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Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The Phantom Carriage (1921) - Victor Sjöström

Körkarlen's brutal, realistic qualities, come mashed up with some drunken ancient lore to produce one of the most powerful horror movies to date. Well at least during this era. Director Victor Sjostrom takes audiences to places that they normally wouldn't have wanted to go in their time. The imagery that he uses and the way that he presents death is so fantastic but it has this nagging realism to it. This movie makes you fear death. 

This story comes with a bit of background. Every year on New Years Eve, Death goes around collecting souls. The last one to die before the hands on the clock strike midnight gets to be the carriage driver the next year. That being said. The tale is a depressing one with three men getting pissed drunk in a grave-yard and then one of them, David, dies only to have to serve out that horrible job description from above. David is taken by death to see what the prior year had been like for him. He is shown, in various flashbacks, that he treats everyone around him like garbage and lets booze lead his life. It costs David his family, friends, and everyone that he loves. 

The special effects in this movie are the best for its time. Audiences must have been frightened when they saw it. Scenes of the ghostly carriage meandering around the film are haunting, while the shots of Death himself walking through walls or picking up souls are phenomenal. Then we have the imagery. This movie wasn't for children. The movie has some really harsh overtones and some really violent scenes. It makes for great suspense. 

This movie is insanely cool, if you are not used to watching silent movies than I would highly suggest this one. Its a really good find and you can watch it online. Its not a expressionist piece. Its not a ghostly jump out of your seat kind of horror either. This movie has a genuinely frightening feel to it. The movie feels real even though obviously it isnt... or is it? Ingmar Bergman chose this movie to describe why he got into film. This movie is that good. If you don't know Berman I would suggest looking him up before seeing this.


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