GOTHIC

HOME REVIEWS FEO'S STUFF FEO AMANTE THEATER SCIENCE MOMENT UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHÉ ALERT
FEO FEED BACK?
NEWS?
SUBMISSIONS?
Read:
SUBMISSION
GUIDELINES

MOVIES
FEO AMANTE THEATER
My Short Films
LAST CALL

THE NIGHT MY MONSTER DIED
SCIENCE MOMENT
TOP TEN SCARY MOVIES
UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHÉ ALERT
RACIAL CLICHÉ RESPONSE
INTERVIEWS

STORY TIME

COMICS

CONS

HORRIBLE NEWS
Movies Nick Kaufman Review by
Nick Kauffman
Gothic
Bookmark and Share
IT HELPS
TIP JAR
GOTHIC - 1986
Vestron Pictures/Artisan Home Entertainment
Rating: USA: R

Ken Russell's (ALTERED STATES) 1986 celluloid freak-out GOTHIC has finally been released on DVD, albeit in a rather bare bones form, from Artisan Entertainment. So how does this film measure up after a decade and a half? Let's take a look.

We've all heard the story of how Mary Shelley (still Mary Godwin at the time), Percy Shelley and Lord Byron got together at Byron's Swiss home-in-exile, Villa Diodati, one fateful night, a night that resulted in the creation of not one but two classics of Romantic literature: Mary Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN and John Polidori's short story THE VAMPYRE, the granddaddy of vampire literature that inspired Bram Stoker's DRACULA by being the first to present a vampire not as a ghoul but as an aristocratic gentleman with a hidden dark side.

Russell imagines this culturally significant gathering quite differently from the way Ivan Passer presented it two years later in his film HAUNTED SUMMER. To Russell, that night was a horror story in itself.

Byron (Gabriel Byrne: STIGMATA, END OF DAYS, GHOST SHIP, long before he was suspected of being Keyser Söze), Percy (Julian Sands: WARLOCK, PHANTOM OF THE OPERA [1998]), Mary (Natasha Richardson: THE HANDMAID'S TALE), Mary's stepsister Claire Clairemont (Myriam Cyr: SPECIES 2) and Byron's friend and personal physician John Polidari (Timothy Spall: SWEENEY TODD) drink far too much laudanum and quickly grow tired of reading stale ghost stories to each other. Surely such talented writers could come up with their own, far better tales to tell? Seems a good and safe idea, right?

But Byron takes it one step further, suggesting they forego writing their tales of terror and actually bring those terrors to life through a séance. And that, as they say, is when the trouble starts. Have they truly raised a being from the pits of Hell to torment them, or have they simply imbibed too much laudanum?

Russell coaxes fine performances from the entire cast, though Byrne and Sands truly kick it into overdrive as the "live hard, die young" poets. Richardson's portrayal of Mary is spot on, as always; she's definitely an under appreciated talent on this side of the pond. Cyr's genuine likeability allows us to truly empathize with a character as annoyingly desperate and love-starved as Claire, and to fear for her safety when she goes over the edge. Spall's performance has just the right mix of smarm and obsequiousness to make Polidori vividly pitiful. Russell himself pulls out all the stops, making GOTHIC a feast for the eyes. Some of the hallucinatory scenes are breathtaking in their uncanniness, putting GOTHIC on visual par with his best known film, ALTERED STATES.

Though not absolutely necessary to your enjoyment of the film, it helps to know a little bit about these real-life characters beforehand: Byron had a club foot, was in love with his own sister Augusta and had a fear of leeches; Percy was a narcoleptic who feared premature burial; Polidori's story "The Vampyre" was his reaction to Byron's lothario nature; the idea for FRANKENSTEIN came to Mary in a dream where wind-up mechanical men played musical instruments.

The DVD itself is, as I mentioned, bare bones. Aside from a cute animated menu and the obligatory Scene Index, there are no extras whatsoever. The transfer looks like it was taped off the old VHS version, presented in 1.33:1 full frame format (which is okay, since the original film was a "matted" 1.85:1 widescreen, meaning you're not missing any of the picture when it's in full frame) with a rather dark picture for DVD and a few visible film scratches. In fact, this DVD is so sparse that it's almost not worth replacing your VHS. Almost, that is, except for the sound. Thomas (She Blinded Me with Science) Dolby's early electronica score roars to dissonant life on the digital soundtrack, and at last you can fully hear Stephen Volk's sometimes stilted dialogue, which was terribly muffled on the VHS version.

Fifteen years later, Russell's GOTHIC is quaintly dated, but still an enjoyable, self-indulgent romp through pretension and terror. It's not for everybody. It's a love it or hate it type of movie with strong potential to rub people the wrong way and some would say it's definitely best viewed, as Ken Russell might put it, in an Altered State.

Three Shriek Girls

Shriek GirlsShriek GirlsShriek Girls
This review copyright 2002 E.C.McMullen Jr.

Gothic (1986) on IMDb Bookmark and Share

Return to Movies

FEO AMANTE'S HORROR THRILLER Created by:
E.C.MULLEN JR.
COME FOLLOW ME -
AMAZON
BLOG
DEVIANT ART
ECMJR - PORTFOLIO
FACEBOOK
IMDB
PANDORA
ROTTEN TOMATOES
STAGE32
TWITTER
YOUTUBE

 

DVD


TRIVIA
Here's a fun trivia fact: the beast they may or may not have conjured, during the few scenes where it's shown, is played by Kiran Shah, a renowned stuntman whose work was last seen in
THE LORD OF THE RINGS:
THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING.

 

FROM
E.C. McMullen Jr.
WILLOW BLUE
KINDLE

"'Willow Blue' will burrow under your skin and stay there long after you've put the book down."
- Jeffrey Reddick, Creator of FINAL DESTINATION

PERPETUAL BULLET
PAPERBACK

"'Some People' ... may be the standout story in the book."
- John Grant, 2 time Hugo Winner and creator of Infinityplus

ALSO

E.C. McMullen Jr.'s
short story
CEDO LOOKED LIKE PEOPLE
in the anthology
FEAR THE REAPER
PAPERBACK
"This Ray Bradbury-esque is one of the most memorable and one of the more original stories I've read in a long time."
- Reviewer, Amazon
I will take you home...Feo Amante's Horror Home Page, Feo Amante's Horror Thriller, and feoamante.com are owned and
Copyright 1997 - 2015 by E.C.McMullen Jr.
FAIR USE - PRIVACY POLICY - OWNERSHIP - CONTACT
All images and text belong to E.C.McMullen Jr. unless otherwise noted.
All fiction stories belong to their individual authors.