The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears (2011)
Bold and hypnotic, Bruno Forzani and Helene Cattet rework the stylistic conventions of the giallo in their new film far more suited towards an art installation than commercial cinema. Following a man who searches for his missing wife within his labyrinthine apartment building, the film may lack a discernible narrative but exceeds with its dizzying cinematic craftmanship. Screeching sounds of a blade slicing across flesh, rapid-fire montages of a murder portrayed through black and white stills photography and the sharp crinkling of leather, all expressed through vividly candy-coloured stock create a truly visceral viewing experience. It’s a relentless assault on the senses.
With a stark refusal to cut, and told through only twelve long takes, Vivas’ flick is an austere and visceral take on the home invasion trope which has dominated the contemporary horror scene. The simple narrative involving a middle-class family forced to battle a gang of robbers may be paper-thin in character development, but it truly excels in its technical prowess. The lack of montage truly reflects that it’s not the story that Vivas seems interested in, but rather the reflection of unadulterated brutality on screen; and whilst the intended verisimilitude falls short courtesy of some baffling character decisions, the film remains a wonderfully tight exercise in nihilism.
Presented as a mix between documentary, fiction and animation, and with a set of special effects so advanced for its period of production, it’s no surprise that Häxan is considered the most expensive Scandinavian silent film. It may have won critical acclaim in Scandinavia, but the radical use of nudity saw the film heavily censored around the world. Even through the eyes of a contemporary audience, the surrealism of Benjamin Christensen’s visuals are striking and deeply unsettling. Between the clever uses of avant-garde filmmaking techniques, and a selection of genuinely horrifying set pieces, Häxan remains a fascinating exploration of 14th and 15th century witchcraft.
We Are What We Are (2013)
Remakes are never easy to make, particularly when the selected film is barely a decade old, and so it comes as a wonderful surprise that Jim Mickle’s version of We Are What We Are manages to take everything which made the original a success and build upon those foundations. Set in the rural deep south, We Are What We Are presents an unashamedly gothic tale of mysterious disappearances and unnerving family traditions. Between the oppressive atmosphere of its rain-soaked locale and the slow, manipulative building of tension, We Are What We Are is a wonderfully restrained horror film in an era where explicit violence is typically found at the forefront.