Monday, August 16, 2010

Hour of the Wolf

Hour of the Wolf was the first (and better) of acclaimed director Ingmar Bergman’s two horror movies (the other, The Serpent‘s Egg, is really only for Bergman completists or those that have always wanted to try Bergman but fall down weeping at the thought of having to read subtitles or learn Swedish). It may be a bit presumptuous to include a movie that’s fairly well-known to the art house crowd in the HROHFYSSBYD, but I will argue to the end of my days that this is hardly known among general horror fans, and that is something that needs to change. After all, if we refuse to honor horror movies with an actual heart and purpose, then we truly deserve to keep having endless remakes and Saw sequels thrown at us.
The film stars Bergman stalwarts Max Von Sydow and Liv Ullman as an artist and his wife who move to an island so that Sydow can hopefully focus more time on his painting. Unfortunately, their plan seems to have a flaw in it, as the island is apparently a good deal more populated than they had first thought, and populated by surprisingly weird and vicious-seeming people at that. In fact, the first one to show up and welcome them to the island kind of gives away the game a bit by telling Ullman that she’s 216 years old, before catching herself and saying she’s 76 and never mind what she said earlier. She comes with a somewhat vague warning to Ullman about her husband, as well as a good deal of hidden knowledge about him that even Ullman didn’t know (which should be setting off even more warning bells, frankly). Sadly, the warning isn’t taken seriously enough, and soon Sydow is accepting an invitation for the two of them at a nearby castle or mansion or whatever, where they get to enjoy one of the most unpleasant dinners I have ever encountered in the movies. Even the one dinner in The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, & Her Lover, with its forced cannibalism and gunplay seemed like it would have been better to sit through.

Eventually they escape back to their own house, where the real meat of the film lies. The pair now has to endure the Hour of the Wolf, “the hour at which most people die, and most children are born.” It’s when the ghosts and demons attacking them are at their most powerful, and while Ullman tries her best to help protect her husband, his sanity rapidly deteriorates under the assault.

As befits a Bergman film, it’s a very dark, miserable affair, much quieter than your average film, giving you time to really ponder the various implications presented to you. This is hardly going to be every horror fan’s cup of tea, with its near-complete lack of violence or action. For those of you that want something a bit moodier, though, one that’ll creep inside of you a bit and maybe make you want to call up a loved one before life cruelly snatches them away from you, then you should definitely hunt this one down.

Rating: *** ½

P.S. Once again, be aware the trailer has some brief nudity. It seems the trick to showing tits on Youtube is to bury them inside a movie trailer.

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