Friday, April 16, 2021

History of the Occult (2020) Fantaspoa 2021

In the style of the famous photo of Alister Crowley

 Let me start by saying that if you want blood and guts and everything up front with jump scares every five minutes look else where. If you want a slow building horror film that sets a mood and then turns it into a pressure cooker this film is for you.

Sixty Minutes Before Midnight, a lived lived late night news program is going off the air. They have made too many enemies and all their advertisers have pulled out. They have one more show to go, this time showing how witchcraft and dark forces are behind the current president. The trouble is they don't have all the pieces and even as the show airs they are scrambling to put them together...which may not be such a good thing.

Moody black and white (except when it's not)  film uses the Academy ratio (except when it doesn't)  to put us in a specific time and place. Watching HISTORY OF THE OCCULT we are some where else at a time not so long ago, or so it seems. This film wants us to feel the shadows and nightmares of midnight and it does so pretty much from the opening frames. This film creates a mood that hangs with you. I watched this film on a sunny afternoon but it was a pitch black midnight when it was done. In all honesty I can not imagine what it would be like to see this film late at night and walking out of a theater on to an empty street. I would probably run to my car or hail a cab. 

The story spins out in subtle ways. It knows we know it's all going to go to hell and it teases us with little things that seem like throwaways to the characters on screen, but which we know mean doom is coming. I found myself talking to the screen a couple of times trying to get someone not to do the thing they are doing. Tension is created by the addition of the little details, many of which only we notice since we are seeing what the scattered characters are experiencing, which is a luxury no one on screen has.

And the fact that this film is, for most of it's running time, all in the details is something that is going to divide audiences. This is a film more akin to the original version of THE HAUNTING, then say SAW or FRIDAY THE 13TH. This is a film that rewards the patient viewer and one that is paying attention to the details and not the set pieces.

I adore this film. 

I love hw the film manipulates the color and images. It starts widescreen then compresses before exploding again at a certain point. Its's all black and white until the red seeps in, almost imperceptibly at first and then more boldly.

HISTORY OF THE OCCULT got under my skin and stayed there. 

HISTORY OF THE OCCULT  is playing Fantaspoa through the 18th and is highly recommended.

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