Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Night of Terror #9: 'The Witch's Mirror'

Hello everybody. I had a busier-than-normal shift at the hospital today so I wasn't able to write up a scary movie, so the great Laird Jimenez, the first guest contributor of the year, is filling in with me on 1962's The Witch's Mirror (check out Laird's always excellent Letterboxd account here). Here's Laird:

This movie has everything. There’s, as the title promises, a witch and her mirror, but there’s also infidelity, murder, a haunting, a mad doctor, grave robbing, experimental surgery, bloody revenge… it’s a supercut of Gothic horror plot points rolled into a delicious 75-minute burrito. With all of that incident packed into such a short running time it risks coming off as episodic and potentially slipshod, but in the end all of the narrative conflict is resolved with such satisfying finality that any questions one may raise become moot. Narrative neatness is potentially overvalued by contemporary audiences. Sometimes watching something fall apart can be just as satisfying as watching something come together.

This movie, like most Mexican horror from this era, looks as if it was made for a peso and a song, but is designed and directed with such care that it can stand up against higher budgeted works from Europe. Clearly taking cues from such productions as Eyes Without a Face and Black Sunday, Witch’s Mirror is set in a shadowy Gothic castle abode and features exaggerated melodrama, supernatural revenge and perverse romantic obsession. The titular witch’s quarters are crowded with demonic statues and creepy totems. What it lacks in budget, it makes up for in gallons of atmosphere. Superimpositions and cheap, in-camera effects are used to emphasize the supernatural: a clear liquid is dripped over the camera lens, focal points are distorted, etc. If you can look past the limitations of the budget, it’s a really effectively eerie affair that is exceptionally fun. It’s a tonal balance few movies in the horror genre, which has become oppressively self-serious and grim, strive for anymore: spooky fun!

Director Chano Urueta also directed the excellent Brainiac (which has the equally satisfying original Spanish title of El Barón del Terror) and over 100 other movies, but more interestingly he (reportedly) fought in the Mexican Revolution under Pancho Villa and Zapata, worked on Eisenstein’s never fully completed !Que Viva Mexico!, and appeared as an actor in Peckinpah’s Wild Bunch and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. If you can’t trust this guy to tell you a good story, who can you trust?

No comments:

Post a Comment