Helen Capel, a mute because of a childhood trauma, cares for Mrs. Warren, a demanding widow whose extremely wealthy. Hellen has fallen in love with Dr. Parry, who understands her affliction and passionately loves and cares for her anyway. When women start being murdered, all of which suffer from physical handicaps, Helen fears she may be next. Robert Siodmak's The Spiral Staircase is an expressionistic, gothic piece of filmmaking that works as both a horror film and a psychological drama. While the threat of the murderer is always present and a part of the story, The Spiral Staircase spends a good amount of time focusing on Helen's personal demons, capturing her constant struggle with being mute and her inability to overcome it from a psychological perspective. It's a beautifully shot film, with tons of expressionistic lighting, but the film uses a surprising amount of surreal moments centered around Helen's affliction. Dorothy McGuire does a great job as Helen, with a performance that sure wasn't easy to pull off convincingly. The way the killer is captured throughout is definitely the highlight of the film for me, with Siodmak simply using a pair of gazing eyes, stalking and watching over Helen and his other victims. The murder sequences are uniquely photographed and unforgettable, being a great example of how less can be more in terms of capturing violence and horror on screen. Using both lighting and shot compositions, we never see any violence on screen, which only makes these sequences more alarming.
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