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Friday, June 18, 2010

This film may cause you... ANGUISH!

Anybody else remember this 1987 movie? I first saw it in on the big screen. It starts off with a scene from a lurid horror movie that you think is the film you're watching -- then pans back into a theater where an audience is watching that film. Then real-life violence starts happening in that theater. Then the perspective starts switching back and forth between the two movies and theaters.

Strategically located speakers were installed in your actual theater to the front and side of you, and some in back; the sound would come from different places depending on what was occurring onscreen. The effect was to make you disoriented -- you couldn't help but get confused about "which" theater the current action was in (or YOU were in). it may be sacrilegious to say so, but William Castle never came up with a gimmick as effective as this one. It took the device of setting violence in a movie theater, which was unsettling enough in Lamberto Bava’s Demons or the classic slasher He Knows You’re Alone, and ratcheted up the suggestivity factor.

The late Zelda Rubinstein starred in the "movie within a movie" part. That “movie” is called The Mommy, and involves a mother who sends her (unlicensed) “doctor” son out into the night to gather human eyes for her –- from live and unwilling donors! There’s something about horror involving eyes that particularly gets to me. Who could forget that scene with the binoculars in Horrors Of The Black Museum, or the scene with the doctor’s wife and the big splinter in Zombie?

The Mommy was gorier than Museum and as gory as Zombie, but what really messed with you was the "which theater" aspect. I just watched the DVD and it's still a creepy film, but it doesn't work nearly as well as it did in the theater. When I first saw it with a horror movie buddy who was as jaded as I am, he was so spooked that afterwards he was afraid to go to the men's room by himself! I went with him willingly, because I was afraid to wait in the lobby alone! Rumor had it that the film also had sublminal messages in it, and if so, they certainly affected me. I never get that scared at a movie.

Directed by Bigas Luna, this Spanish film is dubbed into English -- but it's an unusually good job. It's 89 minutes long. Watching it in the dark with the volume turned up helps evoke some of the lost "theater" effect.

1 comment:

  1. I have never heard of this one. Now I can't wait to seek it out. Sounds clever.