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Baker's Dozen

The Count Of 13: Ramsey Campbell's Weird Selection
Sean Kitching , May 6th, 2020 09:26

In a Baker's Dozen diversion, writer Ramsey Campbell guides Sean Kitching through 13 favourite pieces of weird culture, from film to opera and literature, via David Lynch, Arthur Machen and more


Carl Dreyer - Vampyr
Vampyr is unique as a supernatural movie. Is it quite a horror film? I think it probably is. It certainly has moments that convey a sense of eerie dread, but I think the real thing that makes it so extraordinary is the sense of the uncanny as being omnipresent, almost mundane. Nobody seems to be particularly startled when they see shadows walking along with nobody casting them. Or reflections in a lake where nothing is on the river bank. Vampyr is more like Robert Aickman’s use of the fantastic. It’s present in the narrative, it’s not quite magical realism, because the tone still conveys something of innate strangeness but it’s somewhere halfway between the two. I also think that Vampyr’s very much of a companion piece to Dreyer’s film Ordet, even though that’s theoretically a Christian movie. That miracle at the end is so far beyond anything you ordinarily see in a religious film that it almost seems to push it into the mystical and the fantastic. To that extent I think that Vampyr and Ordet are products of the same sensibility. I’m also reminded of another film, by Jacques Tourneur, of Night Of The Demon fame - I Walked With A Zombie, which is probably the most delicate treatment of the dark supernatural in Hollywood. Very gentle, yet eerie. But at the same time, he goes on to make a film like Stars In My Crown, which has a Christian miracle in it, but the tone and the subtlety of how that’s presented is exactly the tone of how voodoo is presented in I Walked With A Zombie. There’s very much an affinity for the supernatural, wherever it may occur, whether it’s in the numinous and religious, or something other than that. I think those two directors have that in common, that I can’t think of in much else of cinema.