So Halloween is upon us (although the Christmas section of the store I was in yesterday is already 4 times as big as the Halloween section, go figure) & that means scary movie season is upon us as well. I enjoy a scary movie as much as the next gal. Then again, that depends on who the next gal is. My basic posture for watching most scary movies is: knees to chest, thumbs in ears, other 8 fingers in front of eyes so as to block out the vast majority of the screen, & body in an overall state of tension. Sometimes I go so far as to mute the sound (because we all know that is the worst part of a scary movie, the thing that really gets ya). Then I usually have to sleep with a light on for about 3 days afterward. Like I said, I enjoy a scary movie.
I think I liked scary movies more when I was younger. It was pretty much standard for every 13-year old girl’s sleepover to have rented a scary movie (ours were always either The Shining or The Changeling). Come to think of it, I don’t think that my scary-movie-posture has changed much since then. The problem that I have with today’s state of scary movies is they leave nothing to the imagination. It’s like the naked man analogy ("bare" with me). I’d much rather see a guy in his boxers than in the buff. Frankly it just gets a little gross the more you show (man, my hubby is going to kill me for that one).
Same holds true for scary movies, they are better the less they show. Some of the classics, like 1963’s The Haunting, show nary a drop of blood. Basically the horror genre has been hijacked by gore-fests that take human depravity to new lows. I won’t even start in on the recent trend called "torture-porn." Then again, some of the scariest movies of all time aren’t even horror movies. Jaws, Silence of the Lambs & even Fatal Attraction all come to mind. Remember the word-of-mouth that The Sixth Sense received? Everyone, from 16 year old boys to 80 year old Grandmas, went to see that movie. Why Hollywood doesn’t realize that & make more suspenseful scary movies & not more gore-fests, I’ll never understand.
So what do you think? Do you enjoy sitting down in the dark, with a big bowl of popcorn, & having the socks scared off of you? Do you go to extreme measures (like mine) to lessen the effect of the scare? Is there a scary movie that you could watch over & over again & still be scared by it? I have a few, but those will have to wait.
So on to the reviews. I tried to review some "scary" movies for this month. One tries to scare the old fashioned way & the other two mostly just "scare" you with the characters’ actions. As always, the ratings are: 4 stars = don’t miss it, 3 stars = worth seeing, 2 stars = not terrible, 1 star = don’t waste your time. So let’s give it a go.
In Theatres Now
We had our first date night out since my hubby was in the hospital, & we were trying to figure out what our best bet was for a movie. Let’s just say, not a lot of "feel-good" movies out there right now. Several post-9/11 themed movies, an Elizabeth sequel that has seen some scathing reviews (although I have heard that it is worth seeing, if only to watch Clive Owen steam up the screen) & not much else. We went with Michael Clayton because the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. So off to dinner & a movie we trotted, knowing little other than it was a lawyer story. Wow, let me tell you, not a really glowing portrayal of the profession.
Basic premise is that seasoned lawyer Arthur (Tom Wilkinson, brilliant by the way) may or may not have had some sort of psychotic breakdown over a case he has been working on for over six years. Did he all of a sudden discover his conscience, or is he truly crazy? Michael Clayton (George Clooney, even though he appeared to have not slept for days, still a joy to look at), Arthur’s colleague & friend, is sent in to contain the situation, or as they called it, be the "janitor." Tilda Swinton plays a lawyer representing the "big evil company", who is just trying to come to some sort of settlement in the case so it will go away. The interesting part of the movie is how much you discover about Michael Clayton’s life, not just the case. George Clooney is amazing in this movie, & should definitely receive more than a few award noms. The pacing can be slow at times, but you are never fed too much exposition, so it keeps you thinking about where the movie turns next. Interesting enough, you pretty much start out towards the end of the story & then go back through, which is a gimmick that tends to be greatly overused in movies these days. I think that this is a rare case where it genuinely works. It keeps you thinking, "how do we get from a to q?" Overall, wonderful performances & just enough suspense to keep you interested make this movie a must see on the big or small screen.
On DVD Now
I ended up watching this one sans hubby, because I could guarantee I would hear snoring within 5 minutes of the start if I had. So nap-time became movie-time & I sat down not really knowing what I was getting into. The story starts with Sarah (Kate Winslet), who feels like an outcast within the group of other SAHM’s who meet at the park daily. A SAH-Dad, whom they call "The Prom King" (Brad), becomes the object of all of their silent affections. On a dare, reminiscent of something out of junior high, Sarah & Brad exchange a kiss in the park, which sets the other women flying off in all directions collecting their children, aghast at what just transpired. What follows is the story of how Sarah & Brad’s lives become entwined, & in doing so how they become oblivious to the turmoil around them. Sarah & Brad’s relationship becomes one that "little children" would have, in that everyone else’s needs are ignored. There are some fairly disturbing side-stories in the movie, including one about a convicted sex-offender who is returning to live in the "idyllic" suburban community. Wonderful performances by all of the actors are the thing that save this movie. Frankly, the characters commit some seriously despicable acts, that make it hard to root for them. Some of the worst acts were committed by women on other women (minds out of the gutter please). I was cringing in pain as one of the "park" women forces her child to share his snack with Sarah’s daughter, because Sarah has forgotten her snack again. The other women look at Sarah with a mix of pity & disgust that frankly sent shivers down my spine. We all know these women. We all hope that we never are these women. In the end, it just made it hit home with me how we, as women, hold our greatest criticism for other women. Why is that? The movie is definitely a character study, but afterward I just was exhausted from the emotion of it all. If you want to see some good performances (particularly Kate Winslet & Jackie Earle Haley, as the sex-offender), then go for it, otherwise I would say it is just far too emotionally exhausting to sit through.
This movie has been described as "Rear Window for the MySpace generation." I laughed out loud & thought, great, just what we need, a skewering of Hitchcock at his best. Let’s just say right off the bat that Shia LaBeouf is no James Stewart. And Sarah Roemer is definitely not Grace Kelly (not by a huge, immense, Leafs-winning-the-Cup-in-the-near-future long shot). So let’s put the Rear Window comparisons aside & just judge this movie on its own merit. The premise of the movie is that Kale (Shia LaBeouf) is put on house arrest after an altercation with his teacher. He proceeds to start watching his neighbours, getting a little more than he bargained for with one of them. The director said that he wanted to do a John Hughes teenage angst movie crossed with a thriller. I actually think that he succeeded fairly well on both parts. Shia LaBeouf is an interesting young actor, who has been compared to John Cusack & Tom Hanks. The comparisons are pretty apt, since he even manages to take some fairly lame dialog & make it believable (still no comparison to the great Jimmy Stewart). Kale’s Mom is played by Carrie-Anne Moss (when did she become someone’s Mom?!?) She, too, elevates a fairly one-dimensional character with her great acting. One classic moment is when she, after already canceling her son’s Xbox live & iTunes subscriptions, she pulled the plug on his TV & proceeded to cut the electrical cord with a pair of scissors. My MIL actually did this to my hubby & his sisters, after she returned home & none of the chores were done. I figure she should get some royalties on that one! Overall, the movie is fairly suspenseful, although often predictable. What this movie does best is not go for the cheap thrill/scare. More often the director focuses on the reaction rather than the catastrophic event. Kudos to him for that. This is certainly a fun & decently scary movie, that won’t have you sleeping with the light on for nights to follow (maybe that is just my problem). Worth a rental if you need something mindless yet still entertaining.
Movies To Keep An Eye On
Bee Movie – Nov 2. Jerry Seinfeld wrote this movie about a bee who desires to branch out beyond the normal bee career path (i.e. making honey). He commits bee cardinal sin #1 & talks to a human, hilarity ensues. As with most CG movies, reality is pretty much suspended, but I’m totally okay with that if Jerry can bring his inherent wit to a ‘family-friendly" movie
Lions for Lambs – Nov 9. I can’t not mention this star-laden movie (Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Tom Cruise, to name a few), but I wonder if we may be a bit saturated with post-9/11 war-on-terror movies. Unfortunately movie-goers have not responded well, as of yet, to the current slate of these movies, so it remains to be seen whether this movie will receive box-office as well as critical acclaim.
Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium – Nov 16. Dustin Hoffman & Natalie Portman star in this Willie Wonka-esque movie about an eccentric toy-store owner looking for the right successor. Jason Bateman also stars as the responsible, but not necessarily correct choice for a successor.
August Rush – Nov 21. I’ve heard very little about this movie except that it is about a boy searching for his birth parents, but I absolutely love Jonathon Rhys Meyers (yummy) so I’ll see pretty much anything he is in.
Well, its pretty obvious that this month’s edition of the Top Five is Best Scary Movies, but you may notice a few surprises that you didn’t expect. Let me know what you think & which scary movies would make your list.
Top Five Best Scary Movies
5. Silence of the Lambs – "Cla….rice", oh so creepy!!! Its a toss up for me between Lecter’s "breakout" scene & the final scene with Clarice all in the dark, both give me the total willies!
4. Aliens – This may not be a natural on some people’s lists, but for me you can’t beat the discovery of the queen alien. She is one scary mama.
3. Jaws – I still, to this day, can’t swim in water that I can’t see to the bottom. What’s so scary is that it isn’t about some supernatural or fictional scare, it is real & can be anywhere I’ll pretty much blame my brother & older cousins for my irrational shark fear, as we watched this incessantly as kids.
2. Misery – Kathy Bates…..genius!!! "She didn’t get out of the cock-a-doodie car!!!" They tamed Stephen King’s original vision a bit (she actually cut off his toes in the book), but never lost one ounce of the terror. Ultimate psychological thriller.
1. The Changeling – George C. Scott is riveting as a man who has suffered a family tragedy & retreats to an old house in an attempt to start writing again, only to realize that he may not be a welcome addition to the house. Or is the house just trying to tell him something? Honestly, I haven’t seen this movie since I was a teenager, & for good reason. Us Canucks know how to make a classic scary movie. Nary a drop of blood, no special effects, just the scariest movie I have ever seen. I’m a little dismayed that Angelina Jolie is making a movie by the same name & that it may be a remake. We’ll have to see about that, but I can guarantee that nothing will ever be able to compete with the original
Bonus: Sixth Sense – I just couldn’t leave this off the list. Who can forget "I see dead people." I can’t even catch 5 minutes of this movie without having to sleep with the bathroom light on for the next 3 nights!!
So go out (or stay in) & catch a scary movie before the Halloween season is over. Before you know it the season of Jingle Bells & chestnuts roasting on an open fire (who does this anyway?!?) will be upon us & we will no longer be in the mood for a good scare. That is until the Holiday shopping bills start rolling in!!
See you at the movies!