I indulged in 1973’s SEVEN DEAD IN THE CAT’S EYE (France/Italy/West Germany), and this has become the fiftieth German horror I’ve consumed to date.
Directed by Antonio Margheriti, responsible for HORROR CASTLE (1963), ANDY WARHOL’S FRANKENSTEIN (1973), and CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE (1980), among other genre movies, the story involves the MacGrieff family and their Scottish castle of, well, grief. The tale’s a mystery/whodunit, loaded with great color and bright blood, as well as the beauty of Hiram Keller and Doris Kunstmann. It’s a fun romp, and I was happy to learn that I hadn’t predicted who was actually leaving all the bodies around the castle in this one. I’m not sure if thanks go to Antonio Margheriti who co-wrote the script with Giovanni Simonelli, or the novel’s author Peter Bryan. Either way, it was a very entertaining 2.5 out of 5 stars.
I’m glad SEVEN DEAD IN THE CAT’S EYE was my fiftieth German film because little achievements like this often come at the expense of one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. Admittedly, most of the German films I have seen in the horror genre are co-productions, but these are the best of the best. (Note: I removed CEMETERY MAN (Italy/France/Germany, 1994), since it was previously mentioned on my list of Italian films http://crashpalaceproductions.com/crash-reports-my-50th-italian-horror/ and is predominately Italian. The same with THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE (USA/Germany) due to the intense American influence.)
Severance (UK/Germany, 2006) – 3.5 stars
The only comedy/horror on the list, this tale features office workers on a team building outing. You can imagine how this one goes. Yet, unlike others of the mixed genre, this movie has some creep ridden elements, and some grueling scenes of mayhem. If you want a laugh with a little blood, this one is far more than that.
Faust (Germany, 1926) – 3.5 stars
FW Murnau brought us the wonderful story of Faust, with some amazing special effects that blow the mind while chilling the soul (think of Mephisto looming over the city). Gösta Ekman makes for an excellent Faust, who delivers all the emotion and rage the alchemist unleashes throughout the tale. Carl Hoffman’s cinematography is stellar, and works extremely well with the remarkable special effects sequences. This is a silent film you do not want to pass on.
The Monitor (Norway/Germany/Sweden, 2011) – 3.5 stars
International star, Noomi Rapace plays Anna, a mother on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Reeling from emotional abuse, and seemingly suffering from PTSD, she buys a baby monitor to pay closer attention to her eight-year-old son. But when the monitor picks up something else from inside their apartment complex, their lives may be on the line. The dramatic tension, bizarre goings-on, and excellent acting, make this movie resonate.
Daughters of Darkness (Germany/Belgium, 1971) – 4 stars
A great take on the Countess Bathory story, this one involves newlyweds who meet the mysterious countess (Delphine Seyrig) and her “secretary” at an off-season resort. Female virgins devoid of blood turn up in Bruges, and it’s not long before the young groom (John Karlan) finds himself in a dark mystery from which he may not be able to escape.
Vampyr (Not Against the Flesh) (Germany/France, 1932) – 4 stars
One of the last silent films, this one features another great story with very disturbing effects. Some scenes have sadly been lost to time, but there’s more than enough for us to follow a young man with a love for the supernatural as he visits an inn. Directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer, the contrasts and super-imposed elements make this one of the most poignant early horrors.
Black Death (Germany/UK, 2010) – 4 stars
Starring Sean Bean, BLACK DEATH is one hell of a ride. As the first wave of bubonic plague ravages England, a young monk (Eddie Redmayne) is ordered to find out if it’s true that a necromancer is raising the dead in a remote village. What takes place is a riveting, suspenseful quest that ups the ante on the tension scale. Do not miss this one.
Possession (France/West Germany, 1981) – 4.5 stars
Have a therapist on call, or a soothing beverage at least, to help counter the neverending emotional explosion between Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neill. Based on Andrzej Zulawski’s script, he also directed this twisted and bizarre collapse of a marriage. The performances are solid, though Adjani clearly steals the show. After filming, she entered the hospital due to exhaustion.
Grimm Love (Germany, 2006)
This is one of those rare horrors that may leave one in tears, if not bereft in spirit. The story revolves around the true life drama of Armin Meiwes, the “Cannibal of Rotenburg,” who found a willing male subject to be killed and eaten. The story makes no apologies and is far from a melodrama, but shines a light on a disturbing tale of love and loneliness that led to a true and disturbing horror.
I hope you find these films worthwhile and enjoyable. Yes, I left out some heavy hitters, but the original NOSFERATU (1922) put me to sleep, and THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI, though wonderful, fell short due to the altered ending. However, Conrad Veidt is undoubtedly my favorite silent film star. As of 2005, ANTIBODIES received worldwide recognition, but the third act becomes ridiculous as it explores needless forays into fantasy.
But German horror cinema collectively offers thought provoking inroads to darkness and light, and the atmosphere is certainly worth indulging.
(Photo from The House of Horror.)