Hi, folks. Welcome back to Part II of movie inspirations! As always, I welcome your feedback on these movies or any others that inspire you.
1) The Machinist (2004) – This dovetails nicely into the Apex blog post I did this month regarding the thin boundaries (and frequent cross-overs) between supernatural and psychological horror, and how each relies on the other to emphasize what we find so terrifying about both. Another film directed by Brad Anderson, this movie seems largely to have flown under the radar but is impressive in its own right. Christian Bale’s disturbingly skeletal insomniac character Trevor Reznik is at times heartbreakingly sympathetic and at others, distant enough as to seem alien to the audience. Which makes sense, given the complex situation Trevor has going on in his life. To say more would run the risk of giving away some of the film’s subtleties of plot, but it’s definitely worth checking out.
2) Halloween (1978) – Another John Carpenter entry — noticing a pattern yet? This movie is another bad-stranger slasher film, but is set apart from the others because of its (at the time) originality, its commentary on the cold indifference of suburban communities, and because its monster is very much an ultimate evil in human form. Unlike other faceless, silent, hack-n-slash stalker villains, there is absolutely no feeling, no humanity, no compassion for human beings whatsoever in Michael Myers. In other movies, there is usually a reason given that created such a heartless killer, and a weakness associated somehow with that reason. What makes Michael Myers so chilling is that there is nothing we can use to rationalize him down from supernatural reaper to human being with weaknesses and illnesses and most important, with vulnerabilities. In fact, Michael Myers’s level of complete detachment from human emotion seems, at some point (given just the movie itself and not the original intentions of the script) to have made him just that — a supernatural and invulnerable force of evil. As they say in the movie, “It really was the Boogeyman.”
3) Tales from the Crypt (1972) – Although I don’t generally think of myself as writing the kind of pulpy revenge stories that characterize most of the EC Comics’ catalogue and thus the movie adaptations of said material, I gleefully admit that I absolutely consider them an inspiration. They were, essentially, the first real study of the anatomy of a horror story (along with the similarly-styled Creepshow movies) that I made as a fledgling writer. Short stories with specific kinds of characters whose sins catch up to them, these stories explored human evil as much as the exuberantly gory supernatural evil that one-ups it. This movie, IMO, ushered in a (somewhat more) mainstream appreciation of horror anthology films and television with its five stories of bad things happening to bad people. It delights me.
4) The Exorcist III (1990) — Yes, III. The first Exorcist movie is, of course, iconic in horror, a truly masterful classic of good vs. evil. But the third movie…oh, the third movie. What strokes me so terrifying about this film is the style in which it is written (which is, actually, very much the style, minus some content, in which the novel Legion, on which it is based, is written). The scenes end with some frightening image or spoken idea that the mind has juuuust enough time to register as horrific before the director is whisking you on to the next part of the story. George C. Scott’s performance as Lt. Kinderman is absolutely brilliant (as were pretty much all Scott’s performances); he is funny, sympathetic, kind, imposing, and efficient all at the same time. His facial expressions alone convey some of the absolute horror of the situations surrounding him. Brad Douriff is frankly terrifying. If you’ve based your opinion of his fright-factor on Chucky and some of his other comedic-horror roles, you’ll be stunned by how scary one man’s voice and facial expressions alone can be. This movie works on so many levels, from the writing/content to the cinematics to the incomparable talent of the actors. And I still maintain that after having seen hundreds and hundred of horror movies, The Exorcist III still has the scariest scene ever put on film. To this day, I can’t watch it full on without shivering. I won’t spoil it; when you see it, you’ll know which scene I’m talking about.
Thanks again for reading, folks. Next week, a look at some Hammer/Amicus movies….