The Pale Blue Eye (2022)

Christian Bale as Augustus Landor, looking moodily to the right.

A nineteenth century murder mystery set in the snowbound US military academy at West Point, where a cadet is found hanged with his heart removed from his body. The military leadership want an investigation to catch the killer and quickly clear the camp’s reputation, so they call upon a renowned retired detective, Augustus Landor, who joins forces with an unexpected ally, Cadet Edgar Allan Poe (yes, that one).

The cast is stacked with talent: Christian Bale, Gillian Anderson, Timothy Spall, Charlote Gainsbourg, and even Robert Duvall, who I didn’t recognise, and Harry Melling as Poe, who’s clearly brilliant but whose dialogue and affectations grate after a while. The gruesome killings, autopsy scenes and eventual satanic rituals give it a satisfying October vibe. I loved the locations and costumes. It brought to life the way people might have lived in the early nineteenth century, and while I probably wouldn’t have survived childhood, I could imagine myself in the fire-lit tavern, using blades for fighting, walking snowy forest paths with a hand-held lanterns and keeping an eye out for a monster in the wilds.

The story unfolds too slowly — there is a lot of procedural detail — and for me the finale’s twist didn’t work, but in most ways it fit the bill.

All films in 2023’s #31DaysofHorror…