Wednesday, October 07, 2009


Despite the title, this isn’t a horror movie so much as a kind of New Year's Eve-take on A Christmas Carol. Edit, a Salvation Army sister, is on her deathbed and her only wish is to see David, an unrepentant drunkard and general low-life whom she had tried to help over the past year. David, drunk and sitting in a gutter, ignores her call and tells his two buddies a story he heard from his late friend Georges that the last person to die each year has to drive Death’s carriage for the next year. As it happens, after David refuses to see Edit, he is beaten up by his companions and, near death, sees Death’s carriage approach with Georges at the helm. Feeling partly responsible for having led David into his life of waste, Georges acts as Dickens' Ghost of Christmas Past and we get an extended flashback showing how David started drinking, mistreated his wife and child, and even may have been indirectly responsible for Edit’s illness (she mended his germ-ridden coat for him, and her thanks was to have him tear it up in front of her). He's even driven his wife to attempt to poison herself and their child. Will David repent, and even if he does, will Death's carriage leave without him?

This was an important film in the history of Swedish cinema; the director, Victor Sjostrom, went on to make the great Hollywood silent movie THE WIND, and years later starred in Ingmar Bergman's WILD STRAWBERRIES—he also stars here as David. The double-exposure special effects used for the carriage and the ghostly figures are well done, and the atmosphere of creepiness and gloom is sustained throughout; there is no humor or whimsy to lighten the mood. The narrative, even within the flashback, skips around in time but remains easy to follow. Not really a horror movie, but still a good October viewing choice. Aka Korkarlen and The Stroke of Midnight. [TCM]

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