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.”
Just in time for the run up to Halloween Cineplex Theatres is running Richard’s transformation from man to werewolf in their preshow. On October 29 you can check out a good old fashioned double feature of The Wolf Man and The Mummy (more info HERE). In the meantime have a howling good time with Richard as he finds out what happens when the wolf bane blooms and the autumn moon is bright!
The eight-foot-tall, gruesomely ugly creation of Victor Frankenstein has been called many things. In the original Mary Shelley novel he is named The Ogre. In the credits of the Boris Karloff film he is referred to as The Monster. He’s also been called a fiend, the thing and the demon.
All those terms are apt for a creature born of dead body parts but a new movie adds a different name to the list—Adam. As in Adam Frankenstein.
I, Frankenstein, stars Aaron Eckhart as Adam, the prefab man. He’s now an immortal martial arts expert battling a war between rival clans in an ancient city. The character takes the name from the Shelley book. Sort of.
Shelley never gave the monster a name—people often mistakenly refer to him as Frankenstein—but in the novel the creature says to Victor, “I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel.”
Whatever you want to call him, Frankenstein’s Monster has always been a popular character in the movies.
The most famous film featuring the creature has to be Boris Karloff’s 1931 classic, but it wasn’t the first. Five silent films, one with the dramatic title Life Without Soul and another that featured the brute emerging from a cauldron of fiery chemicals, all played to packed houses.
From those dramatic beginnings dozens of movies followed.
Robert De Niro played the beast in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. On the set director Kenneth Branagh banned the word “monster,” insisting instead that everyone refer to the creature the same way he is billed in the credits, as “The Sharp Featured Man.”
Frankenstein: The College Years is basically an unlikely mix of Shelley’s story and Encino Man. Directed by Tom Ace Ventura: Pet Detective Shadyac, this 1991 comedy sees college student Mark (William Ragsdale) reanimate Dr. Frankenstein’s creature who then becomes a football star and a big man on campus known as Frank N. Stein (Vincent Hammond). “He blends right in,” says Mark of the six-foot-nine Frank, “he’s a regular invisible man.”
The movie The Bride, a 1985 remake of The Bride of Frankenstein starring Sting and Jennifer Beals, gave the fiend yet another name. He was dubbed Viktor but not in tribute to his creator Victor Frankenstein. In this retelling the good doctor is known as Baron Charles Frankenstein. The name Viktor was chosen in tribute to the film’s producer Victor Drai.