Halloween Horror Marathon: The Terror

poster - The Terror Karloff! For all the schlock in which he appeared, Boris Karloff flicks are usually a safe bet for entertainment, unlike his peer Bela Lugosi. What seems like proof of said theory can be found in the opening shots of The Terror, with a trail of blood drops leading to a corpse in a closet. The Terror is, however, a ghost story. It's Poe-like in its mystery, and coming as it does from American International Pictures and using sets from past Roger Corman productions, along with the film's plot of a ghost wandering, with moldering castles and strange confusion, one can be forgiven for thinking that it's part of the parade of films AIP did with Vincent Price. Karloff is, unfortunately, no Price. He's far too stentorian, and his gravitas is nowhere near the campy, scenery-chewing fun of Price's work. Jack Nicholson, here in an early starring role as Lt. Duvalier, hasn't yet become The Jack Nicholson. While there are glimpses of the brilliance he'd soon show, the pseudo-Shakespearean dialogue that issues forth so effortlessly and authoritatively from Karloff comes out of Nicholson's mouth stilted and labored. And can someone please explain why it took goddamn decades to make a ghost story that was actually scary? It seems like so many films over the years featured nothing so much as following an actor into a room when, suddenly, they're gone from it! Repeat 10-15 times over the course of an hour and a half, and you've got the basis for most ghost stories -- the workaday ones, at least. The Haunting, The Innocents, most of Guillermo del Toro's early work: these all manage to avoid the tropes which trap ghost films into terribly-boring plot doldrums, but they're obviously the exception, rather than the rule. Given that The Terror is a pretty slow, pokey movie without much to recommend it visually in terms of panic or terror, the score is forced to do the heavy lifting. The strings in the score quickly overwhelm. They're rather powerful, and frequently threaten to overwhelm the dialogue and sound effects. Maybe there's theremin, or maybe the violins are just straining for that high C, but things are very nearly Bernard Herrmann level in terms of composition, here. Granted, they stay at such a high level of tension, it's only when the brass comes in that you know it's time to expect something really spooky. As per usual with these things, the last 15-20 minutes are all action and plot twists and special effects to pay off the viewer after a long slog through boredom, so I'd suggest giving The Terror a pass. Watch The Terror in full below, via YouTube. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f621dgikkf8[/embed]