Tag Archives: suspense

Netflix Pick of the Week: Gerald’s Game

 

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Based on the novel by Stephen King, Gerald’s Game is a Netflix original Directed by Mike Flanagan. Starring Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood

Netflix Pick of the Week: Gerald’s Game is the most recent adaptation from Stephen’s Kings massive body of work. Gerald’s Game comes after critical falure, The Dark Tower, the highest grossing horror film of all time, It, and TV adaptations of The Mist and Mr. Mercedes.

The Stephen King renaissance is among us with several new adaptations and remakes from the Master of Horror. Some have not succeeded in bringing the material to life and not all of them can live up to the recent adaptation of It, but Gerald’s Game is a great film that manages to take tricky subject matter and turn it into 103 min of entertainment.

Spoiler Alert: Gerald’s Game was released on Netflix on Sept 29th. This post doesn’t reveal everything about the film but does dive into much of the story. If you want to watch the film completely spoiler free stop here.

 

Gerald’s Game follows, married couple, Gerald, and Jessie as they head out to their remote lake house in order to spice things up. The fridge is stocked with expensive foods, the gardeners and maids have been at work making the place look as good as new. With no one there to disturb them, Gerald takes his viagra and Jessie slips into a silky nightgown. Soon things take a turn for the worst and it doesn’t stop there. While engaged in foreplay that turns sour from the couple, Gerald has a heart attack leaving Jessie alone and handcuffed to the bedpost. Over the next few days, she suffers hallucinations, comes in contact with a stray dog and a man who may or may not be real. As time passes Jessie faces her past and must figure out to survive.

Trigger Warning: If you have suffered from or if sexual abuse has played a part in your life this film might be triggering to you. It deals with abuse as a child and the psychological effects that the silencing of abuse causes to victims in later life.

Gerald’s Game is psychological horror at its best. The film showcases a complex woman who was the victim of sexual abuse. The abuse she suffered as a child turned her into a prisoner and the handcuffs are used as a metaphor throughout the story. During the run of the film Jessie suffers, unsurprisingly from a breakdown and she must get through her hallucinations to survive. At the end of it all, it is her persistent efforts that save her life.

The film reminds us the importance of “no” and what it means to listen to your partner. Everyone has their comfort zones and they have them for whatever reason. If someone says “no” or tells you to “stop” do it. Just because you are comfortable doesn’t mean they will be or have to be.

I have yet to read the source material but I can imagine that it may have been a challenge to adapt a story that takes place in a person’s mind. It is not however surprising that the script is successful due to Flanagan’s reputation. He is the Writer/Director of Hush and the Director of Ouji: Origin of Evil.

For lovers of Psychological Horror and Suspense, Gerald’s Game is a great opportunity to check out the beauty of simplicity in a film.

If you have read the novel and consider this a worthy adaptation of the source material comment below. Also, comment if you have some qualms about the adaptation or story itself.

Suspense Saturday: The Sixth Sense

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Post written by Ainsley Peace

I remember the first time I saw The Sixth Sense. While my surroundings are blurry, I can reach back into my memory and recall exactly how this film made me feel. By nine years old I had already fallen deeply in love with cinema so I could easily tell you that this movie had one of the best twists ever. This may come as a shock to those of you who have experienced more of M. Night Shyamalan’s failures than his successes but The Sixth Sense was one of the best films of the year.
The Sixth Sense follows child psychologist Malcom Crowe after he is confronted by a former patient. Shaken by the encounter, Crowe takes on the task of attempting to cure a young boy who “sees dead people.”
Inspired by an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? The Sixth Sense has a depth that many ghost stories and horror films were lacking at the time. The emotional impact far outweighs many horror films with its use of child psychology and very personal fears. Cole, played by Haley Joel Osment, who was best known for playing the titular character’s young son, gave a memorable performance as the young boy plagued by literal ghosts.
There are probably very few people that don’t know the twist of this movie. With the wide variety of content that is constantly being released there is a chance you won’t be as surprised as the audiences that originally saw it. As you go into this movie let go of all the baggage that comes with ghost stories, horror films and movies directed by Shyamalan. Allow yourself to be swept up by the psychological thriller. It’s slow pace and lack of gore make it the perfect horror movie for people who don’t love horror movies.

Suspense Saturday: Psycho

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Screen shot of Janet Leigh in Psycho 

Often seen as a precursor to the modern horror/slasher film, Psycho is one of Hitchcock’s most known films among modern audiences. Shot in black and white after Hitchcock already used color and technicolor in previous films, Hitchcock made a deliberate choice that added to the atmosphere of the film. Most famous for the character of Norman Bates and the infamous shower scene, Psycho is has laid the ground work for many writers and directors in the suspense and horror genre.

After stealing money from her bosses client, Secretary Marion Craine runs off with the money. After ditching her old car in favor of her new one, Marion stops at The Bates Motel during a stormy night. This would be her biggest mistake. After her disappearance, Marion’s sister searches for her with the help of her sisters lover Sam Loomis and Private Detective Milton Arbogast.

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Promo shot from the set of Psycho 

Using a television crew and a small budget, Psycho was a big departure from his previous film North by Northwest. Hitchcock’s willingness to take risks and try new and exciting things aided him in a long and successful career that spanned six decades. Beginning in the his career in Britain during the silent film era, Hitchcock made five silent films. In the thirties he would make one musical and one of his best and better know British films The Man Who Knew Too Much. After his move to the US, Hitchcock found greater success with his films like Rebecca, his first film in America and Shadow of a Doubt in Film Noir style. The Fifties would become his peak years with films like Rear Window and Vertigo that are often cited as his best films. His first film in the sixties was Psycho and you can tell that Hitchcock can’t do the same thing over and over. His peak years that came in the decade prior all had a different flair and that would be the same for his films in the sixties.

Receiving mixed reviews upon its initial release, box office sales changed things for Psycho and it has grown into a classic film often scene as a top movie for Hitchcock. Adapted from the novel of the same name, Hitchcock got as many copies as he could not to spoil the ending something impossible today.

 

 

Suspense Saturday: Strangers on a Train

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One of my personal favorites, Strangers on a Train stars Farley Granger as Guy Haines and Robert Walker as Bruno Antony in an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel. Important viewing for all lovers of Hitchcock and avid viewers of suspense, Strangers encompasses a lot of what can make a movie stand out. The stand out actor is Robert Walker, who would never get to see the impact his character had. Farley Granger is a worthy co-star as the guy brought into the situation.
Guy Haines was not personally sought out by Anthony but he may has well been. The chance meeting on the train turns to chaos for the tennis star when Bruno proposes a switch. You kill my father, I’ll kill your ex-wife. It is a story known around the globe; constantly re-told in varying ways but nothing holds a candle to this Hitchcock adaptation of the novella.

 

 

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Farley Granger as Guy Haines and Robert Walker as Bruno Anthony

 

 

I have read about and viewed the film many times. One of the best to study, Strangers shows us our capabilities as story tellers and film makers. Many elements, like in all of Hitchcock’s films, create a hectic bow ready to be tied. The great suspense in this film belongs to our villain Bruno Antony, the man you want to win. It’s odd that in many Hitchcock films you root for the good guy but in Strangers you find yourself falling for the lovable psychopath who believes himself to be justified in getting rid of bad people.
A momma’s boy who disdains his father and dresses flamboyantly, many people have come to believe that Bruno is gay. In the end that does not matter. What I do think is important is that Antony’s strength lies in his unassuming femininity. If he were masculine the chances are people would have an easier time catching onto him. With his feminine ways, Anthony is seen as far weaker than he actually is. He is able to use what some may refer to as his weakness as his strength.
When you find yourself watching Strangers on a Train don’t forget to pay attention to everything. No detail is too insignificant. From the opening credits to the ending moments, Strangers on a Train has many elements that make up a great picture.

Film Noir Friday: Shadow of a Doubt

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Joseph Cotten and Teresa Wright

To some Film Noir is a genre not unlike Westerns and Gangster movies. They all seem to fit into a certain mold. Unlike the two genres mentioned, Film Noir is a little different. It doesn’t fit into a well defined mold. Yes, the majority of Film Noir’s have a detective. Sometimes that detective is the star and sometimes he is after the main male and female characters. Sometimes he is also the bad guy. While Film Noir has a specific set of rules those rules are meant to be broken and it has a style of film making that goes beyond the restraints of a genre.

Film Noir, meaning Black Film in French, is a very American style of film making that many directors of the forties into the fifties have tried. Some live in the genre while some have tried and moved into a different style. Hitchcock tried the genre more than once but Shadow of a Doubt was easily his most successful foray.

Starring Joseph Cotten as Uncle Charlie and Terese Wright as his niece Charlie, Shadow of a Doubt is Hitchcock’s favorite of all the films he made. It is also my own personal favorite Hitchcock film. Uncle Charlie is a black widower who murdered several older women. Adored by his namesake niece and his older sister, Uncle Charlie comes to his family’s home in Northern California after the cops begin to hone in on him.

Joseph Cotton’s performance as Uncle Charlie is among one of my favorite performances of all time. One reason being the incredible dinner scene. Without giving to much away, young Charlie is beginning to have her doubts about her beloved Uncle after she meets one of the detectives on his trail. Uncle Charlie is beginning to lose his grip as he lets his family get a little too close to the personality behind the facade.

Note: Hume Cronyn’s film debut playing older than his years. Joseph Cotton delivers a performance unlike any performance he gave before. Most well known as the good guy to Orson Welles less likable characters, Cotton went against type in the gamble of his career.

Suspense Saturday: Murder!

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Murder! released in 1930

Let’s go back to the early days of Hitchcock. In 1930 Alfred Hitchcock was still a budding director; co-written by Hitchcock, his wife Alma Reville and Walter C. Mycroft it is based on a book and play Enter Sir John by Clemence Dane and Helen Simpson. The third talkie film directed by the future master of suspense Murder! may not be one of his most popular films but when you watch it you will see the directors signature from the beginning.

Actress Diana Baring, played by Norah Baring, is accused of murdering fellow actress Edna Druce when she is found in a daze with blood on her clothes and the weapon at her feet. She has no recollection of the events and the police arrest her due to the damning evidence. The two young actresses are thought to be rivals and she withholds information that could help the police. After she is found guilty, juror and actor-manager Sir John Menier played by Herbert Marchass, feels responsible so he begins investigating the crime to prove her innocence.

Spoiler Alert

His investigation leads him to another actor in the troupe. Menier fakes an audition, calling in actor Handell Fane, who often plays cross-dressing roles. When Fane realizes that he is accusing him of the crime he leaves and goes to his job in the circus. When he realizes that he is caught, Fane hangs himself while performing his trapeze act. If it wasn’t for the work of Menier, Diana would have suffered that same fate in prison.

Murder! has me feeling more sympathy towards the actual perpetrator of the crime than I do for the women falsely accused. Considering the time of this film I highly doubt that was the intention but also, knowing Hitchcock, he probably wanted us to feel things far beyond our own comfort zones. Was that intentional?I don’t know, but like in all art, it is entirely up to our own interpretation.

Murder! is available to watch on Amazon Prime as well as on various free streaming sites.

 

10 Decades, 10 films (Horror)

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The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari  1919 (German)

Genre: German Expressionist

Known for:The twist ending.

It ended and started a decade. Dr. Caligari is one of the best known and best reviewed early horror films. While researching this film some places said 1919 others said 1920 but I do know that I haven’t seen many films pre 1920 so Its best that I use this great film to start off this post. The first time I heard of Dr. Caligai was via a horror documentary. I heard about it more recently through my father who is a great lover of silent films. This film is said to have introduced the twist ending something that’s common in horror and suspense films.

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Nosferatu 1922 (German)
Genre: German Expressionist Horror.
Known for: Nosferatu is an unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stokers Dracula. The studio could not obtain the rights to the film.
Starring: Max Schreck as Count Orloc
After Stokers heirs sued a court ruling ordered that all copies of this film be destroyed. One copy survived however and Nosferatu has gone on to be one of the most influential and highly regarded horror films of all time.

When I was a little girl I stumbled upon this film by accident. I walked it to the living room while my dad was off talking on the phone. Nosferatu was on the television and I came in on the most popular scene. Count Orloc rises from his coffin and ascends the stairs. I remember running out of the room terrified. The rest is history.

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Freaks 1932 (American)

Known for: Freaks had a cast of real circus performers.

Tod Browning began his career in the circus and this film is inspired by some of his experiences. Two “normal” looking people scheme to steal the inheritance of one the “Freaks”.

After watching this film for the first time I feel like a part of me had changed. It’s a film that really makes you think. Looks don’t make a person a freak or a monster it is there personalities that make them monsters.

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Cat People 1942 (American)
Genre: Atmospheric, Suspense.
Known for: Cat People popularized the Lewton Bus effect.
Cat People was a Val Lewton picture that raised far beyond the limitations of most b pictures. Irena is a woman who believes she descends from a race of people that turn into cats when they become sexually aroused.

I had heard of this film thinks to my father and several horror documentaries. A few years ago I watched Cat People for the first time and was very pleased with the whole film most notably the atmosphere.

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Them! 1954 (American)
Genre: Science Fiction
Known for: Being the first big bug film. It was among the nuclear monster films popular in the 1950’s.
Them starts off as a suspense film. Police investigate suspicious deaths. The giant ants are not seen until a third of the film has passed. They are heard before being seen adding to the suspense.

I had the pleasure of seeing this film for the first time on a big screen while at school. I wasn’t very interested in these types of films prior.

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Peeping Tom 1960 (British)
Genre: Voyeurism, Early Slasher, Thiller
Known for: Highly regarded as the first slasher Peeping Tom ruined the career of its director Michael Powell.
Peeping Tom is the story of a serial killer who stalks and records his victims so he can keep their expressions of terror. Peeping Top now enjoys a cult following.

I saw this film for the first time in the past year or two thinks to TCM.

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Halloween 1978 (American)
Genre: Slasher
Known for: Popularizing the American slasher film.
Starring Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode Halloween is a independent horror film Directed, Written and composed by John Carpenter. Some have criticized this film by saying that encourages Sadism and Misogyny.

Halloween ranks in my top five. I saw this film for the first time when I was around ten years old. I immediately fell in love with the genre.

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A Nightmare on Elm Street 1984 (American)
Genre: Slasher, Supernatural
Known for: Freddy Kruger
A severally burnt man haunts the dreams of teenagers. He kills them while they sleep. Nancy fights back after loosing her friends to the monster inside her dreams. She learns secrets about Elm Street.

After I was done watching this film my mom entered my room and scared me as payback for all the times I scared her.

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The People Under the Stairs 1991 (American)
Genre: Comedy Horror
Known for: Having an African American kid as it’s protagonist.
A young boy goes to rob the slum lords of his apartment when he comes across the disturbing life’s they lead. There are people under the stairs that have resulted to cannibalism to live. Fool meets the crazy couples daughter and roach a boy who lives in the walls. They help protect him.

I heard of this film several times before giving it a proper chance. I am glad I did.

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The House of the Devil 2009 (American)
Genre: Haunted house and slasher elements. Satanic panic.

Known for:  Set during the early 1980’s

The House of the Devil makes it easy to forget you are watching a modern film. A college sophomore strapped for cash takes a babysitting job at an old house in the middle of nowhere. While there she begins to suspect that the residents didn’t tell her the truth.

I was recently introduced to this film. It has quickly became a favorite of the genre.

Current recent favorite. 

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We Are What We Are 2013 (American)
Genre: Cannibals
Known for: An American Remake of a Mexican film of the same name.
After the matriarch of a family of cannibals die her young daughters must take up where she leaves off. They are saddled with a domineering father whose health is failing.

I knew I wanted to see this film I just didn’t know why. I was attracted to this films interesting mystique so I gave it a shot via Netflix and I am glad that I did.