Friday, September 2, 2011

The Lesser Knowns: Lost in the Fog

By: Henry Melville


    A limpid fog … exists … outside your car windows. Up ahead you make out a fork in the road. On the right you see a glow of light that reads “vacancy.” Above that reads Bates Motel. You turn left. A sign reads “Welcome to Whitewood,” you pass a church and stumble upon The Raven’s Inn. And as luck has it, there is one more vacancy left just for you. Preparing for bed, you open the bedside drawer and discover an impaled crow. You hear music, chanting, coming from under the floorboards. Today is Candlemas Eve. The holiday of the witches.

    What makes Psycho a near perfect movie is the craft, skill, and intelligence that went into making the film. It's Hitchcock, but it isn't a classic horror. What Horror Hotel lacked in symbolism, Psycho lacked in atmosphere. Satan’s on earth and he lives in Whitewood, the only evil in Bates Motel is Norman. Black shrouds, gothic architecture, graveyards, Christopher Lee, crypts. Horror cliché’s stem from this hardly known nightmare.

So next time you turn around an old lady on a chair, don’t expect Mother. It might just be the burnt corpse of a hundred year old witch looking for her next sacrifice. As for me, I’ll be expecting Vera Miles.

    Psycho came out August 25th 1960. Audiences everywhere were shocked when their heroine was slaughtered in the first thirty minutes. What next? Where was Hitchcock taking them? The reaction to Psycho, like a tidal wave, crashed on the shores and destroyed beach houses. Less than one month later, September 12th 1960, Horror Hotel does not shock or horrify when the heroine is brutally sacrificed in the first thirty minutes of the film. What next? “Who cares, I’ve already seen this in Psycho, let’s just leave this rip-off movie.” Oh, but if they had stayed! Burning witches, satanic rituals, ghosts, animal sacrifices. All done in a pitch-perfect horror film style. And what rip-off could this film be? Production on Horror Hotel started before Psycho. How the two films can have such eerily similar elements and even shot for shot, identical scenes is beyond me. Perhaps, beyond this world.

    Censorship! Psycho came under controversy for its showing of an unmarried man and woman sharing a bed, dressed and for showing blood. Let me remind you that witches are burnt, engulfed in flames alive, in Horror Hotel. If that was not shot down by the conservative 1960s “man,” what could be? Three lines. The censors cut three lines. Language? Not exactly. "I have made my pact with thee O Lucifer! Hear Me, Hear Me! I will do thy bidding for all eternity. For all eternity shall I practice the ritual of Black Mass. For all eternity shall I sacrifice unto thee. I give thee my soul, take me into thy service." A witch screams this as she is being burned alive, flames overtaking the scene. 1960 was not ready for this, but they were ready for Psycho.

    Psycho can be found on any “Top 100” list related to films. Psycho was given a blu-ray release on it’s 50th anniversary. Horror Hotel can be found at your local Walmart cheap DVD bin, or the whole movie can be seen on Youtube.

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