The Old Dark House (1932)

directed by JAMES WHALE
universal pictures

This really happened: nearing the climactic point of this frankly rather goofy haunted-house yarn, I was thinking to myself, “this is kinda reminding me a bit of Burnt Offerings” … and almost immediately a character in the film says, “He wanted, he said, to … to make this house a burnt offering.” Based on a novel that’s claimed to be about “post-WWI disillusionment,” this picture concerns two groups of weary travelers forced by a cataclysmic rainstorm to beg refuge from, yes, an old dark house. (When the initial group knocks on the door, I expected Riff Raff to answer, of course.) From that point on it’s gothic intrigue and highly amusing characterizations, with a little passion and violence tossed in as seasoning. Can you ever judge an artifact such as this without seeing it through the filter of all that’s come since? Maybe, maybe not; either way, and irrespective of whether it’s the first horror-comedy, it’s a blast.

why did i watch this movie?

I came across a reference to the 1963 remake, which sounds terrible but piqued my interest in the original.

should you watch this movie?

It’s about 72 minutes long and easily accessible in the, uh, “public domain.”

highlight and low point

Ernest Thesiger as Horace Femm is worth the price of admission all by himself, and it’s informative to espy the genesis of the many references made to aspects of this adventure across multiple forms of visual media over the decades. (Such as the aforementioned Rocky Horror nod.)  It’s pre-Code, too – another reason I chose it – and there’s at least one exchange of racy innuendo that might surprise. For trivia buffs, it’s Charles Laughton’s first Tinseltown feature and allegedly the source of an unceasing enmity between Karloff and Whale.

rating from outer space: B+

Nightshift (2018)

written & directed by stephen hall
greenflash pictures/blue shadows films/grump films

Maybe a little over halfway through the 75 or so minutes of this production, it veers into a psychologically tormenting sequence that elevates what already had been an interesting picture into a compelling one. The effect isn’t really sustained, but nonetheless this is one film that understands the dynamics of parceling out its particulars. Often, the moments in between events carry the most weight in this tale of weird happenings in an Irish hotel. At times more than a little reminiscent of 1408, for at least one example, what works best here is that nothing ever seems too surreal to accept. Not exactly unpredictable, this presentation of a truly terrible first shift at a new job still manages to defy the norm to some degree, although that mostly may be a matter of style rather than substance. Whatever the case, the end result is another effective exhibition from Ireland.

why did i watch this movie?

The description didn’t exactly dazzle me, but something about it made the flick seem worth a look. Maybe it was the Irish thing; as noted, I generally seem to enjoy output from those shores.

should you watch this movie?

While acknowledging there’s only so much one can do with the whole place-where-something-terrible-happened angle, this one at least tweaks it a bit.

highlight and low point

I cannot stress enough that I was greatly impressed by how much this flick does with its scenes where nothing actually winds up happening. The aura and suspense generated in those scenes is masterful. Also, during the mind- and time-bending sequence, a few instances work wonders for the picture’s chill factor. As for the downside, surprise isn’t notably in abundance here, despite the fact that it avoids becoming overly formulaic.

rating from outer space: B