January 20, 2012

Favorite Death Scenes Part 2

When I first witnessed the opening scene of Dario Argento's Phenomena (1985) back when I was sixteen years old, about ten years after the film was made, it left me dazed, stunned and astonished. A mix of strange and interesting visuals, set to the music of Bill Wyman and Terry Taylor's "The Valley", this scene was at first a slow boil that eventually erupted into an intense, psychotic and unnerving murderous situation. Fitting was the title of the film, as I had viewed it at the time under the CUT US VHS Retitled Version known as "Creepers". Especially so since this was a Creeper of a scene, and I myself that fateful night was tripping off some very heavy Creeper Green, twisting my mentality and thus thrusting me headlong into the fucked up aura that is the world of Dario Argento. This was the third Argento film I had seen, after UNCUT duped versions of Deep Red and Tenebrae. But enough about me (again)... welcome to Part 2 of Death!

Vera Brandt (Dario Argento's beautiful other daughter, Fiore) is out on a school trip with her class in the Swiss Countryside, when she somehow gets separated from the group and is left behind. Even though she waves them down (and not to mention the bus turns completely around to go down hill and they still don't see her), this poor girl is left out in the deepening cold emptiness of the Swiss winds. Let's learn a lesson from the Swiss, shall we?

That's when the music kicks in. The credits roll as we pass over the trees, accompanied by one of the greatest soundtrack compositions ever created. Vera, lost, alone and stranded in the cold, wipes the tears from her eyes. And while it is some saddening stuff, the vibe is getting creepier by the second. That's when she notices a lone house far in the distance.

The camera follows closely behind as this young girl makes here way down the isolated road towards the house. The ominous music spells nothing other than complete lonesomeness and horrifying impending death, but the viewer can do nothing more than look on with excited interest. As she approaches the house, we see that someone is spying on her every action and behavior. And that's when the chains screwed into the walls begin to get tugged furiously. What in the fuck!?

"Hello! Is anyone home?" she cries. Chains rattle once more while someone looks at this cute girl through a window. What's with the chains? Could someone possibly be chained up somewhere in the house and spying on her at the same time? That seems rather unlikely. There's a great panning shot from behind as Vera walks trough the strange empty house. "Is anyone home? I'm a foreigner, unt I'm lost!" One of my favorite lines from the film.

Now that it's off the chain, some complete and utter madness is no doubt about to go down. As this lost young girl wanders aimlessly around the seemingly empty building, something creeps up behind her and throws chains around her neck! Yes, the very chains that were ripped out of the wall. During the struggle to remove the binding metal around her neck, a table is accidentally knocked over and scissors pierce the floor boards.

As this frightened young girl attempts to run away in fear and open the door, she's furiously stabbed through the hand with the sharp old-school instrument. She screams in panic as she looks upon her wounded left hand and whimpers before pulling the scissor blade out of her flesh. A fantastic sequence.

Cut to her exiting the building in a timely fashion, post haste, holding her injured palm and running like fuck! She's creaming... excuse me... screaming in agony and fearing for her very life. There seems to be some weird shit going on which doesn't make sense at first... but perhaps it might not later on, either. Let's just sit back and enjoy the weirdly exciting scene of the hot chick being violently slaughtered. Smiley face.

She goes running through these rocky corridors above flowing waterfalls and a rapidly gushing lake, screaming for about what seems like three full minutes! Probably more. Her eyeballs are darting all over the place every time she turns around and screams. Whatever is about to happen to her can't be good, but now I'm just stating the obviousness. Notice in the picture below that she seems to be looking up at someone right before she gets stuck.

She screams like a dumb bitch and then spreads her arms wide open, also like a dumb bitch, allowing whoever or whomever or whatever to stab this chick with some scissors in the gut area. Did they say "Freeze!"? Put your hands up! Done in by scissors, ain't that some shit. What happens next is one of the greatest moments in Dario's many slow-motion artisan shots. Using his always special and experimental camera and film techniques, he gets the better frame rate to see his little girl get hit square in the face with glass, glass and more glass before she dies.

It really is one outstanding scene. A thing of beauty. And left me speechless the first time.
All I could feel was a tingling inside myself. I came.

Her head is later hacked off (presumably not by the pair of scissors that had initially done her in) and drops off of a cliff into the white water rapids. Or is that green water rapids? It makes a really cool squishy sound when she's beheaded too. Pqwht! Thus delivering her pretty little head into the red water rapids below. We also get a blink or you'll miss it scene of her body's reflection in the lake being dragged away. The head however, is found some eight and a half months later.

Some time later...

"When a dead body is exposed to the elements, sooner or later it's eaten up by insects. First comes the common fly... lays its eggs in the rotting corpse. And thus the cycle begins. In the case of this head, the cycle not only seems to be complete, but to have been repeated!"

Larvae... of the great sarcophagus.

Gotta love it.


Malibu Express said...

When you think about (and I don't mean for this scene alone) you really have to ask just what the hell was/is wrong with Dario? Not that I don't love the guy and his movies, but killing off your kids and wife in movies (not to mention some of the nekkid stuff with Asia in his flicks) is kinda messed up.

Always wondered why Phenomena was sort of overlooked when compared to a lot of his stuff from that era. I always dug it and the death scenes - like this one - were really cool.

Good post, man.

- Aaron

DrunkethWizerd said...

Well, I guess filming and faking it is a lot better than just flat out doing the real deed... which a lot of people do these days and in the past as well.

I think Dario Argento is making comments on real life, man. Fucked up shit happens all the time. Perhaps he and his family were comfortable enough to portray this. Though he's been divorced for a while, they're really still together in spirit. And his daughters adore him.

I can see how it looked weird at the time, but if you think about it all as a family collaboration in the movie business then really what's so horrible? So he filmed his daughter and wife naked and/or being murdered.

Who doesn't do that shit from time to time? Give me a video camera or whatever new tech their using these days and let me PLAY FOR KEEPS!


Aaron said...

Great death scene from my favorite Dario Argento movie. I prefer the spear-through-the-mouth death scene myself, but this one still ranks up there as one of Argento's best kills.

Maynard Morrissey said...

Great post about one of the greatest opening scenes in European horror history. It's scenes like this that make us love Dario so much :)

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