GUEST POST BY STEPHEN CONRAD
Duke Libraries’ resident aficionado of off-beat and oft-frightening films is back to cast a horror-ful look at houses both embodying and encasing evil. Enjoy this spine-tingling Lilly Library Collection Spotlight, curated every Halloween by Stephen Conrad, Team Lead of Monographic Acquisitions (and most importantly–movies), and enter his warped world of BAD HOUSES!
The Old Dark House – This pre-code chiller from director James Whale (‘Frankenstein’, ‘Invisible Man’ etc.) is a startling and also chuckling early-talkies take on the scary house theme. Five motorists seek shelter from a deluge in the titular Old Dark House, occupied by the cranky and bizarre Femm family. Boris Karloff gets his first top billing playing the servant Morgan, a brutish and hirsute drunk prone to rages. But beware, the biggest threat might be locked away upstairs…
The Innocents – Truman Capote co-wrote the screenplay for this 1961 adaptation of Henry James’s ‘Turn of the Screw’, directed by Jack Clayton. Deborah Kerr plays a young governess hired to take care of two young charges in a spooky and sprawling country estate. There is a haunting afoot though, with the house playing no small part in the mood and atmosphere. Brilliant cinematography by Freddie Francis really sets off the black & white scene, with truly effective use of candles and shadows.
The Sentinel – You’ll be gobsmacked by the stellar cast but then utterly horrified by the proceedings in this frightening 1977 evil house terror from Michael Winner. A young fashion model named Alison moves into a brownstone (at 10 Montague Place, in Brooklyn Heights, btw) also occupied by a blind priest. Soon after moving in things turn very strange and sinister for Alison, and her presence there is more intentional than expected, for “there is evil everywhere and the Sentinel is the only hope”.
House (Hausu) – For sheer, nightmarish, what-the-what-ness, there may not be a better movie than Nobuhiko Ôbayashi’s 1977 Hausu. A schoolgirl takes six of her classmates on a summer trip to her Aunt’s country house which is, yes, haunted. One by one they vanish, in an utterly brilliant, wacky and deranged series of happenings and scenarios. Some of the wildest and weirdest effects possible are employed, including hyper-wild uses of colors. Watch and discover that it is possible to view something slack-jawed while laughing and also being freaked out and thoroughly amazed.
House of the Devil – An early directorial effort from modern genre master Ti West, this 2009 throwback shocker is set in the ‘80s (complete with ample Walkman usage). A college student takes a strange babysitting gig at a large house on the outskirts of town on a lunar eclipse (tip: DON’T do that) and all hell breaks loose. The slow burn leads to a gruesome and graphic final chapter, making hash of whatever nerves you had left. Could it be…..Satan?
Do you recognize the movie that’s pictured at the top of this post? Test your trivia skills and see if you can Name that Film.
Bone-chilling postscript: the Libraries offer hundreds of streaming movies to watch (with Duke netid/password authentication) from platforms like Swank Digital Campus (“Horror” category), Projectr (“Haunted Arthouse” category), Films on Demand World Cinema (check out Roger Corman’s Bucket of Blood) and Kanopy (Horror & Thriller category) plus DVDs to borrow along with external DVD drives to play them. Very scary!