A gothic Freudian nightmare from German maestro Fritz Lang, Secret Beyond the Door was adapted by his frequent collaborator Silvia Richards from a story by Rufus King. A sinister ‘40s twist on the French Bluebeard tale, the film is often considered a minor work in the great Lang’s oeuvre (far behind the almighty The Big Heat in my book), though even a lesser Lang film is better than the worst of most other filmmakers.
As far as revenge flicks go, this one is pretty by-the-numbers. However, the buddy-criminal team of Oliver Reed and Ian McShane elevates the film to genre greatness. Our amoral avenger Harry is 200lbs of primal menace. He doesn’t speak much, but his concrete scowl and barrel-chest could punch a hole through a steel wall. How tough is he? He does pushups on the ceiling of his jail cell. On the flip side, Birdy has a silver tongue that more than makes up for Harry’s tight lips . The muscle and the mouth compliment each other nicely.
Finnish director Jalmari Helander first made international waves four years ago with his morbid spin on the Santa Claus myth, Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale. For his follow-up, he’s reunited with young star Onni Tommila for Big Game, a ridiculously fun adventure yarn that proudly boasts B-movie sensibilities while also sporting enough of Helander’s eccentricities to feel wholly unique. Equal parts goofy amusement and rousing thriller, Big Game will have you fist pumping as a young boy saves Samuel L. Jackson’s ass over and over again.
Last month, the folks at the Stanley Film Festival were gracious enough to have me attend and cover their wholly unique gathering. I’ve only been to a handful of festivals, but I can confidently say that the Stanley Festival is thee best. Held at the historic Stanley Hotel (where Stephen King got his inspiration for The Shining), there’s a reason other journos have referred to it as “horror camp.” Not only do they have flawless programming consisting of the absolute best in modern and retrospective horror*, but for those with big enough stones, they immerse you in a living horror movie. Baby’s blood, cult members kicking in doors at 3am, clandestine magic shows at 2am, crawling through dirt tunnels beneath the hotel, live feed of abducted filmmakers…yeah, Stanley Festival is a wet dream for horror fans. Just don’t expect any sleep, man.
In just three short years the Stanley Festival has cemented itself as the premiere horror festival in the U.S. It’s grown an insane amount during that time and honest to gawd, within another two or so years, it’s going to be ENORMOUS.
Below find every review and interview of mine from Stanley. To pick a favorite is a vicious task, but I can honestly say I almost walked out of the theater during The Nightmare, that’s how effective it is, and one of my favorite living filmmakers, Adrián Garcia Bogliano, showed his latest, which melted my face off.
THE INVITATION (they requested this to just be a capsule review)
And here are my interviews from Stanley:
* I unfortunately had to leave the day they showed Diabolique, a film I’ve always wanted to see on a big screen. Clouzet’s film still gets under my skin every time I watch it.