Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Film Review: Gothic (1986)

Gothic (Review)
United Kingdom/1986
Format Watched For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...a difficult film to recommend..."

The Shelley's visit eccentric Lord Byron’s (Gabriel Byrne) estate and find themselves dealing with their innermost nightmares...

Gothic follows this small group consisting of Lord Byron, his physician, poet Percy Shelley, his future wife Mary Godwin, and her half-sister Claire Clairmont as they spend a night in Lord Byron's villa. They tell ghost stories and confess their deepest demons, which causes a night of nightmares and terror. Honestly, not much really happens in the story. In fact, the latter half of the film really consists of this group wandering the halls of this ominous home and attempting to stop whatever they have awoken. Convoluted and somewhat uneventful, Gothic leads to an interesting climax and a decent ending – it's not perfect or definitive, much like the rest of the film, but it is satisfactory.

The story is okay. I didn't think it was all-that good, but it was also far from bad. It just seemed to be uneventful and often blatantly boring. The story suffers more from the convoluted storytelling. To be completely honest, I couldn't give you a definitive explanation for most of the film if I tried -- maybe it is confusing, or maybe I'm stupid (let me know in the comments. But, don't call me stupid. Okay, you can call me stupid.) Gothic ultimately feels very messy when it comes down to the actual plot. I appreciate the attempt at connecting this night of terror to the creation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, but it just doesn't land for me.

This is unfortunate, too, considering I am a big fan of visual-heavy films. I love films that venture into the nightmarish territories – films that create surreal atmospheres through visuals and taboo themes. Gothic has a lot of that, and I liked most of it. In fact, the visuals are a saving grace for an otherwise boring and uneventful story – as previously mentioned. But, a film simply can't be fully redeemed by awesome visuals -- it just can't. So, it helps, but not nearly enough.

The acting is okay by 80s horror standards. I think the cast nails it at times, like Gabriel Byrne, but they tend to overact often, too. The film looks great, though; I loved the cinematography and the camerawork, I especially loved the lighting; this further amplifies the great nightmarish visuals I mentioned earlier, and helps create an ominous atmosphere for the rest of the film. Gothic has a soundtrack that I would love to hear on its own; with the film, it tends to create an inconsistent mood – it's adventurous and exciting one second, then terrifying, then back to fun. I like Ken Russell's direction, I feel like he did well in crafting the visuals and the atmosphere of the film, as well as a great job screen direction and performances; however, I think the writing is bad – I wasn't a big fan of the story or the storytelling.

Overall, Gothic is a mediocre film. The story is interesting, but it is also uneventful, occasionally confusing, and often boring. The visuals help create some terror and help create an immersive atmosphere, but it's more eye-candy than substance. I think Ken Russell builds a great atmosphere and captures the madness well, but the screenwriting and the story hold him back. It's a difficult film to recommend, but I think it might be a film that gets better with a second viewing.

Score: 4/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood, sex and nudity.

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