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June 12, 2012

The Mike's Top 50 Horror Movies Countdown: #29 - Dead of Night

Previously on the Countdown: Number 50 - Happy Birthday to Me  Number 49 - Prince of Darkness  Number 48 - House on Haunted Hill  Number 47 - The Monster Squad  Number 46 - Hellraiser  Number 45 - The Fog  Number 44 - Creature From the Black Lagoon  Number 43 - Zombie  Number 42 - Tales from the Crypt  Number 41 - Bubba Ho-Tep  Number 40 - Phantom of the Paradise  Number 39 - Dog Soldiers Number 38 - Pontypool  Number 37 - Dark Water  Number 36 - Army of Darkness Number 35 - The Legend of Hell House  Number 34 - Poltergeist  Number 33 - The Abominable Dr. Phibes  Number 32 - The Phantom of the Opera  Number 31 - The House of the Devil  Number 30 - Evil Dead II
Dead of Night
(1945, Dir. by Alberto Cavalcanti, Charles Crichton, Basil Dearden, Robert Hamer.)
Why It's Here:
Revolutionizing the horror anthology long before even The Twilight Zone, Ealing Studios' production of Dead of Night might as well be something that is told around a campfire. In a way, it is - thanks to a perfectly drawn wrap-around tale that bridges the gaps between three tales of terror (and one goofy ghost story that provides a late film bit of comic relief).  The film's reliance on the age old desire to tell "scary" stories keeps it from feeling out of date - the same principle that helps things like The Twilight Zone and those awesome Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark books we loved as kids - even if it is more than 65 years old.

The Moment That Changes Everything:
I adore Dead of Night as a whole, and have for a long time. But, if we're being completely honest I don't know if the film would have gotten that far if it weren't for the wonderful Ventriloquist's Dummy segment near the end of the film. Again, this is an age-old horror standard - dolls = scariness - but thanks to some wonderful direction and a great Michael Redgrave performance, it meets our fearful expectations and then some.

It Makes a Great Double Feature With:
It's impossible to find something of its era that's quite like it and quite good, so let's just jump all the way forward to the 2007 horror anthology Trick 'r Treat. Creepshow is most likely a better anthology horror flick, but Trick 'r Treat's central theme of old legends and spook stories coming together is more in tune with Dead of Night's personality.

What It Means To Me:
When i start comparing something to The Twilight Zone and the Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark books, that's a big deal. Dead of Night gets a special place in my heart because it's completely interested in tapping into fears of the unknown, something that surprisingly few horror tales do anymore. It's not a monster film, it doesn't need blood and gore to make a point - it just wants to make our skin crawl a bit. It meets that goal whenever I watch it.


Jerry Smith said...

The Mike,
You have shared most popular movies collection, I did not watch what I will watch it soon and want to recommend toe very visitor watch this movies and if your fan of horror episode then buy DVD set of most popular Are You Afraid Of The Dark serial.

James Van Fleet said...

Woo-hoo! You're right. This would make a very good double-feature with "Trick r Treat."