Marvelous Movie Mondays: The Haunted Summer

EPFC | June 3rd, 2019

guest curator: Lindsay Denniberg
Theme: The Haunted Summer

I plan on curating admittedly through the lens of a selfish filmmaker who needs existential guidance in preparation for writing their next script. When post is done on my next film Killer Makeover, my passions will be funneled into manifesting my forever burning obsession with Mary Shelley and her creature Frankenstein. Following my own path through creative obsession, I’m trying to adapt Mary Shelley’s life for my next film. While researching her life and works, I’m inextricably drawn to the moment when her own creature began to manifest, during the Haunted Summer. There is a small pool of films out there that explore the life of Mary Shelley, and they all have their own unique take on this pivotal chapter that would eventually lead to Frankenstein. For those who don’t know the romantic horror legend, the Haunted Summer took place in June 1816 at Lord Byron’s Villa Diodati. There Percy Shelley, Mary and her step sister Claire joined Byron and his physician Polidori for a dreary rain filled indoor summer. Bored and drugged up on laudanum, they read romantic ghost stories to each other, eventually leading to the famous writing contest of who could write the scariest story. The beginnings of Frankenstein were born from Mary’s nightmares during this time. So for the month of June, we celebrate the spark of creation that ignites in the dark abyss of a woman’s soul.

First up is Ken Russell’s Gothic. The most surreal and psychedelic telling of the Haunted Summer. From beginning to end it is an unrelenting roller coaster of a drug filled haunted party house. The characters are absurd maniacs of romantic idealism, with Mary Shelley being the tame wall flower of the group. In typical Russell fashion, the evening is peppered with symbolic gothic imagery that enters in and out of the scenes through dream logic (snakes on phallic knight armor, eyeballs for nipples, leeches, skulls, demons to name a few). Mass drug induced hysteria eventually overcomes the group, with Mary finally descending into her own private living nightmare of facing her undead child from a few months prior. We land on Mary watching herself repeatedly give birth to her still born, trapped in a room with endless doors, and watching the inevitable funeral of her future husband. Mary’s trip ends with Percy pulling her down from a window ledge, where she falls asleep wondering if the storm has truly ended.

Mary looks at herself in the mirror the morning after, saying to herself “We’re dead. It showed me what torture it has in store for us, our Creature. It will be there waiting in the shadows, in the shape of our fears, until it has seen us to our death.”