“God is dead! Satan lives!”
Written and directed by Roman Polanski, 1968’s Rosemary’s Baby is a psychological satanic horror film based on Ira Levin‘s best-selling novel of the same name.
The film stars Mia Farrow as Rosemary Woodhouse, a pregnant woman who fears her husband, Guy (John Cassavetes), has been recruited by their eccentric new neighbors into a satanic cult. The “˜satanic panic’ sets in as Rosemary suspects Guy of promising their unborn child as a human sacrifice in the cult’s ancient rituals in exchange for a successful acting career.
Rosemary’s Baby manages to terrify without shocking violence or excessive blood and gore. It is a film that focuses on gender issues centering on marriage and pregnancy, and even abusive relationships – all in the guise of a “I sold my son to Satan for fame and fortune” cult ritual. There’s an unshakeable darkness and sense of paranoia in Polanski’s film that gets under your skin – similar to his earlier work, Repulsion.
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“Some movies stay with you forever…and ever…and ever.”
Directed by Rodney Ascher, Room 237 is a documentary about the perceived meanings of Stanley Kubrick‘s film The Shining. The film includes footage from The Shining, and other Kubrick films, along with discussions by a number of Kubrick enthusiasts.
The film interviews fans of The Shining who, using their own brands of film analysis, connect Kubrick’s film with the genocide of Native Americans, the Holocaust, and the Apollo 11 Moon landing. Room 237 is a bizarre, intriguing documentary about the power of movies and how each of us attaches meaning to, perhaps, meaningless things.
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Based on Stephen King‘s 1977 novel and directed by Stanley Kubrick (A Clockwork Orange), The Shining stars Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance, a writer who takes a job as the off-season caretaker of the isolated Overlook Hotel. His young son Danny (Danny Lloyd) possesses psychic abilities and is able to see things from the past and future, such as the ghosts who inhabit the hotel. Jack, influenced by one such supernatural entity, descends into madness and sets out to murder his wife and son.
Kubrick’s The Shining is an impenetrable, amorphous film. While I cannot doubt Stanley Kubrick’s brilliance as a filmmaker, I find myself conflicted by his interpretation of Stephen King’s novel. Interpretation is perhaps the wrong word, considering Kubrick took only the barebones plot elements of the novel and infused the screenplay with his own ideas.
Chilling? Yes. Visually devastating? Absolutely. The horror is only surface level, however, as the one-dimensional characters are mere set decorations for Kubrick, who seems too preoccupied with his own meticulous composition to bother with character development or emotional depth. The result is a film that is cold, empty, and meaningless – which may be why it’s so unnerving.
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“You’re gonna die up there.”
Based on William Peter Blatty‘s best-seller and directed by William Friedkin (The French Connection), The Exorcist is based on a true story of the last known Catholic-sanctioned exorcism in the United States.
1973’s The Exorcist was nominated for a total of ten Academy Awards, winning two for Best Sound and Best Adapted Screenplay. It is the first horror film to be nominated for Best Picture by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Almost 40 years later, The Exorcist remains one of the best and most effective horror films in the history of cinema. In 2010, the Library of Congress selected Friedkin’s film to be preserved as part of its National Film Registry – alongside other influential horror films like Night of the Living Dead, Alien, and Halloween.
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Trick ‘r Treat
“Always check your candy.”
Directed by Mike Dougherty, Trick ‘r Treat is an anthology of short stories woven seamlessly: a woman whose contempt of Halloween is only exceeded by her husband’s love of the holiday’s traditions; teenage pranksters go too far and discover the horrifying truth behind an urban legend; a twenty-something virgin attends a Halloween party in hopes of finding that special someone; a cantankerous old hermit is visited by a most peculiar trick-or-treater.
The common thread that ties the tales together is the appearance of Sam (Quinn Lord), a pint-sized trick-or-treater in ratty orange pajamas with a burlap sack over his head. Sam’s presence is felt in the film’s multiple stories as a “˜friendly-reminder’ to those who break Halloween traditions.
Trick “˜r Treat is an instant cult classic that ghouls and goblins will watch religiously every Halloween. Dougherty has created the essential Halloween flick – an atmospheric, spooky movie with a devilish sense of humor.
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