Friday, March 20, 2015

Only now does it occur to me... THE OTHER

Only now does it occur to me... that THE OTHER (1972) is sort of the missing link between SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES (the novel, 1962) and PHANTASM (1979).

Like Ray Bradbury's best work, it's saturated with boyhood nostalgia, tinged with creeping dread, and peppered with dark carnivals and secret hideouts and fleeting bucolic pleasures, like cattail fluff drifting in the summer breeze.
Bradbury-esque summer fancy...

...and secret foreboding.

Like PHANTASM, it has a disorienting sense of unreality and a flair for the grotesquely nostalgia; i.e., the graveyard as a site of childish fancy (before true horror is revealed)
Graveyard playtime in PHANTASM...

...interrupted by harsher truths in THE OTHER.

or the sentimental revealed to contain the unspeakable––say, a severed finger in a child's treasure box:


A dear friend recommended THE OTHER to me during my "Melancholy Horror" kick (mostly chronicled here in "Junta Juleil's Guide to Melancholy Horror," which is probably due for a part two at this point), and it's quite good.  Based on a novel by the same name by writer/actor Tom Tryon, it's not easy to define without giving too much away––but in addition to what I've already described, I'll say that it traffics in the "freaky children" subgenre, such as THE OMEN or the classic TWILIGHT ZONE "It's a Good Life," 
ancestral horrors reminiscent of H.P. Lovecraft,
and a Gothic ghostly atmosphere out of THE INNOCENTS or THE HAUNTING.
There's wonderfully evocative cinematography throughout by Robert Surtees (BEN-HUR, THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, THE GRADUATE), 
an understated, eerie score by Jerry Goldsmith (ALIEN, GREMLINS), and workmanlike direction from Robert Mulligan (TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, INSIDE DAISY CLOVER).  I also have to give a nod to the legendary Uta Hagen as a mysterious, old-country Grandmother, and to John Ritter who appears in essentially a bit part:

In all, it's a solid work of melancholy horror from the golden period; far from flawless, but with an impeccable, hazy atmosphere, and enough twists and turns to confound your initial expectations. 

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