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The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) - dir. Tim Burton

The Nightmare Before Christmas continues Tim Burton's exploration of the outsider who thinks that he wants to be part of the world of the "normals" but then discovers through traumatic interaction that his nature is not compatible with theirs. Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloweentown, stumbles upon the world allocated to Christmas, and decides to understand it by doing it better. So he kidnaps "Sandy Claws" and makes the various monstrous denizens of his holiday world turn their talents toward Christmas production, with amusingly disastrous results. This animated film is amazingly rendered in technologically updated techniques mastered by George Pal in his puppetoons. There is a European sensibility of Caligarian angles and Cray-like characters that is nothing sort of stunning. Danny Elfman has wrought a deft score with delightful songs (he quite wonderfully sings Jack's role himself). Particularly fun is the "Making Christmas" song with Dies Irae melodic refrain. This should certainly prove to be a new classic that will make an appearance every Halloween.

[- Peter H. Gilmore]

The Ninth Gate (1999) - dir. Roman Polanski

The tagline to this occult thriller is "The only thing more terrifying than searching for the Devil... is finding him." Sounds tried and true and easy enough, but as with Polanski's Satanic romp on "Rosemary's Baby," the Devil may not be quite what you expect.

Based on the novel "The Club Dumas," the film follows the tale of shady and downright vile book-dealer Dean Corso (Johnny Depp). Corso is hired by millionaire book collector and occultist Boris Balkan (Frank Langella) to track down an ancient text called "The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows" which is supposed to be able to summon the Devil himself.

The first thing you'll notice about the film is its highly-stylized look. The aesthetic sense of the movie is pure gothic beauty. Filmed mostly in France, the sets are a sight to behold, especially the many dusty libraries and castles. The score by Wojciech Kilar is excellent. Kilar is the master hand behind the haunting soundtrack to "Bram Stoker's Dracula" and, for fans of his work, its worth noting that the DVD gives the option to listen to a music-only version of the film.

As Corso digs deeper into the history and whereabouts of the fabled book, the movie begins to unlock in true puzzle-box style, leading to murder, sex, "satanic" rituals and eventually... well... that'd be telling.

Not being of the generation to see "Rosemary's Baby" on the Big Screen, coming out of The Ninth Gate was one of the best experiences I've had in movie-going history. Watching the confused, unnerved and, in one or two rare cases, ecstatic faces after seeing the ending of the film was worth the price of time and admission.

As always, Polanski is a master of the trapezoidal laws of film. As Depp mentioned in an interview for the film "...within the first three minutes of a Polanski film, you feel some kind of uneasiness..." That uneasiness carries throughout the film as the story takes its time in drawing out the pieces and keeping the viewer enthralled, whether he wants to be or not.

[- Warlock West]

NON: Live In Osaka (2003) - Caciocavallo

After making its way around the video bootleg circuit over the past 10+ years, we now have this infamous concert on DVD (and don’t have to worry any longer about our old VHS copies wearing down). This seven-track live performance from NON (whose incarnation on this disc is comprised of Boyd Rice, Rose McDowall, Tony Wakeford, Douglas Pearce, and Michael Moynihan) took place on the 3rd of July 1989 in Osaka, Japan, and truly captures NON’s frequent visit into martial and “occult fascist” territory, with favorites such as Total War, Might Is Right, and others. If you weren’t old enough -- or simply not in Japan at the time -- this performance is a must-see for those wishing to get a taste of Satanism (for once) represented proudly and productively on a music stage. Also included in this package are extras such as Rice’s two film shorts (Invocation, and Black Sun), as well as two photo galleries, and a print copy of his European “tour diary.” And, of course, one of the real treats here is the audio commentary by Rice as an option while you view the performance, with some great insider information on much that transpired. DVD is Region 0 as well, so many of you outside Region 1 can enjoy it as well. For more info, visit www.boydrice.com and click on the “Filmography” link.

[- Matt G. Paradise]

Nosferatu: The Vampire (1922) - dir. F. W. Murnau [on CoS Video List]

Dracula. A name that conjures mixed images of fear, lust and dread throughout the world. The character, created by Bram Stoker in 1897 and based on the historical figure of Vlad Tepes (or Vlad the Impaler) has survived the ravages of time as only the lord of vampires can and this first film vision of the tale has survived despite the odds against it. Rather than recount the tale as any Satanist worth his salt already knows the story, I'll give a brief history of the film and a few tidbits on the story from Murnau's vision.

When F.W. Murnau first got the idea to make a film adaptation of Dracula, Stoker's widow refused him the rights. Whether this was because she wanted to milk more money from Murnau or because she didn't want the film to be made is unclear. Undeterred, Murnau changed the names of the characters, made a few plot changes and went ahead with the movie anyway. Obvious to all but the most obtuse viewer, Nosferatu is the Dracula story, and Mrs. Stoker wasn't amused. She sued and had an order issued that all copies of the film were to be destroyed. Obviously, since I'm writing this review, copies have survived.

Murnau's telling of the tale centers around one of the most interesting takes on Dracula ever to hit film. Count Orlock, played with perfection by Max Shreck, is a deformed, bald creature with two protruding rat-like teeth, long pointed ears and claws on his hands. Yet, despite his frightening appearance, Orlock still seduces the helpless Mina using his powers. It makes for a more eerie visual than the dapper versions of the Count that modern filmgoers are used to. The image of Orlock's hideous shadow creeping up the stairwell will forever be what I think of when I think of a vampire.

Murnau made some wonderful changes to the tale, some of which changed the vampire mythos to this day. An interesting change which should be immediately noticeable to modern viewers of the oft-told tale is Murnau's decision to remove all Christian symbolism from the movie. You'll not see the Vampire fleeing from the crosses of Dr. Van Helsing (Bulwer in this version). In fact, Murnau has turned Van Helsing, who was a major player in Stoker's story, into a footnote in Nosferatu. And, Orlock meets his doom, not at the end of a stake, but because he feeds too long and is struck down by the dawn's first light. I might also be nice to point out that this is the first time in history that this now-canon way of destroying a vampire was ever used. Stoker's Dracula, while weakened by sunlight, was able to travel by day fairly easily.

In the end, this movie stands the test of time, whether you're a fan of the silent era or not. There are countless DVD versions available for the interested collector. One note I'll make for those seeking to enjoy this film for the first time is for you to find a version that's in its original color, rather than black and white. Murnau used a blue tint for night and a sepia tone for day. Otherwise, it seems as if Orlock is parading around in full daylight in parts of the movie and the ending may not seem as clear. And get one with a musical score than you enjoy. Some of the more modern versions use a gothic sound, but the purist in me prefers the obviously scratchy recordings as a backdrop. Whatever your preference, grab this movie, turn down the lights and prepare to be chilled.


[- Warlock West]