31 Days of Hallowe’en, Day 27: De Lift (1983)

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‘Camp’ would be an uneven assessment of a Dutch horror film in which a hotel lift develops sentience and starts offing people. It’s not played for laughs like Franco-‘Merican 2010 offering Rubber; instead, parts of the movie (especially that of Scooby/investigating variety) are played straight, like a police procedural. And yet sprinkled in between are smatterings of deliberately awkward, deadpan humour that prompts screenshot after screenshot.

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de lift the lift 1983 dick maasde lift the lift 1983 dick maasOn paper, the issue with an inanimate object as the film’s killer is that there’s little potential for dread or atmosphere. For this, the film relies heavily on musical cues (although that’s where ’80s camp rears its ugliest head), but there’s a hint of actual near-sentient personality when the lift starts “playing” with a little girl. It’s kind of almost adorable.

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The kills are pretty nasty, all splatter and screams and squelching flesh, but they’re few and far between, and arguably share centre stage with the main character Felix (Huub Stapel)’s mildly interesting personal drama with his wife. He is so chill that he barely emotes, and instead inexplicably takes on character traits and actions of a grizzled police investigator rather than the lift technician he actually just is.

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It’s all very ’80s European in the hair and music and makeup, and especially the hair, and exactly how I remember it as a kid in adjacent England. That perks up some of the filler content that could have been removed with a chop-happier editor, as does the aforementioned deader-than-dead-deadpan humour. Director Dick Maas (shut up) has continued to make borderline camp horror, including Down, a 2001 remake of this very film, starring American remake queen Naomi Watts, though I’m intrigued to see his recent darkly comic Christmas slasher Sint, controversial for its court case in which Dutch parents were concerned that the movie would actually fuck with their children’s perceptions of Sinterklass. Maybe I should do a horror Christmas-a-thon?

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