Monday Movie: Murders in the Rue Morgue, by David Bax
This article originally ran as a part of a Home Video Hovel review.
Gordon Hessler’s Murders in the Rue Morgue is a slyly clever, proto-slasher update of old school Victorian horror. In turn of the twentieth century Paris, a troupe of actors take the old “the show must go on” ethos to its extreme, continuing to perform a stage adaptation of the Poe story despite the fact that current and former members of their ensemble keep getting murdered, their faces burned with acid. The film is full of such grisly occurrences but Hessler mostly keeps the gore offscreen, framing instead with an eye toward tension and creeping menace. In many ways, the story is as much whodunit as horror and Hessler fills the movie with visual clues and foreshadows that pay off satisfactorily, like the sheet metal used for offstage thunder sounds that plays a part in the finale. He also has fun goosing us with teases, like the smelling salts used to revive an unconscious character which happen to be contained in the same sort of bottle the killer uses for his acid attacks. There are some creepy stylistic indulgences, as well, like the slow motion nightmare sequences but, mostly, Murders in the Rue Morgue is a straightforward and more than competent shocker/caper.