Hallowe'en and Horror

Danse Macabre Hallowe’en: The Abominable Dr Phibes (1971)

In Stephen King’s book Danse Macabre, he talks about horror in books and movies and why we are so drawn to these themes and stories. It’s a great book by a master of the genre. He talks about many movies in the course of the book and there’s a big appendix at the back with some recomended viewing. This Hallowe’en I picked some movies from this list to watch and share with you.

Starring: Vincent Price, Joseph Cotten, Virginia North

Director: Robert Fuest

A group of doctors are all being killed in a parody of the nine biblical plagues of Egypt, and their one connection is that they all were involved in trying to save the beautiful wife of Doctor Phibes (Price). Phibes is a strange polymath: a scholar, musician, and scientist who lives in an art deco mansion with his mute assistant and a clockwork orchestra. A man of his stature couldn’t possibly be the killer, could he?

Well, he’s a super camp Vincent Price character, so the answer isn’t really a mystery. This film is a riot. I don’t know why it’s set in the 20’s, but why not? The sets and costumes are big and bright, and the ideas and themes are kind of insane. A clock work orchestra? A beautiful mute assistant? Killing using the nine plagues of Egypt as a kind of unifying theme? It’s all bat shit. But for some reason it works, and it works so well that there’s a few sequels and spin offs to boot.

I think any Hallowe’en that passes without watching at least one Vincent Price movie feels like a waste. This one is less scary than some of his other films, but kind of pokes fun at films and horror stories, with their insane antagonists and unlikely plots and situations. Watching this, I feel like Price and everyone else is having a really good time, and it’s hard not to have a good time along with them. There’s something about the whole thing that is is really imaginative and creative, but also is darkly funny and spooky too. I mean, a bunch of people do get murdered.

Scale Of Scary: 2/10 This film has a PG rating, so it’s not really scary at all, but does have a series of truly weird and elaborate deaths and dark themes.


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