Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Female Villains in Horror: Eva Galli/Alma Mobley

I'm well aware that the movie in question here, Ghost Story (1981) has been panned by critics and casual viewers alike for as long as I can recall, but I'm going to start by saying that I like this movie, so get over it. We're going with the film incarnation here, even though the marvelous book by Peter Straub is not translated quite up to par.

However, the villainess here - Eva Galli a.k.a. Alma Mobley - is one for the ages. She was so well written in the novel, and I think she translates to the big screen fairly well. In part because of Alice Krige's masterful performance. She carries the entire weight of the film on her shoulders, and she's so damn terrifying.

Ghost Story is a tale of friendship, secrets and most of all, revenge.
In a sleepy village in snowy New England (actually Saratoga, NY!), evil has come to town.

Over fifty years ago, Eva Galli spent her quality time fascinating four college-age gentlemen who were all utterly smitten with her.

They spent countless hours with Eva, all of them endlessly vying for her attention - until one night while having a bit of an argument with the men, she fell and hit her head, leading the men to come to the conclusion that she was dead. Considerably at fault for the mishap, they decide not to "ruin the rest of their lives" and hide (dispose of) the body. {May I just add here that that is never a good idea...}
They put her in a car and drive the car into a nearby lake (shades of Psycho here).
As it descends slowly, Eva suddenly appears at the back window, screaming and trying to get out of the sinking vehicle.

But it's too late, and the car has gone under. (One of the great moments in horror for me.)

Back to the present, where all the men are pillars of their community but still have the memory of Eva in the back of their head, never more present than when they get together to tell each other ghost stories. Calling themselves The Chowder Society, they agree never to speak the name Eva Galli again.

Unfortunately, the men are plagued with bad dreams and haunting visions, and when one of them dies under mysterious circumstances, it isn't long till they discover perhaps Eva was never really gone.

Later, a son of one of the men relates his chilling story of Alma Mobley, a woman he fell in love with who turned out to be more than just a little unsettling.
Seems Alma and Eva are one in the same.

There are many moments of subtle horror in this film if you know where to look. A few of mine include when Donny follows Alma home from dinner and they are in her apartment. She is drying her hair by a heater and telling Donny how much she hates storms...

-the look in her eyes makes me shiver.... the line in the film where she tells Donny she's going to watch the life run out of him gets me every time.... Eva's ghost at the side of the bridge, softly laughing.... and Alma/Eva coming down the dilapitated steps at her former house - Donny awaiting Ricky's return and incapacitated by a broken leg - in her wedding gown, fingers caressing the banister as she descends and then promptly turns into a messy skeletal ghoul.

There are outright shocks, as well. Alma revealing herself to Donny's brother right before he hurls himself out the window to his (full-frontal!) death....the startling bathtub scene where Alma bolts upright out of the water screaming....the scene where Eva is standing in the middle of a snow covered road in Sears' path...

...and of course, the last shot of the film.

Alice Krige portrays Eva/Alma with so much understated intensity. The potency of her fear-inducing gaze has never left me, and she had the delicate expertise and ethereal beauty to make a mediocre adaptation of a great novel more than adequate. Point being, Alice Krige is the real reason to watch Ghost Story.

Buy it here.

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


MrJeffery said...

this film was kind of terrible but it had its moments. well-cast i agree!

the ringmaster's realm said...

I remember seeing it when it came out and was disappointed that it didn't translate well. But, that being said, I also enjoyed it and thought that there were definitely more good points than bad.

James Gracey said...

Some supremely creepy images there, Chris. And thanks for adding the trailer for The Crazies to your site. I find myself actually really looking forward to it now!

Zahir Blue said...

Not my fave but I agree the cast was excellent and the story very, very frightening. Very!

Anonymous said...

Certainly not well-translated from the book, but became somewhat a story of its own. Thought it was weird that there were so many quotes in the movie that were the same as the book, but sometimes spoken by different people, and out of context. Almost as if the screenwriter had a checklist for content rather than plot. The movie is a much more general audience-friendly version, where a direct translation would have been very confusing and near impossible to depict visually, and in only a couple of hours. The movie takes a couple facets of the story and builds its own plot and conclusion. Krige is maybe the only woman who has ever lived who could play the Galli/Mobley part. Absolutely masterful, as was the setting and casting of every one of the Chowder Society members. The movie, although it missed the mark set by the book, wasn't as rambling and other-worldly as parts of the novel. For any pych-thriller fans, although 1981 effects (not bad except the horrible blue screen in the beginning and the one in the beach condo scene), it's a must watch; fundamentally one of my all-time favorites, with a feel as cold, wet and slimy as a woman who has spent fifty years buried under snow and ice at the bottom of a pond... Still alive!

Walter said...

I fell in love with Alma when reading the book, specifically her "ironic smile". Would have gladly let her take my life. We all die one day so why not for love?