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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Black Cat (2007) Review


So I rewatched this episode of Masters of Horror at 5am. To simply call it an episode of a TV show doesn't come close to doing it justice. It's an hour-long biopic of Edgar Allen Poe. It's not a biopic because it chronicles a long stretch of Poe's life, it's a biopic because it comes closer to honestly portraying the genius writer than any film ever has. Poe was a dark, disturbed, fuck-up who was screwed up from childhood. He was also a mad poet with an extremely imaginative mind.

The Black Cat empathizes with Poe to such an intense degree that it made me cry. Stuart Gordon's (the director and co-screenwriter) tour-de-force film has this synergy of outstanding music, that you'll probably remember til' you die; acting that has a deep understanding of the man and his cohorts; micro-managed directing; perfect set and costume design; make-up effects that make you feel as if your bone-cartilage is leaking blood; and densely-researched screenwriting. Everything ends up feeling so real by the end.

Actor Jeffrey Combs plays the great man himself. Combs totally embodies Poe. He is the exact right height, he bares an awful resemblance to him, and he grew up in the exact same area of America that Poe did so he does Poe's southern-accent perfectly. All he needed was a fake nose for the role, which he got courtesy of KNB Effects. It's truly a performance that makes you forget you're watching an actor.
Stuart Gordon wrote this story along with his long-time writing partner Dennis Paoli. Gordon is used to making films that are adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft tales. His most famous is 1985's horror-comedy Re-Animator. Gordon usually makes his movies gorey and trashy. They are very entertaining, but only really serve as cheap thrills. The Black Cat is different on a number of levels. It's not exploitative, only horrifying, as any honest portrayl of Poe should be. It's also only comedic in ways that are believable in their situation. I always knew that we could expect more form Gordon than what he gave us; he always struck me as a smart guy that had a good understanding of horror.

It's called The Black Cat because it weaves Poe's story "The Black Cat" into Poe's real life. It is amazing how well it works. You can very well see where he might have been coming from when he wrote his story.
It was his beautiful, piercing, "dream within a dream."

Poe's real-life wife, who was also his cousin, is portrayed by unknown actress Elyse Levesque. Virginia was his rock, but she suffered from the white plague as a very young woman. This is part of what tears Poe apart, his true love for Virginia that he depended on, but not being able to care for her. They were both living in poverty, which is mirrored in the movie.

The Black Cat is spellbinding. All I can imagine is the stars were in alignment during a crucial point when this film came together. It even fortuitously aired for the first time on Edgar Allen Poe's birthday, January 19. As Gordon says, "You can't talk about the masters of horror without Poe."

5 out of 5.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Scary Film Scenes #3

Lost Highway: Fred meets the Mystery Man
Why's it scary? Like any fascinating scene in a David Lynch movie, it's the kind of thing we'd never really want to happen in real life but Lynch makes it seem possible. Also, Robert Blake does a freaky good acting job. Plus, it's Robert Blake.

Scary Film Scenes #2

Creepshow: The drowned couple comes back
This scene from the Creepshow anthology segment "Something to Tide You Over" is just one of many scares in the movie. Why's it scary? This marriage of George A. Romero's great direction, Tom Savini's grisly make-up effects and top-notch acting from the late Leslie Nielsen make your heart pound out of your chest. This horror reaches a fever-pitch due to foreboding atmosphere, helped along by a watery color scheme, heavy build-up and uncomfortable sound effects.

Scary Film Scenes #1

It: Pennywise in the storm drain

These aren't in any order. This scene is #1 because it's the first in my series of the scariest scenes in film history. Why's it scary? It probably depends on how scared you are of clowns. Pennywise the clown shows up in a storm drain, trying to lure a little boy in. Tim Curry's performance and terrifying make-up job as the clown make it what it is. The movie as a whole isn't great, but Tim Curry makes it worth seeing.