Posts Tagged ‘Alfred Hitchcock’

Dukin’ It Out With The Babadook

Posted 17 Mar 2015 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Mike Shaeffer 

The Babadook, Australia / Canada, 2014

Written and Directed by Jennifer Kent

The Babadook is a thriller that depicts the downward spiral of an increasingly unhinged single parent.“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.”

― Emilie Buchwald

When marketing an independent film, producers want a trailer that will reel in any number of demographics. Their targeted audience may be those who love a good thriller, but the product is cross-marketed as a horror film or a psychological drama. Such is the case with the Australian outing The Babadook, released in the U.S. last November. While this film owes a bit to the horror genre, it works most effectively as an emotional thriller. Not only does it fit best within the thriller genre, it is most chilling when the ambiguities are cemented in the notion that this is not a supernatural haunting akin to The Amityville Horror; this is not some spin on the Necronomicon— the cursed book of flesh from Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead franchise. The Babadook is not a modern take on The Bad Seed, nor does this film involve cursed ground filled with angry spirits a la Poltergeist. The Babadook is a thriller that depicts the downward spiral of an increasingly unhinged single parent. The mother desperately loves her child, but she is overwhelmed, inept, and unable to combat the depression, fear, and anxiety she suffers after losing her husband and having to raise her boy alone.  Read More

I, Frankenstein – We, Bored

Posted 20 Oct 2014 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get

By Ezra Stead

I, Frankenstein, Australia / USA, 2014

Directed by Stuart Beattie

I, Frankenstein is a film that focuses to the point of obsession on every MacGuffin it can find, and it expects the audience to give a shit. The longer you watch I, Frankenstein, the harder it is to believe that it is an actual theatrical feature and not just a bad TV movie made for the Syfy channel. Despite big-name, reliably good actors like Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy and Miranda Otto, and special effects that, at their best, at least look like a really good video game, the entire project is bogged down by the bizarre combination of extreme silliness and relentless self-seriousness. Somehow, in making a movie in which Frankenstein’s monster (Eckhart) is reimagined as a modern-day superhero fighting against a legion of demons that want the secret to his immortality, no one managed to have any fun. The audience (such as it has been) is certainly no exception.  Read More

Absolute Corruption – Three Films About Power

Posted 29 Jul 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Film Reviews

By Ezra Stead

Citizen Kane has been widely cited as the greatest American film ever made. Citizen Kane, USA, 1941

Directed by Orson Welles

Scarface, USA, 1932

Directed by Howard Hawks

Beauty and the Beast, France, 1946

Written and Directed by Jean Cocteau

Never before or since has any director made such an impressive feature film debut as Orson Welles did, at the astonishing age of 25, with Citizen Kane (1941). Despite having no prior experience in filmmaking, Welles was given carte blanche on the film, and he delivered the most original, innovative and provocative film of its time. Even today it is considered one of the greatest films ever made, and it is a standard by which all other films are judged. According to the great critic Andrew Sarris, as quoted in his 1967 book Interviews with Film Directors, “Citizen Kane is still the work which influenced the cinema more profoundly than any American film since Birth of a Nation.” Read More

Spoiler Alert! Some Thoughts On Twist Endings

By Ezra Stead

The Sixth Sense ruined twist endings for quite sometime after its 1999 release. Since M. Night Shyamalan’s much-ballyhooed 1999 feature The Sixth Sense, twist endings have gotten something of a bad rap, and usually with good reason. After all, in many cases they are a cheap way to add excitement to the climax of an otherwise dull story; sometimes they are a cop-out, negating all emotional involvement that may have been invested in a film up until that point; others seem to be the sole reason for a story’s existence, without which the whole thing crumbles. On the other hand, when they work, twist endings can make a good film great, and they occasionally even reward repeat viewings by revealing previously unseen layers that can only be recognized once the conclusion of the story is known.

As rightly reviled as are many recent examples of the technique, especially many of Shyamalan’s subsequent efforts, there are also many laudable examples to be found among some of history’s greatest cinematic achievements, old and new. Widely respected filmmakers from Alfred Hitchcock to David Fincher and Christopher Nolan have successfully employed the well-placed twist to wonderful effect, and even Orson Welles’s immortal classic Citizen Kane, considered by many to be the greatest American film ever made, concludes with what can only be deemed an elegant, emotionally rich twist ending. Read More

Friday The 13th (1980) – Everybody Looking Forward To The Weekend

Posted 03 Jul 2011 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Scott Martin

Friday the 13th, USA, 1980

Directed by Sean S. Cunningham

Friday the 13th - a film that delivers what it promises. Alfred Hitchcock created the genre: the “slasher” picture. It was 1960, and the film was Psycho. If we wanted to stretch that fact, we can claim that the original slasher film was a small, yet admittedly scary, film called Peeping Tom, directed by Michael Powell. It was released only a few months before Psycho, but didn’t have nearly the same impact on audiences, or critics. Psycho soared to the top, and Peeping Tom was left to be later rediscovered and revered. Hitchcock, without intention, birthed a new era of horror film that wouldn’t come into its prime until 1974 with the release of Bob Clark’s Black Christmas.

Black Christmas redefined what Hitchcock had started, and set the rules in stone: a mentally unhinged masked killer stalks attractive teens and picks them off, one by one, in creative ways. After Black Christmas, then came John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978), which cemented the popularity of the genre. After Halloween was a critical and financial success, studios ran with the idea that they could make money selling “dead teenager movies” (a term coined by Roger Ebert) to live teenagers. They were right, and in 1980, the first studio-backed slasher film was released. It was May 9th, and it was Friday the 13th. Read More

Buried – A One Man Show

Posted 25 Jun 2011 — by contributor
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Scott Martin

Buried, Spain / USA / France, 2010 Much of the film Buried's success is owed to Ryan Reynolds, who puts on a one man show with more gusto than he's shown on film before.

Directed by Rodrigo Cortes

I’m always more interested in suspense films or horror films that tap into universal fears and the things that could actually happen to us, rather than the supernatural. For instance, films like John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) or Brian De Palma’s Carrie (1976), while excellent films in their own right, are more escapist nightmares than things right outside your door. It’s films like Buried, however, that recharge my faith in modern horror/thriller cinema. Director Rodrigo Cortes takes one of our most common fears and puts it to extraordinarily effective use. There’s a political message, a bit of a love story, family stories, a thriller, and a horror movie, all stuffed into a box. And just a box. For 90 minutes. Read More

Hitchcock’s Strangler Trilogy

Posted 01 Jun 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Essay, Movies I Got

By Arnold Stead

Shadow of a Doubt, USA, 1943

Rope, USA, 1948

Strangers on a Train, USA, 1951

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Rope is one of Alfred Hitchcock's greatest masterpieces.

Phillip, a budding pianist anxious to know if his debut concert will be a success, asks Mrs. Atwater to read his palm. She grants his request and says: “These hands will bring you great fame.” Her prophesy should please him, but Hitchcock shows us Phillip’s hands, the hands of a strangler, fingers frozen in the posture of their deed; then the strangler’s terrified face. It would seem Phillip already knows that the fame Mrs. Atwater speaks of is, in fact, infamy.

Flanked by Shadow of a Doubt (1943) and Strangers on a Train (1951), Rope (1948) serves as the centerpiece for Alfred Hitchcock’s strangler trilogy, a three-part meditation on murder, madness, and reading. In his famous study of Hitchcock, Francois Truffaut remarks that Strangers on a Train, “just like Shadow of a Doubt is systematically built around the figure two.” In both pictures the two central characters “might very well have had the same name. Whether it’s Guy or Bruno, it’s obviously a single personality split in two.” I will argue that Rope fits Truffaut’s schemata, as Phillip (Farley Granger) and Brandon (John Dall) – like Charles Oakley and his niece in Shadow of a Doubt, as well as Guy and Bruno in Strangers on a Train – form “a single personality split in two.” I will further argue that Phillip’s hands, like Charles Oakley’s and Bruno Antony’s, have a will of their own. Hitchcock endows those male hands with a characteristic usually associated with the phallus. To revise an old chestnut: these hands, when aroused, have no conscience.  Read More