These dark, dark nights, when dawn feels like a million years away, are perfect for viewing scary movies on your home screen. Fortunately, the good folks at Fontana Regional Library have assembled some shadowed DVD gems that are guaranteed to deliver a shiver. These are little titles that may have escaped your notice, but they’re waiting for you, like a black widow spider in a dark corner.
“Insidious” plunges a sweet family into the worst kind of parental horror, complete with other-worldly David Lynch-swirls of surrealism. This is one of those movies that unspools with its own uneasy dream logic. The sounds that are just out of frame and the quick jump cuts to leering faces dredged up from Goya’s nightmares ensure that you’re in for a journey into the darkest heart of “The Twilight Zone.” So pervasive is that eerie atmosphere that Tiny Tim’s hymn to hippie bliss, “Tiptoe Through the Tulips,” is twisted into something blood-chillingly evil.
What happens when a trio of teens with some serious emotional issues are granted god-like powers? That’s the question posed by “Chronicle” and its answer is both savage and poignant. Recall the bewildering day-to-day stresses, simmering jealousies and non-stop jabs of high school life and then consider how you’d react if given the chance to get even. Believe me, it ain’t pretty.
You’d think that there’d be no new hoops for Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” to jump through. “Jekyll” completely changes the equation. The BBC and Writer Steven Moffat stage some dramatic changes that bring the character/s into the 21st Century. James Nesbitt gives a tour de force as the tormented protagonist, wringing every drop of misery out of the not-so-hapless Dr. Jackman and imbuing Jackman’s other half with an unabashed glee that recalls Hannibal Lector’s manic little brother. The pair play a knife’s-edge battle of wills as they struggle to obtain control of their lives. Compounding the problem are Jackman’s innocent family (unaware of the good doctor’s alter ego) who become targets for Hyde, and a shadowy organization that seems to know a great deal about Jackman and the original 19th century case that Stevenson fictionalized for his novella. Nesbitt delivers a career-defining performance that eschews prosthetic makeup and digital seasoning and instead relies upon sheer bravado acting. It’s all dosed with sudden gouts of blood and flashes of dark humor. You think you know this story. You don’t.
OK, the premise of “Mama” is creepy enough: A pair of young sisters, Victoria and Lilly, thought dead for five years, are found surviving in the deep woods. They’re are taken in by their uncle and his raven-haired girlfriend, who try to figure out how these feral girls managed to survive.
As blended families go, we’re a long, long way from “The Brady Bunch.”
But director/screenwriter Andy Muschietti twists this domestic tragedy into something rich and strange with hints that maybe the girls aren’t quite orphans. The adults in this movie are willfully blind to the psychic wounds that these girls bear and they somehow ignore the girls’ whispered chats with “Mama.” You wouldn’t forgive me if I told you any more. In a post last year, I mentioned how my co-worker Megan’s youth was warped by her exposure to “Poltergeist.” “Mama” threatens to do the same for a new generation.
H.P. Lovecraft’s fevered “Call of Cthulhu” has defied cinematic translation ever since its publication in 1928. And it’s no wonder — it’s emotions are operatic and oversized; the plotting is disjointed and constantly threatens to plunge into parody; and, finally, its reliance on a cosmic terror dredged up from the dark pools of racial memory is impossible to storyboard.
Impossible, that is, until the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society undertook this most daunting challenge. Their elegant solution: Film it as a silent movie. In gorgeous black-and-white (with age-appropriate scratches and aged film stock) and backed by a full symphonic score, the thing soars. Those overheated emotions find perfect expression with the broad gestures perfected by mummers like Lon Chaney in the first two decades of the last century. And as a herky-jerky stop motion figure, Lord Cthulhu achieves an undeniable majesty.