Sunday, October 11, 2015

Guillermo del Toro’s new film "Crimson Peak" at IMAX Theaters: Oct 15 - Nov 5
& A Paean to the Gothic Horrors of the Haunted House


October has arrived and with it All Hallows' Eve nods to the Olde World traditions of seasonal harvest rights and festivities, like the Gaelic Samhain and Celtic Hop-tu-Naa, which are themselves possibly derived from the Ancient Greek festival of Thesmophoria. Part and parcel with the changes of Autumn, come abundant celebrations of the gloomily crepuscular, spooky and ominous in literature, film and popular culture. In recognition of this most eerie of seasons, The New York Times has whipped up some sinister concoctions like "A House of Horror Films" their interactive history, trivia and guessing game on Haunted Houses in cinema by Tommi Musturi. Other annual highlights have included Steven Kurutz' gorgeous little "No Rest for the Eerie: A Paean to the Haunted House". In which he did more than an admirable job, going as far as to cite John Tibbetts' anthology of essays and interviews “The Gothic Imagination”, which is pretty much essential reading for anyone who wants to get further into the depths of "uncertainty, anxiety, and fear" that is the art of the Gothic storytelling tradition. Kuruz also delivered a brilliant Home & Garden feature, "House Haunters" on seasonal real-world Haunted Houses like Kopelman's 30-year running institution near Phoenix which also acts as ground zero to America's Best Haunts. A directory that includes Ben Armstrong's Netherworld, Kohout's long-running Hauntworld house near St. Louis, Phil Anselmo's New Orleans House of Shock, Los Angeles and New York's Blackout and the immense, preposterous undertaking that is Rob Zombie's Great American Nightmare. Sadly none of our local Northwest haunts make that list, but there's a good number of them to be found throughout the state.

Guillermo del Toro’s "Crimson Peak" which opens this week at IMAX Theaters across the country, is his contribution and homage to Gothic Horror's long line of disquieting homes, secret histories, haunted locales and mysteries of the supernatural. The New York Times' "Guillermo del Toro’s House of Horrors" is our guide to his own personal "Bleak House" (another sly homage), and it's twisting stairs, overflowing libraries, a building-spanning gallery of over 700 pieces of original art, statuary, props and models. It is as much a house-size Cabinet of Curiosities for the Spanish director as it is repository and inspiration. The Haunted House and it's offspring have long been a staple of western literature and folklore, movies and pulp storytelling. Some memorable manifestations in cinema come to mind, from contemporaries like Ti West's "House of the Devil", to classics of other decades like William Castle's original B-movie “House on Haunted Hill”, to Jean Epstein's 1928 surreal, claustrophobic adaptation of the Poe classic, "The Fall of the House of Usher" and the 1930's horror-comedy of James Whale's "Old Dark House". Later decades produced Roger Corman's scholcky 60's Vincent Price vehicles, like "The Haunted Palace" and Italian Giallo works in the genre represented by Lucio Fulci's H.P. Lovecraft-inspired "The House by the Cemetery". The 1970's hit it's own stride with the Japanese insanity of "Hausu" co-conceived by Nobuhiko Obayashi and his 11 year old daughter, Stuart Rosenberg's “Amityville Horror” and Stanley Kubrick's singular, unnerving horror entry, "The Shining". Digging deeper there were 60's and 70's genre variations like Dan Curtis' “Burnt Offerings", the erotic horror of Elio Petri's "A Quiet Place in the Country" and Carlos Enrique Taboada's sub-genre birthing "Even the Wind is Afraid". But of course the Haunted House owes it's origins to much, much older traditions in literature. Probably traceable back to the 18th century bit of disquieting paranoia and creeping melancholy, Horace Walpole's “Castle of Otranto”. Predating Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, Daphne du Maurier, Ann Radcliffe, H.P. Lovecraft and all who would follow in their footsteps over the centuries since.