ON FIRE | Offscreen
For the last B to Z of 2019, we set the silver screen ablaze with two movies about heat, flames, and fire, guaranteed to leave a burning impression on the viewers' retinas.
Already in 1961, the science fiction film “The Day The Earth Caught Fire” presented us with a disquieting image of global warming. While the cause of this may be embedded in the Cold War, like so many other so-called 'atomic scare' films of the time, there's no place for giant mutated monsters. Even though the premise about earth leaving its axis and heading straight towards the sun is scientifically incorrect, director Val Lewton (known for the “Quatermass” films) makes the climatic changes seem surprisingly believable. The viewer can almost sense the sweltering heat thanks to the use of real London Fleet Street locations, a talented and sweaty cast, stock footage, and a combination of black and white scoop photography with colored sequences.
Made during the beginning of the slasher boom in the early 1980s, “Don’t Go In The House” showcases many of the characteristics of this budding subgenre: gory special effects, misogynous violence, POV shots, and a victim of child abuse who grows up to become a sexually disturbed killer. Actor Dan Grimaldi (who went on to star in “The Sopranos”) plays a workman in an incinerator who, in his spare time, stalks women in dance halls and unleashes his pyromaniac temptations. The result is far from 'body count' crowd-pleasers such as “Friday the 13th” but rather a sinister psychodrama inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's ”Psycho” and William Lustig’s “Maniac”. This piece of nihilistic exploitation makes for an uneasy viewer experience, and it's the perfect antidote for December's omnipresent jolly Christmas cheer.