Medical Horror Film Season

Four films exploring our darkest fears about objectification, fragmentation and intersection:

  • Weds 11 May: Coma (Michael Crichton, 1978)
  • Tues 24 May: Les Yeux Sans Visage [Eyes Without a Face] (Georges Franjou, 1960)
  • Weds 1 June: Dead Ringers (David Cronenberg, 1989)
  • Mon 13 June: American Mary (Soska Sisters, 2013)

All films start at 6pm, Birkbeck Cinema, 43 Gordon Square, WC1H 0PD. (For more information on the venue, please click here).
All welcome, no registration, free admission.

Films will be introduced by Lisa Mullen and notes provided.

Session 1:

COMA (Michael Crichton, 1978)

Weds 11 May, 6pm, Birkbeck Cinema

Review of the film:

“Crichton’s excellent adaptation of Robin Cook’s novel is one of the most intelligent sci-fi thrillers in years. Bujold is the doctor who, after a series of mysterious and fatal mishaps with patients going into coma for no clear reason, begins to suspect that something evil is being covered up at the hospital. A simple enough story, but one told in such chilling fashion that visitors to hospitals will never feel the same again. Careful to establish an authentic atmosphere, Crichton only slowly lets events spiral off into nightmarish Hitchcockian fantasy, while the fact that nobody will believe Bujold, attributing her suspicions to female hysteria, only serves to point up the patriarchal nature of the medical profession. See it and worry.”
– Geoff Andrew

Session 2:

LES YEUX SANS VISAGE (Georges Franjou,1960)
Tues 24 May, 6pm, Birkbeck Cinema

Review of the film:
“An incredible amalgam of horror and fairytale in which scalpels thud into quivering flesh and the tremulous heroine (Scob) remains a prisoner of solitude in a waxen mask of eerie, frozen beauty. Having crashed the car which destroyed her face, her doctor father (Brasseur) feverishly experiments with skin grafts, each failure requiring his devoted assistant (Valli) to prowl the Latin Quarter in search of another suitable ‘donor’. Finally, despair breeds madness and rebellion, erupting in an extraordinary sequence where the victim looses the dogs from the doctor’s vivisection chambers to turn on their common torturer. Illuminated throughout by Franju’s unique sense of poetry – nowhere more evident than in the final shot of Scob wandering free through the night, her mask discarded but her face seen only by the dogs at her feet and the dove on her shoulder – it’s a marvellous movie in the fullest sense.”

– Tom Milne

Session 3:

DEAD RINGERS (David Cronenberg, 1989)

Weds 1st June, 6pm, Birkbeck Cinema

Review of the film:

“Cronenberg’s emotionally devastating study of the perverse relationship between identical twin gynaecologists, Beverly and Elliot Mantle, is an intense psychological drama which confronts his familiar preoccupations – fear of physical and mental disintegration, mortality, the power struggle between the sexes – without the paradoxical protection of visceral disgust. Instead, the abstract, expressionist imagery synthesises the physical and the mental. Courtesy of clever, unobtrusive trick camerawork, Irons gives a superlative performance as both twins. The delicate symbiotic balance between the brothers is suddenly upset by the eruption into their lives of hedonistic actress Claire (Bujold). As always, they share everything, including Claire, until Beverly realises that he has at last found something he does not want to share, and he is plunged into a whirlpool of emotional confusion; when Elliot tries to help, he too is sucked into the vortex of pain and despair. Likewise, Cronenberg pulls us deeper and deeper into his harrowing tale of separation and loss, the disturbing, cathartic power of which leaves one drained but exhilarated.”

– Nigel Floyd

Session 4:

AMERICAN MARY (Soska Sisters, 2013)

Mon 13 June, 6pm, Birkbeck Cinema

Review of the film:
“Once in a while, a mould-breaking horror movie signals the arrival of a unique talent: doubly so in this case, since this bracingly perverse ‘body modification’ tale was made by Canadian twins Jen and Sylvia Soska, aka the Twisted Sisters. When her medical studies are ended by a trauma that shatters her life and career, Mary (Katharine Isabelle) finds herself moonlighting as the surgeon of choice for ‘body mod’ extremists such as Ruby Realgirl (Paula Lindberg), who seeks doll-like perfection by having all traces of her sexuality sliced off. Mary is then befriended by surgically altered Betty Boop-lookalike Beatress Johnson (Tristan Risk), embraced by the marginal ‘body mod’ community and empowered to take scalpel-wielding revenge on Dr Grant (David Lovgren), the man who destroyed her dreams. Unlike the Twisted Sisters’ derivative fan-girl debut, ‘Dead Hooker in a Trunk’ (2009), this sexy, scalpel-sharp feminist horror movie is driven by credible, fleshed-out characters and scarily seductive ideas. ‘American Mary’ nods savvily to the ‘body horror’ of ‘Audition’ and ‘Dead Ringers’ but still possesses a truly original, deeply disturbing vision.”
– Nigel Floyd


Image displayed above: Facial muscles (detail), from Jacques Fabien Gautier d’Agoty, Myologie complette en couleur et grandeur naturelle (Gautier Paris 1746-1748) Plate II.

Credit: Wellcome Library, London, L0023739

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *