Into the Abyss is an intriguing documentary by Werner Herzog about a death-row inmate days before his execution. While the interview with him doesn’t yield much, the other people that live in the environment and work on death row yield much more interesting and strange tales. Herzog doesn’t probe the crime very deeply or clarify the evidence, but he finds great characters that illuminate this government-mandated death ritual.
Tabloid is an entertaining documentary from Errol Morris based on a he said/she said incident back in the ’70s; where she says he was taken into a cult (the Mormon Church) and she freed him with a seven-day love-fest, while he says she kidnapped him at gunpoint and forced him to be her sexual slave. Based on six interviews and stock footage, it doesn’t probe as deeply as Morris’s earlier docs, but Tabloid proves engaging and surprising.
- Into the Abyss (USA/Germany) 2011, IFC
- List price: $24.98
- Tabloid (USA) 2010, Sundance Selects
- List price: $24.98
Claude Chabrol’s Masques offers an unsettling, thought-provoking meditation on the true motivations beneath one’s public image. It tells the story of Roland Wolf, who claims to be writing a book on the life of TV personality Christian Legagneur. When Roland spends a weekend in Legagneur’s manor, he meets a series of very colorful characters, including a seductive young woman who suffers from a mysterious condition. Part social satire, part psychological thriller, Masques is at once playful and chilling.
I discovered Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Santa Sangre as a teenager. It was one of the luckiest days of my life! Shot in Mexico City, this film takes you on a hallucinatory journey into the darkest regions of the unconscious. Wildly imaginative and emotionally intense, Santa Sangre rivals Hitchcock’s Psycho for the most twisted depictions of a relationship between a mother and her son. If you still haven’t seen it, brace yourself for an unforgettable, mind-altering experience!
- Masques (France) 1987, HVE
- List price: $19.98
- Santa Sangre (Mexico) 1989, Severin Films
- List price: $29.98
- Writer/director of Styria
Two by Jack Clayton. The Innocents is simply the best horror film. Concealed in the elegant filmmaking, beautiful black-and-white cinematography, and Victorian setting is one of the darkest stories ever told. Based on Henry James’s Turn of the Screw, with a screenplay by Harold Pinter, Truffaut called it “the best British film since Hitchcock left the UK.” Despite no gore, language, or nudity, it still got an X-rating in England for the themes and an ending that’s still shocking.
Something Wicked This Way Comes, an adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s novel, contains no gore, nudity, or violence, but slowly creeps into you. The setting is Norman Rockwell Americana, until the carnival comes to seduce the local folk. Beautiful, haunting visuals plus great performances by Jonathon Pryce and Jason Robards. It also has a surprise cameo you’ll never recognize. SPOILER ALERT: Pam Grier is the Dust Witch. Wait, what?!
- The Innocents (USA/England) 1961, Twentieth Century Fox
- List price: $14.98
- Something Wicked This Way Comes (USA) 1983, Walt Disney
- List price: $14.99