Monday, October 26, 2015

Horrors of October - The Stone Tape

The Stone Tape (1972)

An electronic research and development unit is embedded into a refurbished manor for their latest project only to be distracted by the haunted room down the hall. THE STONE TAPE comes courtesy from legendary sci-fi/horror writer Nigel Kneale, who's best known for his heady and subversive works such as the QUATERMASS serials. Here, he delves into a hypothetical phenomenon involving the appearance of ghosts and humans acting as vessels for information. I want to refrain from spoiling the surprise, even though the title pretty much explains it literally. The film also explores how the enthusiasm of scientific discovery in the modern age is a corrupting force; it leads the team to think more about the commercial aspect and how they all will be rich, how their corporate employer fears the global marketplace and demands immediate results to stay ahead of the curve, and ultimately causes the group to hit the gas pedal during the experimenting process until the true breaking point. But what really makes the teleplay a standout is the fact that it is pretty scary at times. The bloodcurdling phantom wail gets more and more unnerving with each bellow, the mixed reception to the results causes chaotic confusion, and the mentally spiraling out-of-control final act leads to a terrifying meet-up. Though this sounds all really good, the movie does struggle with its campy and dated look. The largely male team all wear gaudy clothing and sport funky hairdos, the head leader is a manly man who constantly likes to put down women as weaklings, and the special effects are woefully lame whenever the spirit briefly shows up. However, the most egregious element is the horrible racism: the English blokes always refer to their Japanese rivals by a racial slur, they like to repeatedly say "ah so!" when mocking them, and one hard-to-watch scene features the comical member of the team putting on buck teeth, stretching out his eyelids, and doing a routine like he's Krusty the Clown at a comedy club. I do wish to say you should definitely see this but if you simply don't like the British dialect, the style of 70's British television, and the xenophobia, it's very understandable.


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