OOM #17 – The War of the Worlds (1953)

Hello people and welcome once again to a normal schedule of horror reviews and performances, welcome to the October Overlook Madness at your favorite blog, the Overlook’s Corridor. Here I am, thinking of this project on horror and wondering why I do this only in October and only for horror, and then I remember how I go crazy, following a schedule, wandering, finding films, seeing them profusely, trying to make it on time, and then I remember that one day I did 100 Days of Horror and it was worse than a nightmare, but at least in those days I had a computer every day and I could work on the posts. Right now, I’m also having a computer almost every day, but it’s because I’m working, then I have little time to do these, but I still do because I love you… if there’s anything out there who even bothers reading these words that I’m typing out. Anyone? Hello?

Anyway, today the guide that I use to have my viewing schedule went out with a review of a film I didn’t truly expect to be covered, but hey, it’s random month and maybe anything goes, so this time it was the good movie by Francis Ford Coppola ‘Dracula’ (1992), and the video where he talks about the visual lush and how cinematic it is can be seen here. So, after many years of seeing it appear on TV, i braved it this year and saw it a few months ago in the midst of a hot hot night of summer, so now that I’ve already seen it, I have to watch another film. I didn’t write a review, but I did write some words on it on Letterboxd, nothing too deep, but still something to say about it now that I have to say something:

This is a pretty picture. The lines about how he travelled “oceans of time” is great. I love the costumes. I adooore the score, it’s one of the best I’ve heard. The cinematography is all over the place, and I love it because of that. The interpretation of the novel, the vampire lore, the whole thing is pretty great, but I didn’t like the moments between Mina and Dracula, most of the time they dragged when I wanted to go back to the main story… which I guess was something else. I love the interaction between Van Helsing and the new way for him to be performed, not as a serious scientist, but as an adventurer who is a bit crazy and foulmouthed. For some reason I expected a trainwreck, and I didn’t get that, I got almost one and I loved it how it played on the edges. I rate it 8 out of 10.

And since yesterday we reviewed a film from 1953, and checking my personal list of horror films, and realized that there are many that I haven’t explored from this decade, as there are 4 of them and I haven’t seen any of them, I think. I decided to see the first one of the list. How could I know that in some way ‘The War of the Worlds’ (1953) could be considered horror? Let’s see, but maybe it’s just a thing of the 50’s, where every horror film was almost sci-fi at the same time. Woo!

Maybe the most interesting element of this movie, being seen today after a barrage of adaptations of this story and a movie that everyone and their uncle went to see in theaters in 2005, is how well the cinematography and the special effects work in the context of the film. The colors, the sparks, the way in which the lighted and colored earth due to the reflection of the aliens is maybe the most exciting thing to see in this movie, how the colors mix together in the face of the characters, how the red ambient of the city has an effect on what we see, how the aliens see in their colorful and incorrect way is almost like an experiment made by Stan Brakhage on the distortion of the eye in the human being and how it conjures up the most strange imagery, thus the colors become protagonists, as they not only inform of something (the way the aliens see), but also they create character, they paint the landscape, they become the way in which we understand the main characters.

The story is known for almost anyone: the comet that falls down that happens to be an alien ship, whose aliens start to send out drones and other artifacts to wipe the Earth out of its characters and stay there, only to later find not only a resistance, but also the will of the people to survive, only to later fall under the fierce elements of Earth itself. While the ending almost seems like a deus ex machina, even for standards then it was kind of a weak ending, it still manages to be poetic in the way that it brings forward nature and the little things that we mostly take for granted. It is also a harsh movie, filled with death and likeable characters that disappear from one moment to the next, either killed or just separated for a time, and trying to play the loneliness in a movie like this works, everyone wants to be with someone, but in a moment like that, it’s sadly every man for himself.

The film is great in what it achieves through its special effects, that never become something distracting and are always connected to the plot that is going on at certain moments, we not only marvel at those moments, but we are also tense when we notice where this is taking place, or what is happening at the same time, they are plot-driven devices, and they never become this marvelous thing that saves the rest of the movie. Still, the movie isn’t perfect, but quite far from it, it does sport a main performance from the principal actor that never truly engages with the audience, and certain other characters are just too important to be thrown away. Suddenly you realize that maybe it is the destiny of certain likeable people, certain comic relief, to die, and that is sad for such a good movie like this, that just fails in the small stuff,

8/10

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