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Okay, so a dude in a mask with a chainsaw is a pretty frightening scenario. But I reckon its Leatherface’s featureless visage, rather than his power tool, that generated the chills in ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ (1974).
Indeed, there are plenty of films that have done away with the lumberjack equipment and got us hiding behind the sofa purely with the creepiness of a hidden face.
I suppose we must be fairly attached to our facial features, because the uncanny feelings brought on by these alternative horror flicks make for sleepless nights ahead.
Opening with striking x-ray images of a talking skull, Teshigahara’s take on the ‘no face’ subgenre announces itself as a New Wave experiment that is as visually startling as it is disturbing.
Burned in an industrial accident, the first thing disfigured engineer Okuyama decides to do with his replacement face is seduce his own wife – without her recognising him.
Her eagerness to ‘cheat’ on Okuyama begins, for him, the descent into madness that we will see tends to accompany ‘face-offyness’ in the movies.
Maybe everyone wanted a new start in 1966, as the same year that ‘The Face of Another’ came out John Frankenheimer directed the expressionist new identity thriller, ‘Seconds’.
A bored middle-aged man pays a shady organization to give him a whole new identity – including a new, younger face and body (belonging, handily enough, to Hollywood heartthrob Rock Hudson).
Only once the surgery (including shots of a real-life rhinoplasty) is done and his dream life is underway, does our hero realize what a creepy predicament he’s got himself into.
This is one is all about the plot, so it’s difficult to describe without sharing a few spoilers. Suffice to say, there’s a mad (and actually quite hot) scientist, an imprisoned girl, a smattering of lunatics and criminals – and some backstreet identity reassignment.
One of Almodovar’s greatest films, it’s clearly not for the faint-hearted. But the dense plot, immaculate design and thrilling sense of danger make for a rewarding watch – if you can handle it!
Probably by now you’re craving the sight of a human face – a nose of the calibre of Tom Cruise’s for example, or a good pair of Jolie-esque lips?
Here’s three haunting movies that more or less allow their characters to keep their faces on.
I said “more or less”, okay?
The director of ‘Eyes without a Face’ knew the horror value of a mask: the most famous scene of his crime thriller ‘Judex’ sees the bird-headed guests of a masked ball watching each other with beady eyes shortly before an apparent murder takes place.
Films like Franju’s utilize the mysterious shadows of black-and-white cinematography to evoke our fear of the unknown in our own world.
‘Eyes without a Face’ wasn’t strange enough for you? How about an erotic thriller about a blind artist whose giant warehouse studio is entirely decorated with over-sized sculptures of various body parts?
Sensual, creepy, and just plain weird, ‘Blind Beast’ is a true work of art – but probably not one you want to watch with your parents. (Or children. Or girlfriend. Or anyone that worries about your eccentric behaviour).
“Children believe what we tell them. They have complete faith in us.” So begins Cocteau’s grown-up adaptation of the traditional fairytale.
The poet’s cinematic masterpiece has a fairytale magic that the borderline science-fiction of ‘Eyes without a Face’ does without. Achieved with camera tricks and artful set design, ‘La Belle et la Bête’ is a charmingly creepy place to hide for a couple of hours.
When you step back out into the real world after bingeing on a creepfest like this, things may look a little more… suspicious. Who’s the woman with the scarf around her face? Why won’t that guy take his motorcycle helmet off?
Maybe it’s wisest to stay in and binge a little more.
Are there any other great face transplant movies or films like ‘Eyes without a Face’ we need to see?
Let us know in the comments!
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