terence FisherStarring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Andre MorellNote the year: as you can imagine, there are many film versions of The Hound of the Baskervilles, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous tale of the investigation of a mysterious hound, but only this one stars Peter Cushing as Sherlock Holmes and Christopher Lee as Sir Henry Baskerville. It was made by the legendary Hammer Films production company, and is an exquisite example of their work. Though not the most faithful of Hound adaptations, it is terrifically engaging. The gothic shadows are contrasted with vivid Technicolor for a remarkable effect. Peter Cushing gives a brilliantly nuanced performance as the Great Detective, sure to satisfy seasoned Holmesians and neophytes alike. As with all Hound adaptations, it suffers slightly from the gap in the story where Holmes is not actually present. But as soon as he returns, it is as if he had never left, and Cushing’s energy propels the film to its suspenseful climax. Rating: **

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