Mystery Horror Theater with Leif and Dubs: Episode VI

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Welcome back to our dankly darkly lit theater of terror, where all of your worst nightmares come true, or something, maybe. Your friendly neighborhood Stockhausen is guesting on this edition with a slight variation on the usual Mystery Horror format. These shorts aren’t categorically what you might call horror, but I made a point to seek out short films that are bizarrely unsettling in a different way. “Perfidy!” you cry. “This close to Halloween, and we must endure something other than true horror?!” “Keep it down!” your mother responds from upstairs. “And get off of that weird website!”

First up is Jiri Barta’s Golem, a trailer version of what the Czech animator originally intended to be a feature length film. The full project is in limbo due to financial issues (learn more in this interview with Barta), but this seven-minute version still displays a masterful mixing of live action, animation, and stop-motion techniques to create a haunting and unsettling work. The old man’s distorted visions get progressively more warped until reality is melting and crumbling away, and Barta’s use of silence, whispers, and background noises instead of music adds to the profound sense of detachment from reality.


Speaking of reality being warped, check out Outer Space. Using footage from the 1982 film The Entity, Peter Tscherkassky absolutely assaults the viewer with a barrage of brilliant editing techniques. The film strips and soundtrack appear to be mangled, mutilated, and mashed until they can barely manage to communicate a twisted story of a woman being tormented by an unknown assailant. The 10-minute film is not an easy watch and starts with a slow build, but if you’re a fan of power electronics and would like to experience that in visual form (and don’t have epilepsy, seriously), click full screen and let your brain get scrambled. The intense sequence of the woman attacking back at 7:35 is well worth the wait.


 

Lastly, I give you Thanatopsis, the 1962 experimental short from Ed Emshwiller and my favorite of the bunch. “Thanatopsis” is a Greek word meaning “a meditation on death,” and the audience can only guess at what sort of pondering is happening inside the head of the silent man on screen. His thoughtful stillness is juxtaposed against the frantically sped-up footage of a dancing woman, creating a harrowing tension aided by the soundtrack of a heartbeat and power saws. I think that’s about all I need to say about this one, so go ahead and click play.

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