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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Gothic Hugger-Mugger

August 27th, 2019 | Robin

Ken and Robin Consume Media is brought to you by the discriminating and good-looking backers of the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Patreon. Each week we provide capsule reviews of the books, movies, TV seasons and more we cram into our hyper-analytical sensoriums. Join the Patreon to help pick the items we’ll talk about in greater depth on a little podcast segment we like to call Tell Me More.

Recommended

The Deadly Trap (Film, France, Rene Clement, 1971) A bipolar mom (Faye Dunaway) loses her grip on reality; meanwhile, a shadowy conspiracy pressures her husband (Frank Langella) to return to his former physics career. A basic paranoia thriller on a textual level, shot and staged with a subjective, gauzy menace that wouldn’t be at all out of place in a work of weird horror.—RDL

Hag’s Nook (Fiction, John Dickson Carr, 1933) The Starberth heir must spend the night in the haunted prison where his ancestor Governor Starberth died of a broken neck — and guess what happens to him! In this first Doctor Fell mystery, Carr unleashes all his love of Gothic hugger-mugger while keeping the plot and the detection under fine control. Although he would get even better in the next decade, this established Carr as the last great Golden Age detective author. –KH

Good

Occult (Film, Japan, Koji Shiraishi, 2009) Faux documentary follows Shiraishi’s investigation of a seemingly random resort stabbing and the web of paranormal reality behind it. Influenced by Lovecraft (especially “From Beyond”) its mix of weird and mundane horror would probably work more effectively with better special effects in one or two key scenes, but still ambitious, personal, and strange, all good things. –KH

That Guy Dick Miller (Film, US, Elijah Drenner, 2014) Loving documentary portrait of iconic genre character actor, who brought a unique mix of energy and authenticity to the films of Roger Corman and his directorial proteges.—RDL

Where’d You Go, Bernadette (Film, US, Richard Linklater, 2019) Agoraphobic, misanthropic, blocked architect Bernadette Fox (Cate Blanchett) jumps out a window rather than face her life; her husband (Billy Crudup) and daughter (Emma Nelson) try to find her. Whipsaws tonally between an interesting take on “naturalist Wes Anderson film” and standard-issue family dramedy. Blanchett’s big, loud performance doesn’t really join the disparate bits, but her and Nelson’s chemistry keep you invested. –KH

Okay

The Scapegoat (Film, UK, Robert Hamer, 1959) Despondent university professor (Alec Guinness) meets an identical stranger, a cash-strapped French count, who tricks him into assuming his identity and carrying on his complicated family life. Unhurried pacing and Guinness’ unflappable persona dull the suspense in a contemporary gothic adapted from a Daphne DuMaurier novel.—RDL

Stranger Things Season 3 (Television, US, Netflix, The Duffer Brothers, 2019) The dirty Russkies have re-opened the gate to the Upside Down, as the Mind Flayer recuperates in Hawkins and our heroes get weirdly adolescent-looking all of a sudden. The Duffers badly endanger one of the two strongest features of the series — its tone — in this all-over-the-map tribute to 1985. Directing David Harbour to shout 85% of his lines is only the biggest offender as the series also plays fast and loose with its other strength, its characters. It’s still a high Okay, but like most 80s franchises, the third installment markedly suffers by comparison to its progenitors. –KH

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