Sunday, May 4, 2014

1920 (2008)

Just because you can do something doesn't mean that you should.  For example, just because you can add a lengthy and unskippable slideshow of a movie to the menu of the DVD of that movie, That Does Not Mean You Should!  I can't imagine how annoyed I'd be by this if I wanted to rewatch it and had to sit through five minutes of the stuff below before I got a chance to actually watch the movie.  Every single time.

Thankfully, 1920 gets a lot better once you slump past the menus.  It's a period piece set in (duh) 1920 and the film does a fine job at squeezing supernatural fun out of its spooky mansion setting.  

Said mansion is projected to be demolished in order to build a "grand hotel" for "passing British people".  But architects who get hired to plan the demolishing end up getting demolished themselves.  And that's where our story begins, with newly-married architect Arjun and wife Lisa.  Oh, and PS, Arjun rejected his gods to save Lisa from a burning car at the beginning of the movie.  That could be important later.

1920 is not going to give you anything you haven't seen before.  It's a fun and pretty conventional haunted house movie that becomes a conventional possession movie in the second half.  But, just like a hamburger made by a master chef is better than a hamburger made by a teenager in a paper hat, technical prowess elevates what would be standard fare here.  The film has excellent camerawork and set design and the performances are all pretty strong.

I enjoyed the more restrained and suggestive first half a bit more than the hissing demon possession of the second.  That's probably just personal preference, although the coolness of the blood Baphomet that kicks off the film's tonal shift cannot be denied.

The movie does give us a few small surprises.  I liked the inclusion of a Catholic priest in this Indian film.  Although maybe the filmmakers were just copy-and-pasting THE EXORCIST, it gives 1920 a little bit of color.  And it speaks to a pet peeve of mine, namely people who are convinced that whatever religion rules in their random land of birth is the One True Way.  It was also nice to see British/Indian tension woven into the subtext of the film.  One wouldn't expect political discourse from this kind of movie and it's nice to see it, even if it is pitched aside in favor of arch-backed devil women in the end.

So there you have it.  Narratively, nothing special, religious diversity and anti-imperialism aside.  But, technically, visually, this looks great and is clearly carefully staged.  If you like Argento for the colors or have an appreciation for the arty side of scare movies, you just might dig this.


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