With the guise of Halloween lurking around the corner, it would seem that the time would be appropriate to feature short, deliberate reviews of films that effectively instill thrills and chills in the spirit of the season.
‘Sleepy Hollow’ (1999)
Heads will roll. Tim Burton's interpretation of John Irving's 'Legend of Sleepy Hollow' is not only gothic and stylish but also quippy and wittily written. The violence is not exuberant but instead well-deserved and at times quite comedic with a dark sense of atmosphere. Perhaps one area of improvement that Burton could have fleshed out was the troubling past of Ichabod Crane and his murderous father. Otherwise, 'Sleepy Hollow' is a fantastical piece of haunting escapism that elaborates on the gruesome folktale of the Headless Horseman with a bewitching twist.
‘Silence of the Lambs’ (1991)
Exceptionally psychotic and sinfully intriguing, Silence of the Lambs exhibits the intense acting talents of Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster in a film that attests to the existence of insatiable stalkers and nightmares. This movie is a fresh sigh of relief in contrast to modern day horror films that showcase gratuitous gore and empty suspense. Silence of the Lambs breaks the bounds of its genre, causing the viewer to question one's own sanity.
About as psychopathic as 'Silence of the Lambs', but you get that sinking feeling and your stomach does somersaults when you fit yourself into Jake Gylenhaal's predicaments, especially during the gut-wrenching basement scene. That in itself is the most enticing aspect of 'Zodiac': that the story was just as real, just as psychotic when it happened---and the film captures that time period perfectly. David Fincher (‘Fight Club’, ‘Panic Room’) does a marvelous job of keeping the film both character-driven and wrought with breathtaking suspense throughout. If you have not yet viewed 'Zodiac', it would be time well spent, though it may be an extended period of time due to its length, to get down and find some way to sit through this masterpiece.
‘28 Days Later’ (2003)
'28 Days Later' redefines it's genre in both tone and concept, unique as a Zombie film and still does not stray from thematic element. You find yourself actually caring for the characters themselves instead of the scope of the infection and the science fiction plot, yet you can still manage to enjoy the jumps and thrills of a genuine horror film. The zombie genre takes a turn for the anarchic as ghouls start to be quick on their feet and rush the main characters in a fervent frenzy---heightening the thematic tension as a composer would build his finest crescendo, to elaborate with some slightly lighter imagery. Danny Boyle does a marvelous job with the eerie and the ideological. Don't hesitate to view this film.
‘Red Eye’ (2005)
Though ‘Red Eye’ maintains dramatic purpose, the film’s hectic pace seems almost comical. The performances of Cilian Murphy and Rachel McAdams are indeed top notch; however, the pathos behind the killer’s motivation had the potential to be more extensively fleshed out. By the film’s climax, I almost expected the soundtrack to burst into the euphoric hustle and bustle of ‘Yakety Sax,’ and the ending came in as one of the most ridiculously authored and abhorrently clichéd conclusions that a movie of its campy genre could have. Red Eye can’t satisfy, unless one is easily thrilled by mediocre plotlines or predictable character archetypes.
‘No Country for Old Men’ (2007)
Dark, twisted, and heavily thematic: 'No Country for Old Men' thrills on a demented level. Watching Javier Bardem blow out keyholes and heads with his lumbering oxygen tank across the countryside is definitely enough to make this film a psychotic thriller. While the conclusion is indeed somewhat open-ended, the Coen brothers successfully implement an unforgettable series of choreographic techniques that dare the average moviegoer to evaluate the boundaries of which this film left behind in tatters.
Genre-breaking and thematically interpretive. Give this film a try and see what you come away with.
‘The Sixth Sense’ (1999)
Purely Shyamalan at his best. A film that effectively balances character with psychological thrill to create the perfect blend of scares and cares. An excellent performance by Bruce Willis is reinforced with the chillingly genuine talent of Haley Joel Osment, an end result that left me looking over my shoulder for a good period of time. For those of you familiar with the show 'Robot Chicken', Shyamalan lives up to his catchphrase with the tumultuous plot of this film, an apt summation that is hopefully vague enough to keep the ending at its own discretion: "What a twist!"
What are some thrillers and/or chillers that you have seen recently? Feel free to leave a comment below and let your undead groans be heard! Keep your eyes open for more ghoul-icious reviews and movie buzz before October wanes down to its final days.