I am in the midst of a full-on Werner Herzog/Klaus Kinski obsession. Don't ask me why, I don't know how I get myself involved in these things. For a full background on this duo's relationship, might I suggest you check out My Best Fiend: Klaus Kinski by Werner Herzog. It is an awesome documentary and it will make your jaw drop in horror at the behaviour of Mr. Kinski. Of course, I am totally obsessed with him now.....
Look at him! He looks all kinds of crazy. His performance as the mad Conquistador is a thing to behold. Aguirre is an egotistical madman, convinced of his own superiority and unwilling to let anyone stand in his way (much like Kinski himself). On a mission to find the legendary "El Dorado," Aguirre stages a mutiny and then leads his ragtag crew down the Amazon on a journey of fear and madness. Along the way they encounter hostile and cannibalistic Indians and face starvation and disease. All the while Aguirre holds on to his delusions and declares himself ruler of all these lands, even though all he has to his name is a capsizing raft and an army of monkeys. The last few scenes look like the painting "The Raft of the Medusa" only with about 100% more monkeys.
So why do I consider this film to be "On the Edge of Horror?" First of all it is a tale of madness and fear. Aguirre is mad enough to be a leader, and the poor crew are fearful enough to follow him to certain death. Second, the setting is so remote, so foreign, that one does not know what may be peeking out from behind the trees. More often than not, it is hostile Indians, with their short poisonous spears and their more "fashionable" long ones (see the movie to understand this reference.) Third, the film is rather claustrophobic. The majority of the action takes place on a hastily built raft that is slowly falling apart. And finally, Kinski himself is DAMN SCARY!!! He is creepy and projects controlled craziness so well I would have loved to see what he would have done with a role like Hannibal Lecter. Kinski also has piercing, huge, blue eyes. They are the scariest eyes I have ever seen. Of course, blue eyes tend to freak me out anyway. Blue eyes and men who wear turtlenecks are right at the top of my list of irrational fears. If I ever see a picture of Kinski in a turtleneck I might not sleep for a week.
If I haven't convinced you to watch Aguirre: The Wrath of God yet let me leave you with this little nugget. This film features One Of The Best Decapitation scenes I have ever seen. Trust me, it is awesome.