Mute Witness (1995)

Mute Witness

Directed by Anthony Waller [Other horror films: An American Werewolf in Paris (1997), Nine Miles Down (2009)]

This is a pretty mixed ride, and much of that due to the fact the film sort of switches up genres toward the end, going from a tense slasher-esque flick to an almost black comedy/crime movie.

That’s not entirely fair, though – the comedy, most of it black, wasn’t terrible, but given the first two-thirds of the film, I thought it was going a bit far. It’s going from horror to crime that bothered me, and although it made sense story-wise, I didn’t care for the shift.

Most of the movie is quite suspenseful. A long chase scene as a mute woman attempts to outwit two people who she saw murder someone. That sequence, especially the ending, was well-done, and the follow-up scene was too an elongated, albeit more peaceful, sequence, wrought with both confusion and frustration.

There wasn’t a bunch of gore here, but what there was ended up being fine. The biggest selling point, by far, is the suspense anyway, which the film does really well. But the last third of the film felt a lot like a crime movie, and the triumphant ending doesn’t erase the distaste I rather had of that portion.

Russian actress Marina Zudina (who is somewhat well-known in her home country) does really well here, playing a mute character in a rather dangerous situation. Fay Ripley and Evan Richards, though, contributed most of the black comedy, and like I said, I could have done without that addition. Really, Zudina should get the most props, by far – her performance here is excellent.

I like a lot of things about this movie. Like I said, the slasher-portion of the film is tense as hell, and until the movie shifts to a crime-feel, the movie was on it’s way to a way above average score. As it is, the final thirty minutes really didn’t do much for me, so while I still recommend the film, especially for 90’s horror, I wouldn’t call Mute Witness amazing.

7.5/10

Pikovaya dama (1916)

Pikovaya

Directed by Yakov Protazanov [Other horror films: Satana likuyushchiy (1917)]

This Russian flick (often known as Queen of Spades) comes to us a year before the Russian revolution, before the USSR came into power, and so it certainly feels historic when watching. But having seen it twice now, it really doesn’t leave that much an imprint on me.

The biggest problem, for me, at least, is that while the horror elements are there (apparitions, a man losing his mind, and the like), they come so late into the film to really make a positive difference. Which isn’t to say the story isn’t good before that, but it feels far more a drama than anything resembling even the 1910’s standards of horror.

Unfortunately, despite the well-done set up of the plot, this lack of horror early on is rather damaging. Utilizing flashbacks as a way to unfold the story was certainly fun (and perhaps even innovative), but after the first 15 minutes, the movie drags until around the last ten. Sure, the movie as a whole is just over an hour, so it’s not as though it drags for a long time, but it was still noticeable.

One thing Pikovaya dama did really well, though, is the score, which is superb. Suspenseful when it needs to be, the music in this flick was a real treat, and even during portions where I was less than enthralled, the music helped keep me engaged. The other high point was our main actor, Ivan Mozzhukhin, who did a perfectly enjoyable job throughout as a man obsessed with discovering a secret best left untouched.

The final showdown, as it was, lacked the suspense one would hope, and Pikovaya dama wraps up extraordinarily quickly, which was a bit of a let-down. Still, this is a movie I would recommend a fan of silents view once, as there are some clever and enjoyable parts to be found. As a horror flick, though, there’s not a whole lot to recommend this movie for.

5.5/10