Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Halloween recommendations II: Dead of Night

I like horror the way I like socks: best enjoyed in bulk.

With that in mind, when it comes to selecting a horror film this Halloween, might I suggest a portmanteau? No, not a spork. An anthology! The economical path to a few fervid frights. The best-known portmanteau is 1945's Dead of Night, my recommednation for today.

Dead of Night combines five stories, linked together by a sequence of strangers telling each other stories of the supernatural in that fireside freakout manner the British do best. Four of the stories include a lonesome boy encountered at a Christmas party; a man who avoids a fatal car crash but feels that destiny is catching up with him; a golfer haunted by his best friend's ghost; and a mirror that seems to carry traces of those reflected in it. The fifth segment is the one that made this film legendary: a ventriloquist is haunted by his dummy, who seems to be alive. This was before the idea had been done to death (either in decent productions like William Goldman's Magic or crummy ones like Twilight Zone's "Caesar and Me") and this, the first, still packs a punch.

In fact, Dead of Night was the material adapted to the pilot episode of Escape, although it only adapted the ventriloquist segment. You can hear the episode here.

Dead of Night is rather British, especially the comedic segment with the golfers, so it helps to have an appreciation for dry comedy and ghosts who are decently friendly; the real scares are withheld until the climax.

Dead of Night is a little obscure and apparently out-of-print as a DVD, but I think you can find it broken up into 11 parts on something that rhymes with "too rube."

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