For Reel

Dead of Night (1945)
November 4, 2014, 3:29 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , , , , ,

Director(s): Alberto Cavalcanti, Robert Hamer, Charles Crichton & Basil Dearden
4.5 Stars
Dead of NightThe enduring reputation of Britain’s Ealing Studios may be inextricably linked to its post-war comedies, but one should not overlook their involvement in the most revered of the horror portmanteau films: Dead of Night. While the picture is not completely humorless (one of the sequences is almost exclusively comedic), the film largely succeeds through its growing sense of dread. In the framing story, a man has the uncanny feeling that he has experienced the happenings of the story before in a nightmare. Usually in this type of narrative, the return to the storyteller relieves the audience of the tension that is built up in each of the episodes. That is, the familiarity of the real, present world is meant to be welcoming. Having the framing plot in this film involve an impending horror–a horror which all of the characters are aware of and openly discuss–means that the tension is unrelenting. In this instance, then, each of the disturbing tales are a distraction from the true horror of the situation. The way that the sense of anxiety escalates in this context is rather brilliant, and the climax that it all leads up to doesn’t let down.

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