For Reel

The Reptile (1966)
June 12, 2016, 11:26 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: John Gilling
3.5 Stars
The ReptileAlthough it is often overshadowed by Plague of the Zombies, which shares the same director and much of the cast (that film was shot back-to-back with this one), The Reptile is an affecting chiller that hearkens back to the atmospheric Val Lewton horror films of the 1940s. As with Cat People, it concerns a horrific human/animal hybrid, and its horror is very much tied to the femininity of one of the protagonists—killing plays as if it were the result of a woman’s sexual awakening. Aside from just the plot similarities, like the Lewton film it is similarly interested in developing a psychosexual mystery, with tensions creeping into the picture not just by the visceral scares, but by the intriguing interpersonal relationships that populate the picture. The real teases of the horrors to come happen in the dialogue and suggestion, not in the gruesome images. As far as the latter goes, The Reptile is less gory than one would anticipate from a Hammer picture, and indeed the effects are more dated than typical. Much of the climax falls flat due to how routine and unspectacular it is compared to the nicely paced build up. And yet, if the monster that gives The Reptile its name is a disappointment, what the film does right is the way it makes the scenes with the human-form of the monster (played by Jacqueline Pearce) feel genuinely unsettling through the use of editing and lighting. A bizarre sequence in which Pearce plays the sitar is rendered suspenseful through the cutting, suggesting a invasiveness of Eastern culture on Great Britain—as is typical of the genre, it mines a real-world anxiety (the fear of the “other”) for its own spectacular thrills.