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A Classic Horror Story is a movie that has stood the test of time. It is a rare feat indeed to find a movie that both anticipates and defies the genre. A Classic Horror Story is about as old as they come. In many ways it is a delicate act between appreciation and criticism and simply tacking on enough sub-textual information to make the film work is asking for trouble. With such a powerful title and a cleverly written, artful logline, you'd expect a more marked degree of tribute to vintage horror movies in store for anyone looking to follow up on the footsteps of Pennywise. Unfortunately, this isn't quite the case with Tim Burton's latest venture, which instead strikes out with an impressively wide range of references to a whole raft of different genres beyond the horror film.
The premise behind A Classic Horror Story is a simple one, but the execution is exemplary. Milla Jovovich plays the role of the villainous Pennywise, a former student of Dr. Abraham van Helsing (Wes Cage) and owner of an occult shop called The Clue. Naturally, the existence of the demonic realm referenced by name and illustration in the title requires an explanation. These entities are spawned from the darker recesses of the universe and are the spawn of a being known as the Omega point, a being which exists at the very foundation of all existence and which exists entirely outside of our comprehension. It is from this source that the Omega point crafts their creatures, and these creatures are truly horrifying.
In this first installment of the "Pikey" series, the introduction of the novel's central character is treated in great detail. A classic horror story always begins with the reveal of the villain, and in this case we learn that the villain is played by none other than Pennywise, played by Milla Jovovich. The look on Pennywise's face as he describes his motives for possessing the human child is priceless. I would be remiss if I did not include the scene in this review where the child first sees Pennywise for the first time, and this moment is one of the scariest moments of the movie I have ever seen, hands down.
The other aspect of this film that makes it a classic horror story is the acting. It is absolutely top notch and the performances are simply magnificent. No list of Italian movies would be complete without mentioning the incredible work ethic of its actors, which include the likes of Mario Puzo, Mario Lanza, Ettore Giugni, Elisario D'avola, Giancarlo Gabbana, Fabio Di Carola, and Fabio Frizza. The late Elisario D'Avola definitely makes his presence feel, with his calm and collected manner of speaking, as he provides the same level of wisdom and analysis as he does in the novel.
I would also like to mention the director, Walter S. Lowe, who is widely recognized as one of the most innovative and imaginative movie directors of all time. In terms of the movie itself, The Squid and the Sea are a very distinctive film that utilizes many different styles and genres in its presentation. When reading this article, I wanted to focus on the storyline and how the climax of the movie really builds up to the very thrilling and memorable ending that it features. Most people who read the book to find themselves becoming very frustrated by the lack of payoff at the end of the book, but I find that the book's climax is so incredibly thrilling that I often found myself reading the conclusion in a single day because I simply didn't know what to do with the characters left alive at the end of the book. The climax is just about perfect for what the movie delivers on, with a story that is very gripping from beginning to end.
The climax of the movie involves a number of different subplots, including a Chinese medicine practitioner, a janitor, an escaped slave, a disfigured man discovered in a drain, and a trio of Chinese women who become key characters in the story. All of these parts are incredibly well done, as they create a sense of dread throughout the movie. The masks, the Chinese women wear are truly amazing in their design, as they give them an appearance almost like that of the masks created by the Chinese emperors hundreds of years ago. These ladies, along with the Chinese medicine man, are some of the major highlights of the movie, as they help make The Squid and the Sea a classic horror story that is very memorable from start to finish.