Tag Archives: Psycho

T.G.I.F. – Ten Trailers of Terror

 

Screaming woman

The Exorcist trailer – Saw this in a college class and then had to walk home across campus in dense fog. Didn’t sleep a wink that night, nor did most of my friends. Yes, it was a Jesuit college.

Halloween trailer – I saw this screened at a NACA convention in a small classroom with about twenty people. At a critical point in the movie – when you could hear a pin drop – the guy next to me goosed the girl in front of him and she rocketed skyward with a bloodcurdling scream, which made most of us soil ourselves. Then a walk back across a foggy campus where the film distributor hired a Michael Meyers lookalike to drop from a tree. (I’m still washing that pair of shorts.)

The Blair Witch Project trailer – The very last scene makes no sense if you didn’t pay close attention in the beginning. If you did pay attention, it will scare the shit out of you. Kudos to the creators who took a shoestring budget and made one of the best viral movies ever, with special thanks for making that scary ending so subtle. Hope the creators of Paranormal Activity are slipping these guys a few bucks. 

House on Haunted Hill trailer – Where I grew up in NYC there was an afternoon matinee called Million Dollar Movie that aired from around 4:30 until 6:00. Occasionally they would show the same film Monday through Friday. I remember watching this film every day for five straight days and still jumping ten feet in the air every time scene with the “floating woman” came by…god, that still creeps me out! Starring Vincent Price at his smarmiest and featuring the always willing to chew scenery Elisha Cook, Jr. They have remade this movie several times but nothing touches the original.

Session 9 trailer – Contemporary horror movies are mostly gorefests. This was a thinking person’s movie, where the horror was deeper than any axe blade could cut. I thought David Caruso might even have resurrected his film career with this one, but I guess I was wrong. Subtle and pensive but very, very creepy.

The Shining trailer – Ever watched someone go insane right before your eyes? (Married people, step back.) Jack Nicholson channeling palpable dread… tempered only by the fact that I wanted to kill Shelley Duvall myself. Redrum!

Psycho trailer – Alfred Hitchcock’s movie trailers are better than some people’s movies. The screeching score was as much a part of the fright as the visuals. A landmark classic.

Rosemary’s Baby trailer – The scariest films are sometimes the ones with the most plausible characters (apart from the whole Satanic thing, of course). What brilliance to cast condo dwellers as the evil ones? Conspiratorial horror. I never looked at Ruth Gordon the same way again (even in Harold and Maude I wondered if she would snap Bud Cort‘s neck and eat him).

Night of the Living Dead trailer – Yep, no big names, cheesey by modern standards, but at the time one of the creepiest movies ever made. You don’t spawn that many sequels and imitators by sucking!

Phantasm trailer – Speaking of cheeseball, some of the sets and (lack of) costumes will make some think it’s a lame movie, but when The Tall Man enters the screen, all bets are off. The last scene of this movie is one of the scariest moments on film. And has there ever been a better horror movie name than Angus Scrimm? Ice cream trucks, ponytails and the sphere.

The Sphere

Mental Floss

1 Comment

Filed under Features and Interviews, Film/TV

T.G.I.F. – Ten Twisted Tales

And we would have gotten away with it too, if you had never seen a Scooby Doo episode before.

"And we would have gotten away with it too, if only you had never seen a Scooby Doo episode before."

One of the biggest problems with film and television is predictability; after watching thousands of hours of sitcoms, dramas and movies I can often see the next plot point coming along like it has beepers and a blinking light. It’s not so much that the plot is redundant – although it often is – but that the brevity of the material (especially commercial television) doesn’t allow for proper story arc and character development.

So often what happens is either the director/writer cheats, or the information is presented in such an obvious manner that you’re almost being told “hey, this is a clue!”. Of course people have the attention span of a gnat these days, so maybe I’m overworking the issue. But here are two key rules you can usually count on:

  1. If an odd fact is introduced – like a character being left-handed or a man just quit smoking – pay attention. It’s probably a critical piece of information and not just padded dialogue.
  2. If within the first five or ten minutes a character looks to have opportunity and motive, that character probably didn’t do it.

Few writers/directors would be crass enough to have the killer or key plot fact come sailing in out of left field at the eleventh hour, that’s just not fair. But a well-played twist requires what I’d call  sleight-of-mind…laying everything out there but being clever enough to not point at it with a floodlight.

An example of a well-presented twist is The Sixth Sense. (SPOILER ALERT…) At the end of the movie, when it was revealed that a key character was dead, I immediately recalled a scene where he was at dinner with his wife, had a conversation and even touched hands. But when I replayed the scene, I noticed that they in fact did not touch – their hands passed within a second of each other – and there was no eye contact. And then there was the revelation about the use of the color red. Then finally, the most obvious clue of all – “I see dead people“. Well played, M. Night Shyamalanit was all right there in front of me and I missed it. Too bad you have been unable to hit the mark since then.

So for this Friday’s exercise, ten recommended movies that I think did the job well. Some will be very familiar, a couple are stone cold classics, but I’ve avoided the real obvious ones like Psycho, Vertigo, Fight Club and The Shawshank Redemption. These aren’t my ten favorite movies, but I’d watch any one of them again in a heartbeat, and if you haven’t seen them I suggest you immediately add the omissions to your shopping list or Netflix queue.

In alphabetical order:

no idiots

Angel Heart:  Probably a little more obvious than most (Robert DeNiro’s character’s name) and a little overwhelming with visual pizazz, but the end(ing) justifies the means. One of Mickey Rourke‘s better performances.

A Beautiful Mind:  Having two dynamic actors like Russell Crowe and the great Ed Harris was huge; they could not have sold this premise with pedestrian performances.

Donnie Darko:  So was it a horror flick, a religious allegory, a knock on conservatism, a time travel epic, a fable or a study of hallucinatory madness? Yes.

The GameDavid Fincher is more famous for the brilliant Fight Club but this tense and clever story keeps you wondering what and who you can believe. Michael Douglas, Sean Penn and a large supporting cast do the script justice.

House of GamesDavid Mamet, a master of words and misdirection, at his peak. Joe Mantegna and Lindsay Crouse deep in the world of con men and grifters where not everything is what it seems to be.

MementoChristopher Nolan directed and wrote the screenplay based on his brother’s short story, and Guy Pearce provides a brazen and brilliant performance alongside Joe Pantoliano. Told backwards, like Nolan’s prior film Following.

Once Upon A Time In America:  Maybe my favorite gangster movie of all time, and considering how perfect a movie Goodfellas is, that’s saying something. Sergio Leone directs a star-studded cast but you have to pay close attention.

Primal Fear:  I’m normally not a Richard Gere fan but he’s great in this one as his arrogance is his downfall. This film launched Edward Norton’s career (an Oscar nod in his first real role) and made me fall in love with Laura Linney.

Session 9:  One of the truly atmospheric horror movies of recent times, far from the gorefests that are passed along as horror movies today. This is creepy and unnerving, and even David Caruso is good in it. Director Brad Anderson now works on Fringe.

The Spanish PrisonerMamet again. Everytime you think you know what’s going on, you really don’t. It’s like watching a magician show you the trick but then repeatedly doing it again. The final scene makes me wonder if Mamet didn’t intend the entire movie as a con, but I change my opinion every viewing.

fingers crossed

Leave a comment

Filed under Features and Interviews, Film/TV, Reviews