Tuesday, October 30, 2007

day 3: four days with three scary movies each

The Innocents (1961)

My very second blog post ever references this (somewhat forgotten) scary movie gem.... and I probably said it best over there. Deborah Kerr (who just recently passed away and whose film archives are likely being combed to compile a fifteen second "In Memoriam" clip for countless awards shows this coming year) plays a British governess who comes to care for two pretty disturbed little tykes. This is a perfectly freaky ghost story (all the bump-in-the-night creeps are there), filmed in crisp black and white, that has some horrifying reveals in the bright light.... sometimes what we can see clearly can be a lot more terrifying than what is shrouded in shadow (David Lynch uses this technique to shows us some of the scariest stuff he's got in his films). My favorite is when Kerr glances up across the lake to see the distant (and all-too-real) apparition of a woman staring at her (watch it here!). Ultimately these kids are a possessed little lot, and toward the end we get some rather squirm-in-your-seat screentime logged of a ten year old boy making out with his thirty-something babysitter. If you haven't seen this film, go rent it now in time for Halloween and watch it with lights off.

The Ring (2002)

Naomi Watts stars in (what I believe is) the first of the Americanized Japanese-horror-film remakes (see also: The Grudge and Dark Water).... and in this case I think the first is probably the best. Gore Verbinski (better known for directing the Bruckheimer-a-thon Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy) proves himself to be a director with a good eye for mood.... the shots in this film are rich in color, setting, and atmosphere, and he paces the film just right to keep us unsettled the whole way throughout. Even the final sequence of the film worked on me.... usually it's clear that once you think the killer is dead the killer actually isn't quite dead, but I was successfully duped this time around. Despite the presence of the tired expressionless-little-kid stereotype, the film succeeds in taking us around to another creepy little kid who likes to kill people via VHS. Of course, once you watch this tape-from-hell you've got a ticking clock of seven days to live, thanks to the angsty revenge of a little girl who haunts from the bottom of a covered-up wishing well. The surrealist/uncanny reanimated movements of the girl-from-beyond-the-grave/beyond-the-white-noise (filmed at the end, especially, in plain sight) are freaky as hell.... I think that might stand the scary movie test of time alone. Some of my favorite bits have to do with Verbinski's sly fitting-in of "ring" imagery throughout.... sudden flash cuts of "the ring", and (my favorite) the stain left behind from a coffee mug. No joke.

Psycho (1960)

Probably not a shock to find this movie on the list, as it is likely considered the greatest horror/thriller movie of cinema history. I had heard about it a lot before I had seen it, and when I finally did see it I wasn't disappointed.... terrified in parts, actually. The writer in me is fascinated by this film because of the uncharted territory it breaks on a storytelling level.... never before have we seen our protagonist killed after the first act. Quite a brilliant little trick on Hitchcock's part to recruit a screen star like Janet Leigh to dupe us into thinking this movie was going to be about her.... the entire first act is fraught with her backstory and a bit of intrigue about what she's going to do with her life, which comes to a quick close once she meets her maker in the shower. So who do we identify with now? We're stuck with Norman Bates, someone we hadn't exactly planned on following along as our anchor. I don't know of many rule-bending examples of three act screenplay structure that have blown apart the box like this one.... I do have to say though, as a cute wink to Psycho as the granddaddy of modern horror movies, Scream (see yesterday's post) plays a similar trick by opening the movie with blond-and-sunny-smiled Drew Barrymore only to have her strung up by her intestines ten minutes in. Psycho definitely has its freak-out moments.... not only the shower scene (watch it and notice that we don't really see Marion Crane getting stabbed, but instead her visceral reaction to the stabbing.... coupled of course with the frightening strings on the soundtrack), but also the reveal about where Norman Bates' mother actually is. My favorite (and most terrifying) part: when Inspector Arbogast decides to enter the Bates homestead to ask "Mother" some questions and gets sliced down the face and tumbles down the stairs. What makes this particular scene so unsettling is the camera angle at which Hitchcock decides to shoot it at: directly above. Something about this unnatural angle immediately puts you on the edge, and the speed with which Mother comes tearing out of her bedroom with her knife raised freaks me the hell out every time.

....and tomorrow, the final three.... including two of my favorite scary movies of all time.

1 comment:

Dale said...

Great picks again. The Innocents I just saw about a year ago and it was a gem as you say.