The New Midnight Movies Are Old Midnight Movies: Cosmotropia de Xam’s Delirium, at the Spectacle

delirium-cosmotropia de xam

Everything new is definitely old again. Today’s horror films resemble yesterday’s horror films. Filmmakers are splicing in a little from this film, a little from that film to create a mongrel midnight movie, a mutant that strives to transcend their bald references. Filmmakers like Adam Wingard, Panos Cosmatos, Nicolas Winding Refn, Peter Strickland, and Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani sample from a variety of sources including giallo and the work of John Carpenter, Radley Metzger, Jesús Franco, and Jean Rollin. The new midnight movie is a hauntological movie.

To this list of horror hauntologists you can add mystery man Cosmotropia de Xam (but good luck trying to find an interview with him). In his work, he cites Dario Argento, David Cronenberg, David Lynch, and Andrzej Żuławski, among others, but unlike his contemporaries, de Xam receives little to no outside funding for his low-budget, medium-length films. And yet films are just one side of de Xam. Along with Aura (who stars in his Diabolique [2015]), he’s part of the witch house band Mater Suspiria Vision, based in Germany. Active since the start of the decade, de Xam makes music and movies—both complementing and blurring into each other—at a steady clip. He produces one to two albums each year. The same goes for films.

While I can’t speak for Mater Suspiria Vision, de Xam’s films improve with each release, culminating in his recent Delirium (2015), a tale of infection and paranoia in the streets of Milan, which plays at the Spectacle on Friday for the last time this month. But, as with his previous work, the plot isn’t the point. The sliver of a story is the springboard for de Xam to leap into a variety of moods and spaces. Unlike Diabolique or Malacreanza (2013), marked by their faux-vintage celluloid look, complete with faded color and scratches, Delirium‘s digital image is sharp, the better for de Xam’s distortions. He toys with time, speeding up and slowing down shots, often reversing them altogether. de Xam creates frontal compositions filtered through an array of acrid colors, sometimes strapping a GoPro onto the head of lead actress Maya Schneider, warping and bending the space around her.

Delirium is sectioned into “corridors,” which are like tracks on an album. The corridors relate to each other, but could just as easily stand alone. Delirium is part fashion, part self-promotion (Schneider sports one of de Xam’s Vogue Witch t-shirts), part music video, and part love song to Twin Peaks (a photo of Laura Palmer set in flames, white noise off a television screen, reverse-speak and reverse movement, red rooms). Delirium is partly all of these things, but it’s completely a musical horror film, ready for you to trip out on when the clock strikes twelve.

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