We're not only getting a movie this year, we're getting a documentary about SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK, too.
Pan’s Labyrinth. 2006. Directed & Written by Guillermo del Toro.
Starring Ivana Baquero, Sergi López, Maribel Verdú, Doug Jones, Ariadna Gil, Álex Angulo, Manolo Solo, César Vea, and Roger Casamajor. Estudios Picasso/Tequila Gang/Esperanto Filmoj/Sententia Entertainment/Telecinco/OMM. Rated 14A. 118 minutes.
Guillermo del Toro has one of the most consistently fascinating minds in film today. Ever since I saw his feature film debut Cronos – a unique take on vampire mythology – I knew he’d go on to do a lot more great work. Even the 1997 Mimic was fun, though marred by studio interference and the fact del Toro’s father was kidnapped during that time. He went on to do another fascinatingly original type of ghost story with The Devil’s Backbone in 2001, which really came back to his exciting from the first feature. Afterwards, he added a good entry to the Blade franchise with its second installment and then did a funny, engaging adaptation of the Hellboy comic in 2004.
Pan’s Labyrinth is most certainly one of del Toro’s best works to date. It is highly original, while at the same time having its roots in old folklore, fairy tales and fantastical stories such as Alice in Wonderland. Even further, there is a darkness which is present in other fantasy storytelling but becomes pronounced through del Toro as a writer and as director. Perhaps the best part of this film is how he so elegantly weaves dark fantasy through the real life drama at the heart of the story, creating a perfect hybrid between the main character’s reality and her dreamworld.
During 1944, the post-Spanish Civil War phase has begun. Although there are rebel troops still fighting in the mountainside against the Falangist army troops. Captain Vidal (Sergi López) orders his wife Carmen (Ariadna Gil) and stepdaughter Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) brought to live in a country mill within the forest. At first, Ofelia finds it hard to deal with her new life as the daughter of Vidal, whose fascist tendencies do not stop at his soldiers; rather his family is just as much a part of his rule as anything or anyone else.
Once a strange faun draws Ofelia into the labyrinth in the courtyard of the mill, she discovers a whole other magical world existing right under the surface of reality. When the faun tells Ofelia she is actually Princess Moanna, she is given several tasks to complete before the next full moon, which leads her into the other world adjacent to our own. However, it may not be enough for her to escape the hardships of the tragic reality in which she finds herself living with Vidal.
It’s no wonder Pan’s Labyrinth won Academy Awards – three of them. There is such an incredibly craftsmanship about the entire film. Certainly when you look at all the individual aspects, it’s hard to imagine anybody hating this film; sure, you can not be totally into it, but I’ll be damned to hell if you can’t admire this movie for all its efforts.
First, there’s the impeccable cinematography of Guillermo Navarro. Anyone who has read my blog before knows I’m a fan of Navarro. I knew him from his work with del Toro first and foremost. Though, when he directed a couple episodes of NBC’s Hannibal I was truly impressed – those episodes were titled “Coquilles“, “Trou Normand“, and “Rôti“. He captures the light and the dark in equal measures, the latter coming out beautifully in terms of shadow particularly. I think, above all, he and del Toro have very similar sensibilities, which helps in this case because though the story is awesome what I love most is the film’s look. What I imagine is that del Toro and Navarro, as director and cinematographer respectively, came together to find the visual presence of the film; effectively forming a dual director of photography. While del Toro no doubt had an entire aesthetic in mind, I can tell Navarro’s touch lands heavily on Pan’s Labyrinth because of watching his own directing on Hannibal, as well as in the two episodes of Narcos he helmed.
Almost better than the cinematography itself is the film’s intensely detailed art direction. From the look of the old mill, to the forest locations and the darkly fantastical settings inside the labyrinth with the Pale Man and Pan, there are too many different places where the art direction is on the level of a masterpiece. There’s such an effortless feel to the way del Toro and his team take us back to the mid-1940s in Spain. All the while, you know this movie took a ton of work to complete, it’s actually mind boggling at times when I think of it. Every location you see in Pan’s Labyrinth looks like it’s been pulled straight from a picture.
To make it all the more magical, the makeup in this film is just downright jaw dropping. The pinnacle, of course, has to be Vidal’s knife wound through the cheek. Absolutely raw and looks so natural! Its look is something out of a horror film and I found the makeup had a super visceral effect. I’m not normally a cringing sort – I watch a ridiculous amount of horror – however, the part when Vidal patches himself up, sewing the wound, then drinks a shot of liquor: it got me. But in the right sort of way. This part is only one amazing instance of excellent makeup work. Pan and the other creatures have such an innovative design about them, it’s some of the better makeup effects in fantasy over the past 20 years. Hands down. Without all these elements together, the fantasy of Pan’s Labyrinth wouldn’t juxtapose well enough with the reality-based drama in its script. The look – in cinematography, design and direction – is perfectly dark and simultaneously vibrant. Add to that the painstakingly created makeup/effects and del Toro’s genius comes alive – although he wrote the script and obviously came up with a massive amount of stuff to throw into its story, as evidenced by the plentiful notes and sketches he creates over the course of every production, such a vision does require an entire team able/willing to go the extra mile to make this what it was meant to be.
There’s no argument on my part, Guillermo del Toro has several masterpieces under his belt and Pan’s Labyrinth is no exception: a 5 star film, from start to finish. The screenplay itself is enough to warrant a full rating. With all the different and various elements of this film coming together, working in favour of one another, del Toro’s dark fairy tale is something you might imagine coming out of the great literature from history. Honestly, I truly believe if del Toro had written this as a novel it would’ve been just as well received and perhaps could’ve gone on to rank among some of the big works of fantasy in the literary world. That being said I’m glad he chose to make this as a film. The visual qualities added to the masterful storytelling of del Toro made this into one of the great fantasy epics that will ever be in cinematic history. If I’m alive 50 years from now I’ll still be raving, and hopefully my eyesight will have lasted me until then; hell, even if I’m blind I’ll still ask someone to throw this on so I can listen to its beautiful music, all the sweet sounding Spanish words and the overall magical sound design. If you’ve not seen this one, please, do yourself a huge favour and take this in soon. It’s a pleasure of a movie even with its bits of creepiness and tragedy.
* As of writing, this title is available on Canadian Netflix.*
So I’ve already done several lists for October and the anticipation of Halloween. Up until now it’s been for those who really love horror, or at least the initiated. This list is a little different.
Knowing many friends of mine aren’t exactly huge horror-ites, and also realizing tons of people out there like a little spook around the fall when Halloween approaches, I decided to put together a nice list for those types.
Here’s a list of movies for a decent scare at the right time of year. Hope you’ll enjoy!
Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)
This 1978 thriller, written by David Zelag Goodman and John Carpenter whose Halloween came out the same year, is a nice spooky treat for Halloween. Especially if you want something creepy but would rather not spend the rest of the night wondering if someone is going to kill you.
Chic photographer Laura Mars (Faye Dunaway) begins to see through the eyes of a murderer – transported to the scene of the crimes, during the crime itself, she sees visions of death. When she goes to the police and tries to get their help, she becomes further involved in a series of killings that she is powerless to help and forced to watch.
Eyes of Laura Mars definitely has power, it isn’t not scary. However, there’s not a ton of slasher killings or any kind of super graphic horror. Plain and simple: this is a solid thriller film with a supernatural element. You can watch this to get a decent chill and actually get to sleep. Good one for a nice October evening.
The Innocents (1961)/ The Haunting (1963)
Here’s a solid double feature full of ghosts, spirits, or the otherwise disembodied. Plus, they’re both based on wonderful literary sources.
First up, based on Henry James’ novel The Turn of the Screw, 1961’s The Innocents follows a young governess in Victorian England whose charge of caring for two children becomes a battle of wits against the supernatural, as she comes to believe they are being possessed, the house itself – in her mind (or is it?) – a haunted tomb of ghosts.
There are plenty of reasons to love this film. One: Truman Capote was one half of the screenwriting duo alongside William Archibald. Two: The Turn of the Screw is not lost in this adaptation, as so many great sources come to find themselves in more modern adaptations of classic novels/stories. Three: Martin Scorsese always lists this as one of the scariest movies of all-time and though I don’t care about celebrity opinions, I consider Scorsese an artists first and foremost, as well as a a film lover and fan, so his opinion carries weight for me. Four? The movie is fucking scary. Honestly, you don’t need a bunch of new, modern looking sets or special effects, none of that, when the story and the atmosphere of the film are crafted so well together. This is one of those ghost stories that may honestly stick in your mind, but there’s nothing nasty here: just pure haunted goodness.
That leads me to the second feature on the bill – 1963’s Robert Wise-directed classic, The Haunting. Again, this is based on a piece of literature which is most certainly on a scale of greatness: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. There’s something truly haunting about this movie. Before Wes Craven and his brand of horror, long before Eli Roth, Rob Zombie, and other modern horror filmmakers I dig, legendary director Robert Wise gave us this atmospheric, moody and completely unsettling ghost story. The plot itself is deceptively simple yet amazing: Dr. Markaway, whose research involves that of the afterlife, the supernatural, conducts experiments in Hill House; two women and a young man are a part of the events. The way Wise creates a palpable air of dread, not unlike The Innocents, it creeps up under your skin and really takes hold for every last bit of its 112-minute runtime. There’s nothing disturbing, so to speak, but you will find yourself spooked afterwards.
No two ghost stories put onto film have ever gone so well together on a double bill as these classic movies. I’d recommend them for a couple partners or solo viewing, as they’re films you really want to listen to, pay attention and let their aesthetic draw you in. Nice scare for two people sitting in a dark room!
* For my full review of The Haunting – click here
Sleepy Hollow (1999)
Honestly, if you don’t like Tim Burton’s latest stuff over the past few years, fine. But please don’t try and tell me he’s never done anything good. That’s bullshit. From Beetlejuice to Edward Scissorhands to the 1999 adaptation of a classic creepy tale into Sleepy Hollow, there’s no Halloween done proper if you don’t at least toss on SOMETHING by Burton. Even his Batman films were gothic and very dark.
Here, you’ll get a dose of awesome actors, riotous wit, spooky Halloween-like imagery, and even a tiny dose of nastiness with decapitated heads rolling around like it’s nobody’s business! Burton brings his beautifully macabre cartoon-ish style to this timeless, classic story, and Johnny Depp puts in a solid performance as the clueless yet somehow knowledgeable Ichabod Crane. Pop this on for a nice treat near Halloween, or better yet on the very night. Real good one for a group, too.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
Many will probably vote that the best adaptation of this Jack Finney novel is the original from 1956. Me, I like this 1970s version, as it came about after McCarthyism, all the Black Listing in Hollywood, along with all the new paranoias and fears of new generations, as well as the growing fears of the older generation slipping into the twilight.
In San Francisco, several people begin to discover humans are being replaced by clones, which are really an alien life form inhabiting humanity from the inside out. As they start to take over more rapidly, the group bands together in order to try and survive.
A bunch of solid actors (one of my favourites included – fellow Canadian Donald Sutherland), a tight and tense script jam packed with paranoid madness, and everything executed so well in terms of the look and feel of the movie, you couldn’t ask for better. This will give you enough of a scare to satisfy those spooky needs this October. And you may never forget the final frame, I certainly haven’t yet.
House of Wax (1953)/ The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)
The next double feature is all about that Vincent Price, baby!
To start: House of Wax from 1953. Anybody ever says “Whann remakes whann I hate them”, say “Shut the fuck up!” and remind them even in the ’50s remakes were a thing. Starring Price as a disfigured wax sculptor, this was a remake of Mystery of the Wax Museum from two decades previous. There’s a definitely creepy aspect to the entire movie and not just that, it looks fantastic. Some people nowadays, mostly young, young people, say they can’t “get into” certain old movies. To that, I don’t know what I’ll say… sad, really. Because some films from the 1940s and 1950s are better to look at than any modern movies. Not that I prefer old films over newer ones; honestly, a lot of what I love comes from the ’70s, ’80s, and post-2000, so really I’m not trying to be hip here. I honestly generally feel there was a beauty to the look of pure film, everything shot on stock back then, as opposed to so much digital in this era. Don’t mean to bash digital either, it’s great and has advantages. Just throw this in and let it take you away. The horror will come at you through the dark and beautiful imagery of the film.
After a bit of ’50s era Vincent Price, get a load of The Abominable Dr. Phibes from 1971.
Over three decades before Jigsaw reared his terrifying head, the operatic and horrible Dr. Phibes was exacting revenge on the nine doctors whom he deemed responsible for his wife dying. With lots of candy campiness, an on-point Price, and some of the most extravagant art design/set decoration you’ll ever see in a horror movie, The Abominable Dr. Phibes is absolutely a good, creepy little horror movie that’s not full of unsettling slashing. Rather, it comes off very much like a horror musical of sorts, without the musical numbers, but in the sense it takes on that grand artistic form, like a massive stage play.
These two Vincent Price movies go well together, displaying two very different sides to the same incredible actor. As well as the fact you’ll find a few scares throughout this double bill while having fun.
Taste of Fear a.k.a Scream of Fear (1961)
This 1961 Hammer horror film, best known as Scream of Fear, is – according to co-star Christopher Lee, legend, gentleman – the best the studio ever put out. I’d probably agree with that sentiment, honestly. As much as I love a bunch of the Hammer horrors which came out years and years now, there’s something terribly dreadful about this one. It’s made out of pure suspense, streaming out of every scene.
I’ll give you only this: a young woman in a wheelchair goes back to her father’s estate after a long time away, continually seeing his dead body on the property though told he is on a trip. From there, the terror builds.
Perfect for a couple people or just a solitary watch. Let this one creep on you and it’ll be a rewarding bit of horror without scarring you for life.
Nightwatch (1997)/ Zodiac (2007)
Another double feature – each about a killer, though, one happens to be based on a real life case.
Beginning with Nightwatch, the director’s English-language remake of his own 1994 film Nattevagten, this is the story of a young man named Martin Bells (played by Ewan McGregor) who gets the job as nightwatchman at a morgue. Unfortunately, at the same time, the city is under threat of a serial killer taking the lives of various women. When Martin becomes a suspect in the murders, things get tricky.
This is a slow burn and it’s full of red herring material, which makes a fun horror with tons of excellently executed thrills full of suspense and taut tension. Also, there’s McGregor, Patricia Arquette, Josh Brolin, Nick Nolte, even ole Brad Dourif comes out to play. Nice, creepy flick.
From 1997, let’s jump a decade to David Fincher’s Zodiac, based on a book by Robert Graysmith (played here by Jake Gyllenhaal) about the real life case of the Zodiac Killer who to this day has never been caught, nor identified concretely.
Fincher is one hell of a filmmaker, as a director he is another person I’d easily classify as an auteur. No matter the subject, you can tell you’re watching a Fincher film almost soon as the first frame has faded or cut. With Zodiac, the complex look of Fincher comes to the darkness shrouding everything over the 1970s when the Zodiac terrorized the San Francisco area. He gives even more depth to all the fear and chaos surrounding the hunt for this madman, along with a great script and amazing actors like Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, and more. This one is chilling and it sticks to you like smoke after the finale. You almost want to turn around after it finishes, just to make sure the Zodiac hasn’t wandered up behind you.
These are two looks at the process of a murder case – one fictional, the other all too real – each film with their own aesthetic, this is an interesting double feature to go for closing in on Halloween.
The Night of the Hunter (1955)
Starring the excellent Robert Mitchum and Shelley Winters, The Night of the Hunter was the first film to give knuckle tattoos a bad name (coming from a man with tattoos on his knuckles). Most wouldn’t call this horror, they’d say it’s mystery and film-noir wrapped up into one maybe. To me, this has the markings of a good psychological horror-thriller. With Mitchum playing a man after a huge sum of money, and willing to go through anyone – even some kids – to get it, there’s plenty of room for terrifying moments, suspense ratcheted to the max, and actor-turned-director Charles Laughton uses every chance he gets to execute all of the tension built up throughout the film. Also, apparently Mitchum did some uncredited directorial work alongside Laughton, which is pretty neat. Either way, this is an intense little movie which I’d definitely call spooky, creepy at the very least. And it came out 60 years ago! Still has a lasting effect.
The Changeling (1980)
Directed by Peter Medak (The Krays/Romeo Is Bleeding) and starring one of the greatest actors ever, George C. Scott, this 1980 horror is a haunted house film with a great plot and wonderful story.
The Changeling sees Scott’s character move into a large, old mansion after a tragic accident takes his wife and child from him. Within the walls of the new place, he begins to experience strange, supernatural events all around. Soon, he figures out the house’s secrets.
While there are a couple disturbing plot elements, I do feel like Medak’s haunted house horror movie is scary while not being too outrageously unsettling. So for the people who want a nice little spooky movie for Halloween season, The Changeling makes for a solid pick – especially if it’s the haunted house sub-genre you’re craving.
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
Guillermo del Toro is a consistently, constantly interesting and evolving artist. There’s something utterly magical about his 2006 dark fantasy film Pan’s Labyrinth, which is just about indescribable.
Taking place in Spain during 1944, del Toro’s story follows a young girl whose life around her crumbles while the eye inside her mind comes alive, sometimes in the most terrifying ways imaginable.
Not saying there isn’t anything at all disturbing here; most certainly, there is. However, I think it’s somehow presented in a digestible way. Doesn’t lose any of its impact in that del Toro gives us everything wrapped in fantasy. Just makes the terror more palatable, in a way I can’t describe any better than I’ve already done. Mostly, it’s the incredible and fascinating visual architecture of this movie that will draw you in: whether it’s simply beautifully captured exterior shots or the dark realm of the fantastical imagination at work, this fantasy horror film has teeth and yet still I would recommend it to anyone who isn’t strictly into horror. This is mostly fantasy with little horror edges.
The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh (2012)
I’d heard the name of this movie announced a long while before it ever got released, and knew of the premise, so altogether I was pretty pumped to finally get a look at this one. The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh is extremely interesting in that it’s centred around a single character while an entire world almost is built around him through the story and its plot.
A young man who collects antiques inherits his mother’s house after she dies, and goes on to discover it’s a place devoted to a strange cult; believing his mother to somehow, some way still be present in the house, she may or may not be trying to send him a message, possibly even a warning.
There’s no way to describe this film any further without ruining things. You’ll find yourself surprised if you go in knowing only the basic premise. Even what I said there is probably more than you need to know beforehand. Still, this will slowly grow on you. There’s a dark and sombre aesthetic all around about this film and the lead actor, Aaron Poole, does great stuff with a plot he basically has to carry almost entirely on his own. Featuring excellent narration/voice-over by the massively talented Vanessa Redgrave, I can’t think of a creepier yet fitting movie for the non-horror initiated. It’s a Halloween season film, deserving of your time. Scary, but won’t wreck you. Some fun, spooky storytelling.
Nosferatu (1922) /Vampyr (1932)
The last two titles, one more double feature, are fittingly along similar lines.
First, F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu – perhaps the first unofficial adaptation ever? I’m no film historian, though, I don’t think I’m far off. That’s no matter. This is basically Bram Stoker’s Dracula adapted to screen in the silent era, without proper authorization from the Stoker estate; Murnau was promptly sued, I believe.
Doesn’t change a thing. The origin of creepiness in the horror genre comes out of Murnau and his German Expressionist take on famous Count Dracula and his visit from Jonathan Harker. Of course here it’s Count Orlock and Hutter. What a haunting classic. Isn’t the FIRST horror movie, though, it’s one of the first – if not the first – with such a heavy impact. Not overrated in the slightest; the only people who say those types of things are the ones who have no idea about what good movies are, anyways. The individual shots are almost all tableaus of expressionism, especially once Orlock begins to creep among the shadows in the night throughout his castle.
That brings me to the other half of the bill – Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1932 horror Vampyr based on a book by Sheridan Le Fanu.
Talk about method and technique when it comes to horror, here Dreyer piles on the surrealist, dreamy imagery until there’s absolutely nothing left to us but brain and bone. It’s not one of those floor you, devastate you, terrifying your dreams into nightmares sort of horrors, but Vampyr came far before its time. It is one of the most wonderfully eccentric and gorgeous to look at black-and-white films I’ve ever seen with my own two eyes, personally. I’ve owned the Criterion Collection DVD for years now and it’s a movie I can watch over and over. Perfect to get your spook on during October.
This double feature will have you in a dream-like state of imagery, where you won’t find terror in blood or gore or jump scares. Instead, you’ll find the horrifying aspects of these movies build up in your brain and the lingering shadows of these movies together will have you remembering scenes for weeks to come. Great duo of classics from the early half of the 20th century, like a lesson in horror history.
Another list has come to an end. As I’ve said before, I’m hoping there’s at least one or two titles on here you’ll come across, enjoy the sound of, and then indulge over the month of October. So many of these are perfect for Halloween. These are great movies in general, though, I really feel they’re right for movie lovers who aren’t exactly into the horror genre but don’t like the stuff us other horror hounds are lapping up regularly. Find a scare or two in here, ripe for Halloween. And please, let me know what you think or if you’ve enjoyed (or hated) any of them before now.
Cheers and #HappyHalloween!
Season 3, Episode 10: “…And the Woman Clothed in Sun”
Directed by Guillermo Navarro (D.P on Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, Robert Rodriguez’s Desperado, & Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim)
Written by Bryan Fuller & Don Mancini
* For a review of the previous episode, “…And the Woman Clothed With the Sun” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “…And the Beast from the Sea” – click here
This week’s episode, a slight different wording from last week’s episode which corresponds to the William Blake paintings “…And the Woman Clothed in Sun”, begins as Francis Dolarhyde (Richard Armitage) prepares himself.
For what? A conversation over the phone with an understanding ear: Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen).
Being an avid fan, an impressed spectator to the greatness of Hannibal’s crimes, Francis prepares himself. He doesn’t want his speaking voice to affect anything on his way to Lecter. He jacks into an abandoned building’s phone line (pretty sure that is actually Dr. Lecter’s old home/office if I’m not mistaken: look in the background carefully) to get in touch with the naughty doctor; he has on a telephone company uniform and all, SureTalk. This will hopefully quench the thirst of people bitching last week that there’d be no way Francis would’ve gotten through to Lecter. Solved now? Then all of a sudden, we are in Lecter’s Memory Palace it seems. Perfect little evolution to the scene, especially if Dolarhyde is in fact at the old office where Lecter himself once saw patients. He and Francis now sit and talk to one another. Here comes friendship again in Hannibal as an over-arching theme. Hannibal is looking for a friend, as is Francis. While Dolarhyde has certainly come to like Reba McClane (Rutina Wesley), he is still searching for that kindred spirit which understands the part of him that loves to – needs to – kill people.
So again, we’ve got this duality going. Added to the fact Hannibal is mad at Will, like a lover scorned and turned away, there is something dangerous and horrible brewing between these two. Worst part is, Francis Dolarhyde is half in, half out, as he struggles against the Great Red Dragon when he’s with Reba; her humanity brings him back to his own, in a sense. Francis: “I want to be recognized by you”
Hannibal: “As John the Baptist recognized the one who came after”
Francis: “I want to sit before you as the Dragon sat before 666 and Revelation. I have… things, I would love to show you. Some day if circumstances permit, I would like to meet you… and watch you meld with the strength of the Dragon.”
Hannibal: “See how magnificent you are. Did he who made the Lamb make thee?” Impressive image as this conversation closes, just as opening credits cut. I actually went “Phewf”. Incredibly powerful and so darkly vibrant looking. Couldn’t get enough of this bit! Now we’re seeing Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier (Gillian Anderson) spinning a web of lies. I suppose it’s no different from Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) passing the events three years ago off as something they were not. However, I’d argue that Bedelia had a hand in far too much to truly sit by and believe anything else. Regardless there she is, in all her glory, still on top of the world. She reels off tales of Hannibal Lecter and her forced captivity, when she was “swallowed by the beast“, and a whole room of people clap. Will: “Poor Dr. Du Maurier – swallowed whole, suffering inside Hannibal Lecter’s bowels for what must’ve felt like an eternity. You didn’t lose yourself, Bedelia, you just crawled so far up his ass you couldn’t be bothered.”
Bedelia: “Hello, Will.”
Will: “You hitched your star to a man commonly known as a monster. You’re the Bride of Frankenstein.”
Bedelia: “We’ve both been his bride.”
Will: “How’d you manage to walk away unscarred? I’m covered in scars.”
An impressive exchange between Bedelia and Will. I love the pure sass coming out of Graham, like he’s just chewing on it. Furthermore, we’re getting so much in the way of the relationship between Will and Hannibal; it’s the truest, purest heterosexual male love story of the 21st century this far in. There are some enlightening bits here, especially one of Dr. Du Maurier’s last lines in the scene…
Bedelia: “I was with him behind the veil. You were always on the other side.” Perhaps one of my favourite moments of the entire episode is when Francis takes Reba to see the tiger who is under medication for surgery. There’s this part where Reba is touching all the way up to the tiger’s face, the music is so tense and suspenseful as if we might get a crazy dream sequence where Reba gets her hand bitten off, and Francis has this look on his face, he’s almost biting his own hand, then nothing happens and Reba goes on touching the big animal, rubbing its fur. Just shows how much of a fixation Francis has on mouths, teeth, et cetera, he could barely even handle seeing Reba touch an animal’s mouth. So intriguing and also had my heart rate pumping a few times. How many times can I say it? Richard Armitage is doing a superb job with the character of Francis Dolarhyde.
I mean, I’m a massive fan of Ralph Fiennes – total nut for the guy’s filmography, but still… I think because of his performance, and plus the ability to play the character in a handful of episodes as opposed to a single two hour film, Armitage has the advantage here.
There’s something about his quiet physicality. It moves me, honestly. Even in the beginning when he’s practicing certain sounds, making sure he can sound appropriate enough to make it through so he can speak to Hannibal, I felt this insanely vulnerable feeling for Dolarhyde. Not that he doesn’t scare me at certain times, but Armitage truly makes me feel bad for the guy.
The other incarnations – both Fiennes and also Tom Noonan – really came across with the insane aspects of the character; they didn’t overdo things, they just played it quite well on that end. With Armitage, I’m impressed by how he brings out that vulnerability and the traumatic past so much better. It’s really something to revel in. So glad he was chosen to play this part because even if someone else could’ve done a decent job, Armitage is making Dolarhyde one of the best villains ever on television. The essence of a sympathetic killer, if there ever was one. P.S. The love making scene between Francis and Reba went insanely well. I love how those types of scenes in this series come out as these trippy, psychedelic affairs, which keeps up with the whole weird aesthetic Hannibal has going on. We’re seeing more and more now that struggle of Dolarhyde against the Great Red Dragon, bursting inside him, calling out from the painting, telling him to kill. Because now, the Dragon wants Reba, it does not need that side of Francis clogging things up. The pain, the sound in Francis’ head returns, but he wants to overpower it. No matter how strong the feeling that he is becoming, Francis clearly does feel something for Reba. Good dose of Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon.
Hannibal is able to dial his way into Dr. Frederick Chilton’s (Raúl Esparza) office. He manages to con his way into getting Will Graham’s home address, the sneaky, dirty doctor.
Will: “If he does end up eating you, Bedelia, you’d have it coming.”
I’m truly enjoying the scenes between Hugh Dancy and Gillian Anderson this week. Great episode for them. It’s like a tit-for-tat type of situation, the two of them going back and forth – Will trying to get to the bottom of things, Bedelia toeing the edges as long as she’s permitted. Bedelia: “Do no harm”
Will: “And did you?”
Bedelia: “I did. Technically.”
Will: “You dared to care.”
Bedelia: “Not the first time I’ve lost professional objectivity in a matter where Hannibal is concerned.” I fucking love this! Zachary Quinto shows up again, finally not as a corpse like when we last saw him in Bedelia’s office. He was the patient she ended up killing in her office, the one whose death Hannibal Lecter, that damned dirty dog, helped to cover up. I think he’s an incredible actor, despite what anyone else wants to say. He has this very gentle, subtle quality that helps to frighten when things become intense.
His turn in American Horror Story: Asylum is one of my favourite characters on television – ever. Great to see him here. Adds to the ever increasing list of awesome guest stars the show has had in its jaw-dropping three seasons. Not only that Quinto is awesome, his character clearly knew how messed up Bedelia and Hannibal both were. Unfortunately for this he had to go.
Bedelia: “My relationship with Hannibal is not as passionate as yours. You are here visiting an old flame. Is your wife aware of how intimately you and Hannibal know each other?”
Will: “She’s aware enough”
Bedelia: “You couldn’t save Hannibal. Do you think you can save this new one?” The way we learn about Bedelia’s patient, Neal Frank (Zachary Quinto), the one who formerly went to Hannibal, is a great example of why Fuller & Co (this week’s episode is written by him and the most excellent Don Mancini) have done such a fabulous job fleshing the story out in an appropriate way. At least in a way I see as appropriate.
We’ve already seen bits and pieces of this stuff, but now we’re getting the full story, a better look at everything going on. The manner in which Fuller & Co. drop things into the story, little subplots and sidebars, then come back to things later instead of explaining things full-on right away, I think that’s the mark of some excellent storytelling.
Another reason this series is great, and another reason some adaptations are better off on television than necessarily becoming a series of films – I love, love, love the films featuring Hannibal Lecter, there’s just a special place in my fandom of the Thomas Harris novels for this particular version. So much room to move around and play with themes, characters, arcs, and so on.
Also, we come to see how Bedelia is actually more like Hannibal than Will. At the key moment between her and Neal Frank, she does what she does out of pure curiosity. For a moment, I thought it was actually going to be an accident what happened in the end, however, it’s curiosity that drives Bedelia – and drives her hand further down Neal’s throat instead of helping open up his airway. Very interesting. Then it feeds her continuing chat with Will Graham.
Bedelia: “You are not a killer. You are capable of righteous violence because you are compassionate.”
Will: “How are you capable?”
Bedelia: “Extreme acts of cruelty require a high level of empathy. The next time you have an instinct to help someone, you might consider crushing them instead. It might save you a great deal of trouble.” We get more of Will and Hannibal together, working once more in unison towards understanding a killer. Of course, Hannibal has not revealed his call from the Tooth Fairy, Mr. Francis Dolarhyde; though, Lecter does not know the man’s name, only that he is… becoming.
Hannibal certainly didn’t tell Will that he has gotten a home address for the new Graham family. Mostly he is teasing Will; that jealous lover side of him coming out, pissed that Will has decided to have a family, a wife, a child to look after. When Francis Dolarhyde makes his way into the museum, I got giddy. This has always been one of my favourite things out of Red Dragon, particularly because it shows just how beyond deranged Dolarhyde is, I mean, if it wasn’t sickeningly obvious. It has this fascinating quality that speaks to Dolarhyde’s delusions. Further reinforcing the fact he wants to gain control over the hold the Great Red Dragon has over him. Armitage had me just creeped out here, enormously. The teeth come out, he’s sniffing the painting, then starts biting into the thing. BUT WAIT!
WILL GRAHAM. WHAT?
He shows up to see Blake’s painting just as Dolarhyde is chowing down, having himself a nice little snack. I was so blown away by this little moment, the meeting between Graham and Francis – the power of the former comes out as he manhandles Will, literally tossing him like a rag doll, beating him against the elevator’s insides and then throwing him out. What a spectacular end to this episode. I cannot wait to see the next one, to the point I’m freaking out here. One of the greatest yet. Puts a wild twist on Harris here, which I think works perfectly.
We’re going to see one odd love triangle between Lecter, Dolarhyde, and Graham play out. Especially once the bad doctor drops Will Graham’s address to the Tooth Fairy.
Soon, my fellow Fannibals…. soon. The next episode is “And the Beast from the Sea” – so stay tuned with me!