The Tingler

Year: 1959

Synopsis: A pathologist researches the effects of fear on the human body, particularly when fatal, and confirms a horrifying theory.

Pros:
• Vincent Price powered the dark, cynical heart of the film as the mad scientist that influenced others, sometimes unexpectedly.
• The concept of a parasitic organism that fed on fear in all mammals was eerily realistic.
• The suggestion that the parasitic Tingler was a monster of the id not only made flesh, but also capable of rudimentary control, was genuinely fascinating.
• Though it may come off as rather campy for today, Price’s exaggerated performance of a bad acid trip might have been much more accurate than it seemed, sans surrealistic special effects.
• The haunted house sequence, featuring the vibrant red blood, was well implemented, especially in how it ironically contrasted with the earlier acid trip scene.

Cons:
• Some of the gimmicks applied to the film were literally lost on the present viewer. The director actually had people zapped in the theaters to simulate the growing tingler, and hired people to scream at certain points as well during showings.
• Directly telling the audience to scream at the intro monologue and during the film was rather ridiculous.

Discussion:
Director William Castle and writer Robb White painted a remarkably dark and cynical story. The world was practically run by psychopaths pretending they had normal lives in the outside world. The charismatic mad scientist and his adulterous wife were at each other’s throats in private; the theater owner and his wife were possibly trying to kill each other for years. These grim elements stewed together to create a monster that was there all along. That monster was perhaps only ever a part of ourselves. It did not matter that conscience was found at the end, because all the dark deeds already freed the monster of the id. Everything was lost at the end: careers, lives, sanity. The Tingler itself might have been the only true hero of the film. In its primal wandering, it ended something only it could end.


Rotten Tomatoes — 76%

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