Day 19: ‘Czech Republic’
31 Days Of Horror goes to the Czech Republic for Day 19 with a surreal and non-traditional horror film with Jan Svankmajer’s Lunacy (2005), Jan is known for his surrealism and stop-motion films like the incredible Alice (1988). Lunacy is exactly what the title suggests and Jan with an open speech with the film explains as much, the story itself is an adaptation of two Edgar Allan Poe stories ‘The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether’ and ‘The Premature Burial’ along with inspiration from the work of one Marquis de Sade and combined with stop motion and live action to create an experience that is unlike no other.
The story follows Jean Berlot (Pavel Liska) as he has nightmares of being taken away in a straight jacket by two orderlies, he has these nightmares after the death of his mother and it haunts him. Following her funeral he meets a man calling himself the Marquis ‘de Sade’ (Jan Triska) who lives as though he’s in the 18th century rather than the 21st, the pair get engaged in conversation and Jean goes with the Marquis and witnesses horrific debauchery that he finds repulsive. Despite this Jean agrees to the Marquis offer to help him be cured of what ails him mentally and they head to an asylum where Jean will see more horrific things and learn the Marquis and the asylum aren’t what we was led to believe.
There is far more to the story but to say more sort of ruins the experience of this film, nothing is as it seems and the twists and turns keep coming with such madness that the viewer feels very much like Jean and that’s kind of the point. Visually it’s a very interesting film, the cuts between stop motion with strange cheerful music can be a little too much at times but it does add to how unique the experience is and when there is utter madness on screen it’s hard to watch but hard to look away. Pavel Liska and Jan Triska are both exceptional in their roles and going to levels with their performances that reach insane heights, there really isn’t a dull moment to be had here. Whilst the overall film isn’t one that could be considered enjoyable, it’s a very rough watch due to the natural of the story and the madness on display, it is a good film and one that will stick with the viewer. Jan Svankmajer is a talent like no other and the themes addressed in the film are certainly thought provoking, whilst Lunacy may not be main stream accessible, it is worth a watch especially for those who like surreal nightmares.
Day 20: ‘Mexico’
The Curse Of The Crying Woman (1961)
Day 20 takes us back to Mexico on this horror journey with The Curse Of The Crying Woman (1961), kind of based on the legend of ‘La Llorna’ but with added witch craft. This gothic horror has lots of atmosphere and a steady pacing with a led performance by Rita Macedo as Selma that elevates everything around her. As said previously Mexican horror films are a craft all of their own and The Curse Of The Crying Woman certainly showcases that, it keeps quite a creepy air throughout and the house where it is set becomes a character rather than scenery.
Amelia (Rosita Arenas) returns to the ancestral home where her Aunt Selma (Macedo) resides, she goes there with her husband Jaime (Abel Salazar) and soon enough strange and evil things start to happen with people claiming there is a wailing woman in the woods. As it turns out Amelia’s family past is much more sinister than she could have ever expected with the crying woman being a witch who gave up love for her power and this has placed a curse on the family. Selma is under the influence of the witch to resurrect her and it will give the three women immortality and power.
The film has everything one would expect from gothic horror and then some, visually it’s marvelous to look at and so much was achieved in this way and it’s amazing to wonderful how this was pulled off in the late 60’s. As said Rita Macedo steals the film, her performance is excellent and ever so creepy, with some strong work from Abel Salazar and Rosita Arenas. The story itself can feel a little muddy as it progresses but it does stay intriguing throughout and the third act is executed extremely well. This is a worthwhile film to find and watch, a little hidden gem of the early years of Mexican horror and The Curse Of The Crying Woman is a really strong gothic horror film too.
Reviews written by Marcella Papandrea