Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Night of Terror #9: Shadows and Fog

For tonight's spooktacular Night of Terror, we have another installment of Woody Allen's Chiller Theater. It goes by the name of Shadows and Fog, and it depicts Woody as a down-on-his-luck business clerk who gets roped into a sinister and Kafkaesque plot to capture a mad killer who's stalking the German Expressionist town in which he lives.

Contrary to what you might expect from a Woody Allen "horror" movie, there are some genuinely suspenseful sequences here, although it admittedly never crosses the line into full-on horror territory. Or does it? While the plot may not get too scary, some of the philosophical implications are downright terrifying - particularly the expert depiction of an angry mob (or mobs) just articulate enough to explain why an angry mob is necessary - and why you can't take any time to think about what you're doing because lives are at stake! - but not articulate enough to actually say what their plan is. Maybe some would disagree but I find this aspect of Shadows and Fog incredibly haunting in much the same way that people who have learned how to read and write describe Kafka's effects on them.

But enough of that shit, let's get to those shadows and that fog! I've always thought Woody Allen occupied a sort of middle ground between an unheralded visual stylist and a heralded one, as people are always talking about how he doesn't get enough credit for how good his movies look. Shadows and Fog is inarguably one of the movies they're talking about - he perfectly captures the look and feel of thrillers from directors like Murnau and Lang while simultaneously filling the screen with his trademark naturalistic acting and lengthy philosophical dialogues. At times it almost comes off like some kind of TV sketch parody ("Woody Allen Chiller Theater" starring Andy Dick as Woody, maybe?) but for me the whole thing works pretty damn well, albeit in a way that doesn't necessarily put me in a trick-or-treating kind of mood.

And the final scene, in which Woody rejects the humdrum normality of everyday life in favor of magic and Kenneth Mars? One of my favorite endings in any movie, ever.

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