31 Days of Horror – Day 19!

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After watching Blair Witch 2, I needed a palate cleanser. I felt that I deserved a reward for my troubles. I mean, it was a SLOG to get through. What I needed was a thought-provoking, intelligent horror film. And boy oh boy did I get one.

Hour of the Wolf
Directed by Ingmar Bergman
Written by Ingmar Bergman

Ingmar Bergman is one of my favorite directors. Fanny and Alexander and The Virgin Spring rank among some of my favorite films of all time. His style is so unique and so visually poetic that you can’t help but obsess over every frame. And when he’s working with cinematographer Sven Nykvist, cinematic perfection is achieved.

Hour of the Wolf is not one of Bergman’s most famous films, although its reputation is increasing. I’m still waiting on a Criterion treatment, but I’m pretty sure one will come along eventually.

Now, this is one of Bergman’s few genre movies. His movies are often fantasy, at least in some subtle way, but this is, as far as I’ve seen, his only real horror movie. And it’s not terrifying or anything, not on the surface anyway. This is a movie that sort of creeps in and sticks in your subconscious. It messes with your mind in a number of ways.

It’s about an artist named Johan and his wife Alma who are living on the coast in a relatively remote area. Johan has severe insomnia, and has trouble differentiating dreams from reality. He talks about a variety of demons that have been plaguing him, and tells horrifying stories that we’re never quite sure are true or not. Eventually they go to a very anxiety-ridden dinner party that results in Johan getting very drunk until he becomes belligerent and has to leave.

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As the rest of the film unfolds, Johan goes deeper and deeper into his strange psychosis, and for the remainder of the film we are never quite sure if anything is truly real. It’s a deeply unsettling film, and I highly recommend it to anyone with any passing interest in surrealist film.

Hour of the Wolf has quickly become one of my favorite Bergman movies, and I absolutely think the lack of popular recognition of this film is shameful. I think it should be held right up with The Seventh Seal and Fanny and Alexander as one of Bergman’s must-see classics. It features concepts as challenging as any in Seventh Seal, and it’s one of his most uniquely surrealist films. I would be over the moon if this released in the Criterion Collection.

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