Hour of the Wolf

1968 Ingmar Bergman horror movie

Rating: 17/20

Plot: Troubled artist Johan shacks up with girlfriend Alma on bleak island. His insomnia worsens as his past haunts him and the other inhabitants of the island pay him visits. A 216-year-old woman tells Alma to read Johan's diary, and after she does, she realizes how tormented he is.

The most baffling thing about this baffling little gem is that the title screen doesn't appear until forty-seven minutes into the movie. This isn't your traditional horror flick. It's more disorienting than scary, more surreal than terrifying. And although there aren't monsters or ghosts roaming the island our protagonists are staying, it just doesn't feel like the other inhabitants of the island are entirely human. This is a movie that seems like it takes place not just in the subconscious but in the subconscious of a ghost. It's a stark glimpse at a mentally-disturbed mind, one troubled by a past we only get some peeks at. The artist's female companion is along for the ride, and the story unfolds in a way that puts us in her shoes. Put Hour of the Wolf in that category of movies that you feel more than you comprehend. And although it isn't traditionally scary, it is something I'd avoid watching alone at night. The brooding atmosphere, the way Bergman makes this expansive island with a sky that never ends feel claustrophobic and suffocating, the haunting imagery during the encounter with a boy on a rocky shore or the desolate castle corridors, the insane scene with the woman taking off her hat. Nightmare time, kids! This is thick with typical Bergman symbolism and has a sleepy structure, but it's well worth attempting to unwrap. Even without any werewolves in sight.

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