The spooky season continues... check out our second instalment of Halloween cult classics!
Day 6 and it’s a big one. Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, a landmark of modern cinema by the Master of Suspense. I’m not even going to bother explaining the plot or attempting any deep analysis of this film - either you already know or there is SO many deep dive discussions available to check out if that is your thing. This is just going to be my unedited thoughts of the viewing experience.
Somehow I managed an entire film degree without watching this but I have however seen the tv series Bates Motel so am not heading in completely blind. Wish me luck!
I’m not going to lie the first 30 minutes or so of this film are quite slow - although I guess that adds to the suspense. It’s only when our boy Norman appears that things start to get intriguing. My favourite scene is between Norman and Marion - the writing, symbolism and acting is seriously on point here.
Can I just say, I want to riot as it is an absolute TRAGEDY that Andrew Perkins did not win an Oscar for this? His performance as Norman Bates is so rightly regarded as one of the great antagonists in cinema history. I mean just a casual reminder this film is 61 YEARS OLD. So whilst us modern audiences have seen the dual personality weirdo loner trope be played over and over in the last fifty years, Norman Bates was a seminal creator of this archetype. And it is insane how well this performance still stands up.
The most terrifying part of this film isn’t the famous shower scene and score, or any of the famous quotes (although if a man says ‘a boy’s best friend is his mother’ run for the fucking hills). It isn’t the stabbings or the screaming. It is Anthony Perkins’ transformation from meek, doe-eyed Norman to the CREEPIEST SMILE EVER ON SCREEN in the last 30 seconds of the film. Seriously, goosebumps.
PS: there is a shot by shot remake of this film (yes seriously) so if you do want to watch Psycho, watch THIS version. Not the remake. Sorry, Gus Van Sant.
Image source: Moma
Overall rating: 9.5/10 guys it’s worth the hype (points deducted for the slow start)
Most random moment: Taxidermy as a hobby. It has the intended effect story-wise but lord please keep it all away from me.
Movie MVP: I really don’t want to say Norman Bates. But I kind of have to? I don’t condone murderers (obv) but bloody hell that performance was magnetic.
Train To Busan (2016)
Zombie time! Those bloody things had to show up at some point. The elevator pitch for this one is wild: zombies on a train. Directed by Sang-ho Yeon, this South-Korean flick entered the domain to critical success in 2016, and in the past 5 years has grown to become a modern classic of the zombie genre. Gong Yoo (AKA Mr Slap from Squid Game), plays a father taking his young daughter to see his estranged wife in Busan for her birthday. Unbeknownst to them, a zombie outbreak is taking place and things get interesting when someone infected boards the train.
I would recommend this one as it’s less horror more action. That being said, these zombies are pretty horrific. They don’t just lumber around aimlessly, they sprint in an all-out frenzy. They also convulse and take about 5 seconds for the infection to take over once bitten.
Story and camera-work are fantastic and work seamlessly to completely engross the viewer. You can’t help but wonder when watching - which character would I act like? What would I do in this situation? How would I protect those I care about, and how long would I survive?
Whilst the overall premise is simple, this works to the films strength not detriment. The action sequences are creative, there’s some comedy thrown in and the arc gives a full spectrum of emotions for audiences to experience (true to form, I was bawling by the end credits). Definitely a great film to watch with others, beware of a strong desire to yell at the tv (in particular a certain character, you KNOW who you are). Go see it, but like me you may never want to step foot on the Vline ever again.
Image source: Variety
Overall Rating: 9.5/10
Most Random Moment: Mutiny on the train - it doesn’t do much for one s faith in the human race.
Movie MVP: Sang-hwa (Don Lee) is THE man you want on a zombie-filled train with you, he absolutely steals the show.
Wes Craven’s Scream burst on the screen and upset many of the horror ideals set before it, becoming an instant classic. No-one can doubt its influence, and I remember every childhood trip to the video store seeing the Scream cover holding pride of place in the scary section. This cleverly crafted 90’s staple not only pays reverence to the greats of horror cinema, but proceeds to then allow its characters to poke fun and outsmart them and the traditional horror ‘rules’. A year after Sidney Prescott’s mother is murdered, more murders start to happen in the town of Woodsboro, California. As the masked knife-wielding killer ‘Ghostface’ causes mayhem, anyone could be a suspect.
I was honestly concerned for my poor, foolish weak heart before watching this. Definitely one of the more ‘traditional’ horror/slasher films on this list, I wasn’t sure how I would go. Either I’ve got more stomach than I originally believed, or this is actually fairly tame! There is no doubting how iconic a figure ‘Ghostface’ has become in the horror lexicon, but Scream’s creativity in its self-awareness actually provides relief through the mode of borderline satire. There are twists and turns that are handled deftly by this stacked 90’s cast (you’ve got Monica from Friends, DREW BARRYMORE, Skeet Ulrich AKA Jughead’s dad, Shaggy from Scooby Doo, the Fonz even makes an appearance).
The entire plot is exceptionally written, but that opening sequence truly deserves its place in the cinema hall of fame. Can I just say, thank god home phones have been practically phased out of existence? If a telemarketer asks me my favourite scary movie, you’ll find me setting my phone on fire. On that note - RIP stovetop popcorn, I wouldn’t have forgotten you.
Image source: Scream Wiki
Overall Rating: 8/10
Most Random Moment: If you want to feel old, someone owning a mobile phone was so rare that it makes one character a genuine police suspect in this film.
Movie MVP: Gail Weathers AKA Monica Geller AKA Courtney Cox AKA rocker of lime green jacket/skirt combo.
Interview with the Vampire (1994)
Based on the 1976 novel by Anne Rice, this film observes the story of Louis, a 200-year-old vampire retelling his life story to a human journalist in modern day San Francisco. Beginning in late 1700’s New Orleans, a grieving Louis’ life is changed when he meets the vampire Lestat. Brimming with a stacked cast (Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Antonio Banderas, Kirsten Dunst, Christian Slater) and under Neil Jordan’s direction, this gothic horror manages to stick its teeth into the extensive vampire lore with ease.
Love, love, loved this SO MUCH. It’s not a scary film per se, but is absolutely epic on both scale and substance. The set pieces are beguiling, the direction is vivid, and each sequence is drenched in a sombre tone. Action is substituted with emotion here, which makes sense as vampires have the sentimental reputation within the supernatural forces. It all just feels so luscious? The audience takes a real journey alongside Louis, and Pitt wonderfully embodies the ‘innocent’ monster, wrestling between his humanity and his new nature, encouraged by Lestat and discouraged by his own suffocating sense of self-loathing. Cruise dazzles as the bombastic Lestat, gleefully manipulating those around him and revelling in excess. It’s surprising how electric the chemistry is between these two A-listers, particularly in the first half of the film.The story really takes off when Kirsten Dunst arrives, as she provides one of the more celebrated child-actor performances on screen, balancing the distinction between a young body and an immortal mind with nuance beyond her years.
Some may argue that the plot to this is too slow, and whilst that is a fair critique, narrative-wise that’s sort of the point. Louis agonises over his eternal existence - and as the protagonist, we are lead to share his regrets that span decades. Thematically, Interview with a Vampire explores loneliness, grief, isolation and internal conflict. To put simply, the fight between ones moral compass and ones intrinsic desires.
As we watch Louis, despite the passing of decades and the influence of the bold and arrogant Lestat, you can’t help but hold on to the slimmer of hope that Louis will continue to resist, and to fight for his sense of humanity.
Also, I really liked the ending? It’s a rare occurrence.
Image source: Den of Geek
Overall Rating: 9/10 (it’s gothic, it’s a horror romance, look I love vampire stuff and it’s my list so...)
Most Random Moment: More of a fun fact - at first Anne Rice overtly hated the casting of this film, Lestat in particular. However, after a preview screening, she was so impressed she not only called Cruise to personally apologise, but swiftly set out to publicly endorse the film.
Movie MVP: I cannot believe I am writing Tom Cruise, but I guess I am. You can tell he had a lot of fun with this role. Also that blonde hair cannot be unseen.
Also I can’t finish this recap without mentioning it. Cruise and Pitt are both ridiculously attractive in this film - like, literally save our souls levels of hot. You’re welcome.
The final day: The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
He’s done it again! Tim Burton, bring it home. I absolutely adored this. I watched Burton’s Corpse Bride 390582390853209 times as a kid, and whilst that is also brilliant, I want to punch myself for not seeing his animated piece de resistance sooner.
For those who aren’t familiar, in essence The Nightmare Before Christmas follows the story of Jack Skellington, ‘The Pumpkin King’ of Halloween Town, and his dissatisfaction with his routine life. When he discovers Christmas Town, Jack is immediately charmed by the concept and sets out to bring Christmas to his home.
Thematically this film connects on a surprisingly deep level. I almost shocked myself at how profoundly I engaged with Jack’s first song, the ‘lament’. You don’t really expect to hardcore relate to the Pumpkin King, a suited up skeleton, in a so-called kids film. But then he sings melancholic lines like ’I have grown so tired of the same old thing’ and ‘there’s an empty place in my bones that calls out for something unknown’ and you find yourself having an existential crisis. The characters of Nightmare Before Christmas express a longing for change, despair at being misunderstood, and a resolve to upheave their circumstances despite the obstacles in their way - themes that the majority of us can connect to, particularly after the past 18 months. Jack Skellington’s charm, whilst haunting at times, has endured largely due to his radiating determination to better himself despite the expectations of others.
The true brilliance I found with The Nightmare Before Christmas is its ability to create a sense of sentimentality - although it was a first time watch, I felt like I’ve known it all my life. This sense of security is golden whilst watching as you don’t doubt that Burton provides safe hands to guide you through the story. It’s a great transitional film for the holiday season, and Burton dances the line between his recognisable macabre and delight with expertise. Speaking of dancing, did I mention this is a musical? The visuals are stunning, the score is atmospheric and the story is timeless.
I mean, who knew an animated skeleton could be so heartwarming? The final scene is so wholesome, I almost went to press play all over again. Simply meant to be.
Overall Rating: 10/10 - dare I say, just perfect.
Most random moment: The fact that Tim Burton did NOT direct this. Wait what? Henry Selick directed this. My life is a lie. (Burton did however create the story, characters and produced it).
Movie MVP: Sally! She deserves all the happy endings.