Euro-Horror Project: The Virgin Spring

(Ingmar Bergman, 1960) Some might consider it a stretch to classify a Bergman film as “Euro-Horror,” but The Virgin Spring is by now so tied to the exploitation flicks it inspired that I can’t help but watch it in this light (and besides, encyclopedias must nod at reverend sources). Affect may depend more on dread and the unseen imagined, but the grief of brutally deprived parents is very real and now generic — in the true sense of the word. The movie’s plot has grown into a lasting horror trope: a daughter is raped and murdered by drifters who make the mistake of sheltering in her family’s house and pay dearly. In Bergman’s version (based on lore, like so much of our horror literature and film), the daughter (Birgitta Pettersson) is attacked by three men as she makes her way to a Sunday sermon. The killers find themselves in her parents’ home later that afternoon, and father Max von Sydow takes his revenge with anguished, oh-so-Scandinavian precision. Sink into Bergman’s pristine medieval aesthetic tinged — like the scene with Max and the tree — with remarkable expressionism. The Virgin Spring is nearly too quiet, too stately, and too pretty for the revenge horror genre, but that revengeploitation seepage can’t be contained by Bergman’s socio-religious frame, nor has it ever been handled so masterfully. Knockoffs include Craven’s The Last House on the Left, Deodato’s The House on the Edge of the Park, Lado’s Night Train Murders, and Hayer’s Revenge. Make a day of them. –Ranylt Richildis

What’s the Euro-Horror Project?

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2 thoughts on “Euro-Horror Project: The Virgin Spring

  1. Did I ever tell you I finally watched this film? I love it. It’s so gorgeous, and so …oddly quiet. And von Sydow is just amazing.

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