Saturday, October 13, 2012

Psychobabble's 150 Essential Horror Movies: Addition 13

Every day this October, I'll be adding a film to Psychobabble's 120 Essential Horror Movies to bring the list up to 150. Today’s addition is:

 72. Eye of the Devil (1966- dir. J. Lee Thompson)

Anxiety spurred both the production of Eye of the Devil and the finished product. This adaptation of Philip Lorraine’s Day of the Arrow began shooting in 1965 as 13 with Kim Novak taking the lead as a woman whose landowner husband is called back to his village after the local vineyard fails. Concerned, she packs the kids in the car and follows him to a creepy estate where all manner of unholy strangeness is going down. An injury forced Novak to relinquish the role to Deborah Kerr, who doesn’t miss a fretful beat after her similar performance in The Innocents. The film ultimately given the less unlucky and less evocative title Eye of the Devil owes quite a lot to horror films of its era, such as The Haunting, Horror Hotel, Repulsion, and the aforementioned Innocents, while also portending the familial paranoia of Rosemary’s Baby and the folk horror of The Wicker Man. Director J. Lee Thompson casts a relentless spell of dread by unfolding the tale carefully while disorienting the viewer with an onslaught of rapid cuts, canted angles, weird mounted camera shots, and visceral movements. The activity of his camerawork beautifully balances the restrained performances of the excellent cast led by Kerr, David Niven as her husband, Donald Pleasance as a sinister minister, and David Hemmings and Sharon Tate as preternaturally beautiful evil twins. An S&M sequence in which Niven whips Tate caused further problems with British censors, and the film’s release was delayed until the scene was chopped for the first U.K. run. Critics received Eye of the Devil poorly when it finally materialized in 1966. Through the decades it has built a deserved cult among those who dig their horror spiked with a heavy dose of lysergic surrealism.  

See this piece in context as part of Psychobabble’s Essential Horror Movies of the 1960s here.
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