Monday 9 October 2023

Mubi Monday: If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do? (1971)

As a lover of the horror genre, I try to watch as many horror movies as possible all year round. So, when it comes to a whole month of seasonal viewings to maximise the cosy spookiness of October, I really try to mix things up as much as possible. Horror comes in so many different shapes and sizes that it would be a shame to limit myself to one particular type of movie. I admit, however, that this film is one that many won’t ever want to fit into their schedule.

Directed by Ron Ormond, and there has recently been some great material released that explores and contextualizes the work of the Ormond family (including yet another amazing Blu-ray boxset from Indicator), this is a lecture presented in film form. That lecture is from the writing of, and delivered by Reverend Estus W. Pirkle, and warns everyone of the peril facing Americans who turn away from Christianity and open themselves up to the threat of Communism.

There isn’t really a plot here, although viewers are shown a series of fantastical vignettes that have oppressors sneering and forcing people to join in with their sadism. A young woman (Judy Creech) listens to the sermon while pondering where her own life choices could take her.

People who know me may already know my views on organized religion. I hate it. I think it’s dangerous, and I think people in positions of power are able to manipulate and control people to a scary degree. That’s different from my view on personal faith though, which I can see as a positive force, and support, for those who manage to pick and choose the right lessons from any religious dogma. If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do? is an example of why I hate organized religion. It is silly, it is fear-mongering, and it aims to control the behaviour of people who can only prove themselves to be good worshippers by putting their faith above all else. I am sure many will agree with that sentiment, but it isn’t always the best way to help make positive changes in the world around you. How many people could help to “stop the threat of Communism” if they all chose to die in the name of their lord? 

Some violence and gore is depicted, albeit crudely, but I will admit that picking this as a horror movie is quite a stretch, but that is what it is trying to be. It’s a horror story designed for those wavering in their faith to be frightened into strengthening their resolve. I don’t think it works, but I am not the kind of viewer who would be receptive to this anyway, and just over half a century has passed since this was released (making the whole notion of the main lecture even more ridiculous than it may have seemed back then). Still, this is an intriguing and bonkers curio to watch if you want something a bit different from the usual horror genre fare. There’s something mesmerising about the movies from Ormond, a strange blend of amateur talent and unbound zealotry, and I find them much more interesting than hundreds of other mainstream movie choices you could choose to watch at this time of year. Bad, but strangely watchable.


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