Monday, September 17, 2012

Creepy Fall: "Dark August" (1976)

J.J. Barry escapes the rat race of the big city and ends up in a Vermont artists' colony.

He has a new girlfriend, and has taken up sketching. He has also attracted the wrath of a local elderly man. Barry accidentally ran over his granddaughter. The old man has put a curse on him.

As Barry tries to get on with his life, he keeps seeing a hooded figure in the woods. He also experiences chest pains, and his girlfriend's brother gets hurt while helping to build a new artist's studio. Enter Kim Hunter, the local town witch who tries to remove the curse. As sides are drawn between Barry's side and the old man, a major character is killed and the finale...well, leaves something to be desired.

You may not know J.J. Barry's name, but you probably know his face as he has been in many films, usually playing a mobster. He cowrote the screenplay, and does a fine job of making us sympathize with his character. Goldman's direction is especially good, with some good angles and a lack of noisy musical score. The opening credits show a farmhouse against a sunset, and all the viewer hears is the wind. He returns to these types of quiet scenes often, and they work. The hooded figure scenes are chilling and creepy.

I was disappointed with the film's lack of intensity. This does slow here and there. I would have liked to see more: more violence, more gore, and more "what the hell is going on?"-type emotion.

When Kim Hunter appears on the scene, everyone just sort of lines up and follows everything she says to do. Hunter is also an enigma, purporting to be a witch, but saying the Lord's Prayer in incantations. I know from Bible study that witchcraft and Christianity usually do not go hand in hand.

"Dark August" was filmed in Stowe, Vermont, and was made in the mid 1970's. This was before the slasher era, when horror films had to rely on basic story, acting, and atmosphere. (* * * *) out of five stars.