My Favourite Film of 1908.

Film Here’s a comment from underneath this YouTube bootleg of Segundo de Chomón’s La maison ensorcelée (potential English titles, The Witch House or The House of Ghosts or The Haunted House). Scrainbow1234 says, “4:50 inception lol” which is shorthand for noticing the similarity between the way in which the entire house shifts backwards and forwards taking the people and contents with it and the famous corridor action sequences from Inception.

Having watched the scene through a couple of times, I’m fairly sure they were shot in a similar way, the entire set on a “gimbal” with people on either side shifting back and forth causing the floor to up tip backwards and forwards. But I’m still not quite certain. There’s something about the way the bed moves and the actors which means that I’d also theorise that it’s the camera which is moving and the bed is being shifted back and forth by wire or the acrobatic talents of the people. Or both.

But I like not knowing. It makes the scene much more compelling. As discussed a couple of weeks ago, digital verisimilitude has led some films and filmmakers to become far less compelling that they might have been or once were. We assume everything is digital so we’re less wowed by the ingenuity of film makers despite the fact that often just as much ingenuity is required in order to create the rendering and textures.

That’s certainly impacted on my enjoyment of horror films. More often than not, I find myself unfrightened for much of the time because I know full well that the monster or action on screen has been designed and created, I’m unable to embrace my suspension of disbelief. Jump cuts are idiotic. Sometimes I’m even annoyed when the horror intrudes when I’m enjoying the company of the characters or the setting so much. It Follows. The Conjuring. The Visit.

Only now and then is there a film which creeps me out precisely because I can’t account for what I’m seeing. The artifice is still there and probably intellectually I know that it’s all fake, all of it, but there are incidents which don’t seem to fit, weren’t anticipated and my brain does what it should do and freaks out. The emergence of the antagonist in Sinister, the middle section of Silent House, The Awakening, Unfriended, As Above So Below. The VVitch

La maison ensorcelée isn’t scary at all, but despite its often humorous intent it is creepy because of the element of surprise, the unexpected and the sense of it being an artefact of an earlier era. Director Jennifer Kent thought as much too and included a section of this silent in The Babadook, another film which did manage to scare me because of its weirdness. If only more filmmakers realised that it’s never about the CGI monster. It’s about us.

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