Hour of the Wolf

Movie Information

Genre: Horror Drama
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Starring: Max von Sydow, Liv Ullman, Gertrud Fridh, Georg Rydeberg, Erland Josephson
Rated: NR

It’s October, and the folks at World Cinema have decided to present a month of horror-tinged movies for Halloween. First up is Ingmar Bergman’s Hour of the Wolf (1968), which is often referred to as the director’s only horror picture. Actually, that seems a bit wide of the mark to me. It would not be inapt to call The Seventh Seal (1957) and The Magician (1958) horror films, while The Devil’s Eye (1960) is a playful one. The Virgin Spring (1959) might qualify, too—not to mention aspects of Wild Strawberries (1958) and Persona (1966). While Hour of the Wolf is perhaps the closest Bergman ever came to a straightforward horror movie, the genre has always hovered around his work. Hour of the Wolf basically tells the story of an artist’s (Max von Sydow) descent into madness while stuck on an island with only his wife (Liv Ullman) and a group of degenerate—or at least very decadent—upper class neighbors, whose exact reality is often open to question. (Kubrick’s film of The Shining perhaps owes nearly as much to this film as it does the Stephen King novel on which it’s based.) Since this is horror à la Bergman, it goes almost without saying that the story-telling refuses to be rushed and that more questions are raised than answered. But its horror set-pieces are second to none—with the murder (if indeed it actually happened) of a young boy being among the most striking and unusual scenes Bergman ever did, while the big scene where the artist is set up to confront the corpse of an old lover is remarkably unsettling. The decadent rich people are almost like something out of Fellini (and Bergman presents them in what might be called a Felliniesque manner), but in more nightmarish terms. (They may also remind some viewers of the denizens of the creepy apartment building in Michael Winner’s 1977 film, The Sentinel.) It may not be among Bergman’s absolute best works, but that still makes it better than the best of most filmmakers.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

9 thoughts on “Hour of the Wolf

  1. Xanadon't

    (They may also remind some viewers of the denizens of the creepy apartment building in Michael Winner’s 1977 film, The Sentinel.)

    Oh wow, it didn’t occur to me, but now I’m seeing it in my mind’s eye!

    • Ken Hanke

      I didn’t notice the similarity till I watched this again for the review. I kept thinking, “What is this reminding me of?” And then I realized it was actually a case of “what movie did this almost certainly influence?”

  2. Chip Kaufmann

    I would say that THE SERPENT’S EGG (1977) also has its horrific moments.

  3. kjh.childers

    The laughter … the sinister laughter and the dining room scene caught me off guard. Would like to know if this screenplay is available. Fun skits to drive a man mad!

  4. kjh.childers

    Ken … I would love to see this film performed on stage, before an audience utterly unaware of the story, and to see their reactions during the dining room scene. I am still looking up the music by Mozart (which I think is in the Zauberflüte) when the little puppet show occurred. Any idea?

  5. kjh.childers

    I believe it is in Scene 15 of Magic Flute: Zum Ziele führt dich diese Bahn, from which Bergman takes for the puppet show

  6. Ken Hanke

    I know a fair amount about classical music, but I am the last person to ask about Mozart.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.