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?