A Saturday matinee screening of Paranormal Activity was the first and only time I have ever heard anyone actually scream in a theatre. I don’t mean a quiet whimper followed by an embarrassed laugh or a frightened little squeal. No, I mean a full-on, open throated howl of terror.
The release of Paranormal’s prequel last weekend got me thinking about other big screen scream worthy scenes. So just in time for Halloween are some leave-the-lights-on movie moments.
If Alfred Hitchcock had any doubts about the effectiveness of the shower sequence in Psycho they must have been put to bed when he received an angry letter from the father whose daughter stopped bathing after seeing the bathtub murder scene in Les Diaboliques and then, more distressingly, refused to shower after seeing Psycho. Hitch’s response to the concerned dad? “Send her to the dry cleaners.”
The shower scene was terrifying but at least it was allowed to stay in the movie. In 1931, Frankenstein star Boris Karloff demanded the scene in the movie where the monster plays with a little girl, throwing flowers in a pond be cut from the picture. It’s a cute scene until the beast runs out of flowers and tosses the little girl into the water, leaving her to drown. Karloff, and audiences, objected to the violence against the youngster and the scene was shortened, then removed altogether and remained unseen until a special videotape release 48 years later.
More recently, The Exorcist (now beautifully restored on Blu Ray) so traumatized audiences with shots of the possessed Regan MacNeil’s 360-degree head spinning that in the U.K. the St. John’s Ambulance Brigade were on-call at screenings to tend to fainters. Star Linda Blair says she wasn’t traumatized by the film, but admits there has been one long lasting side effect. “You wouldn’t believe how often people ask me to make my head spin around,” she says.
Blair may have been unfazed while shooting her gruesome scenes, but not all actors emerge unscathed. Elisha Cuthbert was so grossed out while shooting the notorious blender scene in the down-and-dirty flick Captivity she says she felt “physically ill twice” and had to have a bucket nearby.
Scary scenes one and all, but recounting them begs the question, why are we drawn to them?
The quick answer comes from Alfred Hitchcock who said, “People like to be scared when they feel safe.”
1. Romero’s zombies don’t eat brains. “I’ve never had a zombie eat a brain! I don’t know where that comes from,” he told Vanity Fair. “Who says zombies eat brains?”
2. Romero didn’t even call his undead characters zombies in his first movie. “When I did Night of the Living Dead,” he told About.com, “I called them ghouls, flesh-eaters. I didn’t think they were. Back then zombies were still those boys in the Caribbean doing the wet work for Lugosi. So I never thought of them as zombies. I thought they were just back from the dead.”
3. Romero doesn’t watch The Walking Dead. “I love the books,” he said to io9.com. “I haven’t seen any of the episodes.”
4. Romero has had it with people asking him about zombies. When asked by eatsleeplkivefilm.com if he is tired of zombie queries he said, “Yes. But you know what are you going to do?”
5. Romero wears his famous thick-rimmed black glasses mostly for show these days. “I don’t need them anymore. I mean I don’t need them to read, I mean these are bifocals. I used to need them for reading and for middle-distance. Now I’m a little fuzzy on the long-distance, but I guess that all turned around with old age, so I don’t need for these reading but I’m thinking of just taking the lenses out, because I’ve got to wear them for photographs; everybody says, ‘Where’s your glasses?’“
6. Romero wears Goliath brand glasses. From barimavox.blogspot.ca: “The Goliath is favoured by famed horror filmmaker and Grandfather of the Zombie, George A. Romero and worn by Elliot Gould in the Ocean’s 11 trilogy and Robert De Niro in Casino, as well as by the late flamboyant actor and game show host Charles Nelson Reilly.”
7. Quentin Tarantino says the “A” in George A. Romero stands for “A fucking genius,” when actually it stands for Andrew.
8. Romero calls the 1951 Michael Powell film The Tales of Hoffman, “the movie that made me want to make movies. I was dragged kicking and screaming by an aunt and uncle. I wanted to go see the new Tarzan; the new Lex Barker movie to see how he stacked up against Weissmuller and they said, ‘No! We’re going to see this,’ and I fell in love with it. It’s just beautiful. Completley captivating. It’s all sung. It’s all opera. It’s not like The Red Shoes where there is a story running through it and then Léonide Massine does a ballet at the end. I just fell in love with it from the pop.”
9. Romero is of Cuban and Lithuanian descent. His father was Cuban-born of Castilian Spanish parentage, his mother Lithuanian-American.
10. At age 19 he worked as a gofer on the set of Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest but was unimpressed with the director’s mechanical and passionless directorial style. He was there for the train station scene shot in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal. Also among the onlookers was future It’s Alive director Larry Cohen.
In the movie Hitchcock, the master of suspense, played by Anthony Hopkins, says, “Audiences want to be shocked — they want something different.” He’s referring to the lurid horrors of his ground breaking 1960 film Psycho but he could have been talking about any number of frights available on screens this month.
Trends come and go but one thing is for sure, audiences will always line up to get scared at the movies. Whether it is the time loop terrors of Happy Death Day or the return of Jigsaw, the evil mastermind from the Saw series, there is no shortage of things that go bump in the night at the movies this Halloween.
But why do we pay to be scared? Isn’t that counterintuitive?
Scientists tell us that we like the rush of adrenalin that comes from watching Leatherface chase victims, chainsaw roaring.
That jolt of fear makes the heart race and releases a hormone called dopamine that’s also associated with pleasure. Science journalist Jeff Wise called the experience of extreme movie fear “the biological equivalent of opening the throttle.”
A Saturday matinee screening of Paranormal Activity was the first and only time I ever heard anyone actually scream in a theatre.
I don’t mean a quiet whimper followed by an embarrassed laugh or a frightened little squeal. No, I mean a full-on, open throated howl of terror. But the woman didn’t run from the theatre. She stayed and enjoyed the rest of the film, so she must have liked the cathartic release of tension the scream gave her.
Legendary filmmaker and showman William Castle took full advantage of the audience’s love of shocks.
The advertising campaign for Macabre, his 1958 schlockfest about a doctor’s daughter who’s been buried alive, boasted that every ticket purchaser would receive a $1,000 insurance policy against “death by fright” issued by Lloyds of London.
Those brave enough to make it through to the end credits were rewarded with a badge that read, “I’m no chicken. I saw Macabre.” The gimmicks worked, drawing thrill-seeking crowds who spent an astronomical $5 million (roughly $42,505,633.80 in today’s dollars) at the box office to see a movie that cost Castle a paltry $90,000 to produce.
Alfred Hitchcock knew how to scare the wits out of people. The shower scene in Psycho, for example, is a benchmark in cinematic fear. If he had any doubts about the effectiveness of that sequence they must have been put to bed when he received an angry letter from a father whose daughter stopped bathing after seeing the bathtub murder scene in Les Diaboliques and then, more distressingly, refused to shower after seeing Psycho.
Hitch’s response to the concerned dad? “Send her to the dry cleaners.”
The director was always quick with a line, but when it got down to the business of terrifying audiences he summed up the appeal of the scary movie in one brief sentence: “People like to be scared when they feel safe.”
But what scares the people who scare us?
Guillermo del Toro, director of Pan’s Labyrinth and the upcoming The Shape of Water, says, “I love monsters the way people worship holy images,” but it isn’t Frankenstein or Dracula that gives him the willies. “Politicians,” he said recently, “they’re the scariest thing there is right now.”
Richard and CP24 anchor Jamie Gutfreund have a look at the weekend’s new movies including the birthday blues of “Happy Death Day,” Jackie Chan’s return to adult drama “The Foreigner” and Liam Neeson in the self explanatory “Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down The White House.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the birthday blues of “Happy Death Day,” Jackie Chan’s return to adult drama “The Foreigner” and Liam Neeson in the self explanatory “Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down The White House.”
Alfred Hitchcock, knew how to scare the wits out of people. The shower scene in “Psycho,” for example, is a benchmark in cinematic fear. If he had any doubts about the effectiveness of that sequence they must have been put to bed when he received an angry letter from a father whose daughter stopped bathing after seeing the bathtub murder scene in “Les Diaboliques” and then, more distressingly, refused to shower after seeing “Psycho.” Hitch’s response to the concerned dad? “Send her to the dry cleaners.”
“78/52,” a new documentary from Alexandre O. Philippe spends ninety minutes exploring not only why the fifty-two second scene continues to terrify but also how it changed cinema. Drawing its title from the 78 shot set-ups it took to film the scene, the movie is an exhaustive but not exhausting look the shower sequence.
A mix of fan info and academia, it covers some familiar territory but more intriguingly looks to experts like filmmaker Guillermo del Toro and editor Walter Murch to dissect the nuts and bolts of the scene. Shot-by-shot they get inside Hitchcock and collaborator Saul Bass’s mindset, delving into the decisions, both artistic and practical, that give the sequence its power. First hand recollections come from a new and spirited interview Janet Leigh’s nude model stand-in Marli Renfro and archival conversations with Hitchcock and Leigh.
“78/52” is likely the final word on the infamous shower scene. The level of detail will enthral film geeks and Hitchcockolytes but shouldn’t dissuade more casual viewers. The enthusiasm of several of the talking heads—most notably Elijah Wood—is infectious. We can learn how and why the scene works but their passion shows why the scene is so successful from a strictly personal point of view.
Today Alfred Hitchcock is a pop culture icon, a man revered for his mastery of the cinematic form. Films like “Vertigo,” “Rear Window,” “North By Northwest” and “Psycho” helped redefine what movies could do. More than thirty years after his 1980 death the “Daily Telegraph” said he “did more than any director to shape modern cinema.” High praise indeed but he wasn’t always so highly regarded.
In 1962 Hitchcock and French director and all-round cinephile François Truffaut spent a week talking, dissecting each of the Master of Suspense’s movies. The sessions were recorded and eventually became the1966 book “Cinema According to Hitchcock,” one of the best texts ever written about film. Truffaut’s enthusiasm for his subject and the book’s success changed popular opinion and soon Hitchcock was seen in a different light, as a true cinematic artist and not simply a director of thrillers.
The new documentary “Hitchcock/Truffaut” brings the original 1962 audio interviews to life using still photos, clips from Hitch’s films and storyboards. Interspersed with the source material are new interviews with acolytes Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, David Fincher and Olivier Assayas.
Taken as a companion piece to the book the doc acts almost as a DVD extra, a backstage glimpse into the content that sheds light on the original document. Fans of the book will find the experience of the book enhanced by hearing the two men (through a translator) getting down to the nitty gritty of cinema nuance. Newcomers should gain a new understanding of Hitchcock as the author of his films as an auteur whose personality is imprinted on every frame of film he ever shot.
What’s better than watching a classic movie on the big screen? Watching it on the big screen free of charge!
Be sure to mark Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window on your calendar this September as part of the 5th Anniversary of our Classic Film Series.
The 1954 stars Jimmy Stewart as a wheelchair bound photographer who spies on his neighbors from his apartment window… when he becomes convinced one of them has committed a murder he… Find out about the rest on on the big screen at a Cineplex near you!
Rear Window (1954) – TWO FREE SCREENINGS!
Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock Cast: James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey Plot: Directed by the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window is an edge-of-your-seat classic starring two of Hollywood’s most popular stars. When a professional photographer (James Stewart) is confined to a wheelchair with a broken leg, he becomes obsessed with watching the private dramas of his neighbors play out across the courtyard. When he suspects his neighbor of murdering his nagging wife, he enlists his socialite girlfriend (Grace Kelly) to help investigate the suspicious chain of events, leading to one of the most memorable and gripping endings in all of film history. Honored in AFI’s 100 Years … 100 Movies for excellence in film, Rear Window has also been hailed as “one of Alfred Hitchcock’s most stylish thrillers” (Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide).
Admission (taxes included): Tickets available at the box office only starting August 14. Showtimes Sunday, September 13, 2015
Monday, September 21, 2015
Twenty years ago Roger Ebert wrote that a moment in Dumb and Dumber, “made me laugh so loudly I embarrassed myself.”
The movie, starring Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels as the chicken-brained Lloyd and Harry, made 250 million dollars at the box office and seemed likely to spawn a sequel but nothing happened for almost twenty years. There was a prequel, Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd, but it was a Carrey-and-Daniel-less exercise in futility I called, “one of the least funny and ineptly made movies to ever play at your local multi-plex,” on its 2003 release.
So why did it take 19 years and 333 days to release a Dumb and Dumber follow-up? Carrey says he wasn’t into doing sequels but softened because everyone kept hounding him, he joked, “even dead people.”
Fans had to wait ages for Dumb and Dumber’s return, but two decades is a mere drop in the bucket when compared to the gap between the 1942 Disney classic Bambi and it’s sequel Bambi II. A ten-year-old who saw the original would have been old enough to send their grandkids to get popcorn refills when the sequel hit theatres overseas (it went direct to DVD in North America) almost sixty-four years later.
Thirty years after Alfred Hitchcock made seagulls menacing in The Birds a made-for television-movie called The Birds II: Land’s End revisited the killer avian story. Tippi Hedren, star of the original, signed on and it was shot in the house from the first film, but that’s where the similarities between the two end. The New York Times called the film “feeble,” and Hedren said, “It’s absolutely horrible, it embarrasses me horribly.”
29 years and 343 days after 1968’s The Odd Couple hit the big screen, writer Neil Simon and stars Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau reunited for The Odd Couple II. “We always had bad chemistry,” says Oscar Madison (Matthau). “We mix like oil and frozen yogurt.” It marked the last starring roles for each of its leads and the final collaboration between Lemmon and Matthau after making ten movies together.
These days Hollywood seems obsessed with sequels and next year will be no different. Mad Max: Fury Road, starring Tom Hardy in the role that made Mel Gibson famous, returns thirty years after Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and Jurassic World revisits Jurassic Park III thirteen years later. The biggest sequel news of the year—maybe of the decade—is the December 2015 release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In the official Starr Wars chronology the new film follows 1983’s Return of the Jedi after a space of 32 years and 207 days.