Tuesday, April 24, 2007

THE TINGLER (1959)

Fear 0 - 5: 0
Gore 0 - 5: 1
Creepiness 0 - 5: 0
Entertainment 0 - 5: 5
Nightmare 0 - 5: 0
By today's standards The Tingler is of more interest as a historical piece than a horror film. Nothing is remotely frightening about this late 50's black and white film, save for perhaps a middle scene involving a bathtub of bright red blood with a hand reaching from it. The premise is fantastic however and I am surprised David Cronenberg hasn't remade the film.
Vincent Price plays a doctor who does research on fear. He is convinced that when someone dies from fright an organism within our bodies feeds on that fear, growing in size until it attaches itself to the spine and crushes it, resulting in death. He dubs this creature "The Tingler". The organism can be killed if the victim screams, a process that releases the fear and cuts off the parasite's food supply. To test his theories, Price conducts a few goofy experiments including convincing his wife he is about to kill her, utilizing a deaf-mute who cannot scream and taking a whopping dose of LSD to induce the fear within himself ("must not...scream...must...not...SCREAM!").
As a storyline, the film already has won me over with it's blend of schlocky pseudo-science and misinformed psycho-babble. But director William Castle (of House on Haunted Hill fame) ups the ante even more by introducing the "Percepto" gimmick where tiny vibrating machines were installed onto the seats of the theaters the film showed at. At the film's climax, the Tingler is let loose into a movie theater. Price cuts the lights in the theater, the screen goes black, and Price loudly informs the "audience" that the Tingler is in the theater at which time the vibrating buzzers installed on the seats went off to the sound of fake audience members screaming in terror on screen. To add to this, fake nurses and actors pretending to faint were planted into the audience at larger theaters. The end result is about as entertaining as a movie can get.
Rent The Tingler to watch with friends on a Friday night. The dialogue is crisp and sharp, the acting well done and the production value high for a 1950's B-movie. It won't scare you, but it's pretty damn fun to act out your own Mystery Science Theater with your friends.
-Complaint Dept

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