rooms of gloom

i am an avowed fan of artist/illustrator edward gorey, his black humor and his macabre, victorian sensibilities. his wordless mystery, the west wing, is probably my favorite of his works. it's a bit of an odd choice, as i typically enjoy his devotion to old dark dictionaries as much as old dark houses, but what moves this one to the top of the list is the peculiar atmosphere it maintains throughout. what makes it so beguiling is the fact that every action depicted is never truly the point. each frame is perplexing not directly because of what's in it, but because what's in it points to a much greater mystery that has either just happened or is about to happen. here's a brief slide show so you can get a sense of what i mean.

it is rife with odd tension and the constant implication, if not the outright presence, of horror. the anticipation, the unknown, the lack of understanding or control - these are the things that leave us with the most dread in our hearts. one of the most valuable lessons i have ever gleaned from cinema comes from the pope of greenwich village (1984). it was something that mickey rourke told eric roberts just before they took his thumb - nothing ever hurts like you think it will. the west wing rides that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach to the end of the line. there is nothing to do except ponder what cruel fates and unwelcome visitations might be taking place in its drafty rooms. we are never afforded an explanation. as a result, our imaginations are allowed to run rampant, which everyone knows is far more frightening than anything he could have put on the page. some of the most effective entries in the canon of horror/thriller cinema prey on our imaginations in exactly the same way. the shower scene in psycho (1960) is probably the most well known example. every time i see it, i am taken by surprise at how much of it is simply suggestion. the most graphic parts of the scene live in my head. the fear lives in my head. even that scene, though, is much less subtle than what i came here to talk about today. effective as it is at planting the vividness of marion's destruction in our heads, it is still a sudden, violent burst. what i find most chilling is simply the void. an empty room is the scariest room. a loud noise is here and gone quickly but the menace of a quiet room sits with you, waits, will always outlast your nerve. i know the anticipation is killing you, so here are some of my favorite moments in film that give your imagination room to do its job, a cinematic west wing.

we do hope you have enjoyed your stay.

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