Every month A Place for Film will bring you a selection of films from our group of regular bloggers. Even though these films aren’t currently being screened at the IU Cinema, this series will reflect the varied programming that can be found at the Cinema, as well as demonstrate the eclectic tastes of the bloggers. Each contributor has picked one film that they saw this month that they couldn’t wait to share with others. Keep reading to find out what discoveries these cinephiles have made, as well as some of the old friends they’ve revisited.
Michaela Owens, editor | The Unsuspected (1947)
For October, I watched a lot of Halloween-appropriate films in order to gear up for the holiday. Dracula’s Daughter (1936), Disney’s Blackbeard’s Ghost (1968), Val Lewton’s bizarre Jane Eyre adaptation I Walked with a Zombie (1943), and many more were all first-time viewings, but the one that stuck in my mind the most was The Unsuspected. Directed by Michael Curtiz, this movie is an evocatively shot film noir with twist after twist. I honestly can’t stress enough how gorgeous this film looks; the use of shadows and reflections are simply terrific. Woody Bredell’s cinematography is simultaneously dreamy and creepy.
Leading the cast is genius Claude Rains, whose greediness results in murder. The confidence and intelligence with which he plots and kills is chilling, yet wholly entertaining. Playing his nieces are bitter, glamorous Audrey Totter and ethereal Joan Caulfield. Hurd Hatfield is Totter’s alcoholic husband, also known as the man she stole from Caulfield. Lovely Constance Bennett appears much too briefly as a wisecracking career woman. The only weak link in this cast is Michael North, whose sleepy delivery slightly undercuts his role as the intriguing stranger who threatens to bring to light Rains’s dastardly deeds. If you need to be even more convinced to see The Unsuspected, check out this great (spoiler free!) article here.
Katherine Johnson, contributor | Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
I love to watch this film around Halloween. As anyone familiar with the film (or the play it is based on) knows it really has nothing to do with the holiday, except that it is set during the Halloween season. Yet, in my opinion, this film represents the best part of that very same season—dark nights, clever tricks, and some creepy turns of events; and it seems I’m not the only one to think so (see our own Jesse Pasternack’s IDS article on the film from last year).
David Carter, contributor | Society (1989)
Society has become one of those horror films that I giddily make everyone I know sit down and watch with me at some point simply because it would be a disservice to describe and spoil how truly buckwild this movie gets in the final third of its 99 minute runtime. This film is directed by Brian Yuzna, who’s probably more notable from his work with Stuart Gordon as a producer of the “Grand Guignol” inspired Lovecraft adaptation Re-Animator.
This is another piece of Lovecraftian horror about a young boy named Bill Whitney (played by the improbably named Billy Warlock) who feels like he doesn’t quite fit in with the other rich blowhards of Beverly Hills. It’s a film taking blunt jabs at the wealthy while indulging in some of the greatest make-up design ever put to screen. If there’s a star of this film it’s the man behind the monsters, Screamin’ Mad George, who’s done work on the movies Nightmare on Elm Street 4, Bride of Re-Animator and The Guyver (which he also directed). Leading up to the final act, things are fun and campy but also eerie and unsettling. However, I stress that you seek out this film and go in blind as a bat (don’t even watch the trailer posted below). You can find it streaming on Amazon Prime right now. Society is waiting for you.
Nathaniel Sexton, contributor | Pulse (2001)
Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s early internet ghost story from 2001 is one of the scariest movies ever made and is now, for the first time, available with a proper home video release from the excellent UK distributor Arrow Films.
When a young man commits suicide, leaving behind a cryptic computer disk, his friends and co-workers discover a haunted website and a series of ghostly images that terrifies and transforms each of them. Recalling the groundbreaking techno-horror anime Serial Experiments Lain and foretelling lesser films like Unfriended, Kurosawa (no relation to Akira) builds a suspenseful, deeply strange, supernatural urban legend in this Y2K existential nightmare, where the connected world of the mysteriously uncharted internet becomes a portal to the land of the dead, and perhaps an even further, darker beyond.
Permeated with dread, this J-horror staple explores human loneliness at the edge of technological transformation. It’s dated now, featuring bulky monitors and brick-like cellphones (part of the eerie mystique of the film), but it palpably harnesses a still resonant fear of the weird connected/disconnectedness of our expanded technological lives and is, at its core, so creepy it will give you nightmares forever—the ultimate creepypasta and art horror reverie!
Jesse Pasternack, contributor | Kaboom (2010)
I love weird movies, and this is one of the weirdest that I’ve seen in a while. It’s about a sexually fluid college freshman named Smith and his adventures. This movie starts off as a slightly whimsical coming of age story and ends as an entirely different genre that I will not spoil. The cast is excellent, and Thomas Dekker gives a lead performance as Smith that makes you wish he would act more. The best way to watch this movie is to not think about the plot too much. Instead, just revel in its transcendent weirdness.
Warning: contains mature content.