Quick Takes: Hagazussa, Book of Monsters, Scream of Fear

Hagazussa is a rumination on the outsider & women who forge untraditional paths. The visuals tell a grim and forlorn story that’s often triggering, sickening, and hard to swallow. The subtitle calls this a gothic folk tale and its period setting and overall production design will draw comparisons to 2015's The Witch. The horror in this film comes from the almost wordless script, and traumatic moments of an emotional and physically damaged person. Whether the main character is a witch is not the point and the film may not satisfy those wanting a supernatural yarn. Nonetheless, Hagazussa is a masterful debut featuring a harrowing lead performance. It's also artfully shot with exquisite backdrop of the Alps. Ultimately though it may prove too enigmatic for many viewers.

Book of Monsters has a zany 80s vibe, splashy gore, fun practical effects & a squad of tough ladies. It’s B-movie heaven but the sullen leads don't seem to be having fun. A little more camp & urgency when being mauled by freaky monsters would have made this totally rad. If you're in the right frame of mind and properly inebriated this will be a fun time but if you're looking for high art, good direction and editing, perhaps look elsewhere. It's sad when you can see the passion on the screen but it just doesn't gel. As a side note I must call out the the marketing and 80s design for this movie artwork. It is absolutely perfect. I want that poster hanging on my wall, forever!

Hammer Films is known for their gothic horror movies of the 60s & 70s but they have a large catalog of other films that have been widely overlooked. 1961's Scream of Fear is a mystery thriller at heart, although the film's aesthetics and production design definitely leans towards the horror genre. A young wheelchair bound girl visits her estranged father who is away on business as it met by her stepmother. Strange goings on in the house push the girl teetering on the edge of sanity to a breaking point. From there the story twists and turns, sometimes predictably, but you'll never see the end coming. This is how great writing, acting, and direction merge to make a classic film full of dreadful atmosphere and a suspicion that something isn't right. The actors reel you right in with empathetic performances, and the reveals are real gut punches.  Fans of Hitchcock and Christopher Lee should seek it out, although, I will say this is the most straight-forward "normal" role I've seen Christopher Lee playing.