In my review of this month’s Sinister, I wrote, “Crafting an extremely effective genre film is never an easy task, but it always seems especially challenging when the genre is horror. Most obviously, this seems to be because everyone is frightened by different things…one man’s torture porn could be another’s tasteless comedy.” For me, there’s nothing more horrifying than a really effective psychological thriller. While horror films like Saw, Hostel, and even The Exorcist provide creepy-crawly chills in the moment, most horror films never really keep you up at night. A seriously good psychological thriller, however, will do just that: give you an unnerving, nightmarish sense of dread that will keep you up for days. While The Shining is an easy and obvious choice, last year alone, three exceptional psychological thrillers were released that define, for me at least, true and utter horror. With Halloween upon us, it couldn’t be a better time to check one of these three cinematic nightmares:
Many filmgoers have come to realize that just because a film is classified as a horror film doesn’t mean that the movie will actually be scary. These days, you’re more likely to sit down and watch a horror film and laugh or feel incredibly safe as opposed to screaming or feeling uncontrollably vulnerable. Some classic horror films have even lost their touch. Yet, what makes film interesting is that other genres of movies find a way to incorporate moments of genuine horror and scariness into their films, many times better than any full-fledged horror film can. Moments like this are usually personal, for one very affecting moment may scare one viewer and create little to no emotional response in another. But that is the beauty of filmmaking and in watching films, for no two people react the exact same way to any moment, scene, act, or total film. In honor of Halloween and all the ‘scary’ tendencies that are attached to the holiday, I share with you a list of ten on-screen moments in non-horror films that resonate with me as ‘scary.’ They range in their ability to still scare me and in the type of fear I felt/feel when I watch/watched them, but these ten moments display how a movie doesn’t necessarily have to be a horror film to plant a feeling of absolute dread and despair in audience members.
In no particular order:
Horror movies have always inhibited a strange place in our society. When you boil horror down into its simplest terms, its purpose is to fulfill our desires for death and blood without any actual risk for others or ourselves. At our very core, we are animals just like any other species on the planet, and therefore we have animalistic tendencies similar to other species; one such tendency is our natural bloodlust. While many may disagree and claim they have no desire to witness death, it is hard to argue that our society doesn’t have a certain morbid fascination with the entire idea of death and murder. If you look back in history there are countless examples of societies basing their entertainment entirely around death, such as the Gladiator games in Rome or the guillotine beheadings during the Dark Ages. However, by today’s standards that sort of entertainment is too barbaric; we like to perceive ourselves as more refined and intelligent than those of our past, we believe that we are above such savagery. However, there is still a part of us that harbors this bloodlust, that small part of us that finds death fascinating and captivating, but we have devised a way around the actual need for death to satisfy these urges. While videogames are one way to satisfy this macabre desire, horror movies are the more established and widespread means to this end.
It’s a general rule in Hollywood that remakes never work. However, once in a while, a remake will come along that hits all the right marks and reminds the audience why they love the original so much in the first place. Unfortunately, when it comes to horror movies there has never been a remake that has even remotely been successful in doing anything but making people want to leave the theater, so when it was revealed that Renaissance Pictures were remaking The Evil Dead, which is personally one of my favorite horror films ever, it’s safe to say that I was pretty upset. But as more information was released, and it was revealed that both Sam Raimi (the director of the originals) and Bruce Campbell (the lead actor in the originals) were producing the film, my worries started to slowly fade. With the red-band trailer now officially released, there is plenty to talk about:
A book being adapted into a feature film is a cinematic tradition that has been going on for ages (think of D.W. Griffith’s iconic adaptation of The Birth Of A Nation). While there are some who believe that these films are never successful and that they tarnish the reputation of a good novel, they must be doing something right, for not only are “adapted films” still existing in the realm of cinema today but they also make up Hollywood’s most profitable genre. With releases like The Hunger Games and, more recently, Cloud Atlas already hitting theaters this year, plus the upcoming releases of The Hobbit and Life of Pie, it seems that Hollywood isn’t straying from this literature-to-screen tradition anytime soon. In honor of Cloud Atlas’ release this past Friday, it seems only right to look back on the classic book to film adaptations and celebrate the great ones:
“Yesterday my life was headed in one direction, today it is headed in another.”
To pick a single inspirational, affecting, and notable quote from Cloud Atlas, directed by the divine trifecta of Tom Tykwer and The Wachowski Siblings, is like trying to pick a favorite album by The Beatles. Every time you think you finally solidified your choice, you realize how much you love another one or how much a handful of songs on a different album resonate with you. The one I chose above is the closest I could get to naming a favorite, mainly because it’s a statement that can be easily related to everybody, whether you’ve seen the film or not. It stands beside a quote from one of my favorite films, the unfairly loathed and misunderstood Cameron Crowe film, Vanilla Sky, “Every waking moment is a chance to turn it all around;” emphasizing the realization that the path of today will most definitely not be the path of tomorrow, let alone the path that you could meander down in the next few minutes. You have the opportunity, every morning when you roll out of bed and every passing minute of the day, to change what is ahead of you. Cloud Atlas presents this as a mystical force that drives all life, in a time block from 1849 to ‘106 Winters After The Fall,’ and it also happens to be a film that will change my life as a critic of contemporary film, a student of filmmaking, and a human being forever.
Check out this segment of Reel Reactions as host, Shakala Alvaranga, interviews movie goers to get their take on Ben Affleck’s latest film, “Argo”, at AMC Loews Boston Common 19.