Kingdom of Shadows

Synopsis: Narrated by Academy Award(tm) Winner Rod Steiger (In the Heat of the Night, On the Waterfront, The Loved One), KINGDOM OF SHADOWS is a haunting, sometimes shocking documentary that explores the evolution of horror in world cinema-a danse macabre of religion, science, carnivals, sex, nightmares, monstrosity and death.

More than fifty thrillers (the best-known as well as the most obscure) are surveyed, including Nosferatu, The Golem, Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages, The Student of Prague, Electrocuting an Elephant, The Phantom of the Opera, Dante’s Inferno, The Bells, Waxworks, Warning Shadows, and Leaves from Satan’s

KINGDOM OF SHADOWS explores the sources of our fears and reveals the birth of the frightful conventions from which the modern-day horror movie has evolved, including the menacing shadows of the German Expressionists, the sympathetic monsters of Lon Chaney (“The Man of a Thousand Faces”) and the psychological terrors envisioned by Edgar Allan Poe. Essential viewing for every aficionado of silent movies or classic horrors, KINGDOM OF SHADOWS illuminates one of the most fascinating chapters of film history.
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Kingdom of Shadows 6.0

As a documentary on “the rise of the horror film” (as the box art purports), this is pretty feeble. Aside from its style, which is somewhat rooted in Rod Steiger’s anemic yet theatrical delivery, there’s not much substance here.

It provide no concrete answers – only examples and samples. And the examples are extremely weak in that they keep culling from the same well all the time. I mean, how many times can a documentary refer to ‘Häxan’ (itself a fake documentary on witchcraft) before it becomes a parody?

Furthermore, it follows a non-linear form: instead of gradually showing the rise of the hooror genre, it bundles many elements of the horror genre and then proceeds to provide bits from films that contains these elements. Pathetic, really.

It’s almost as though this “documentary” was meant to entertain more than inform. Which it did. But style can only take one so far; I was grateful that it was only 70 mins long, and even napped halfway through.

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