Fright nights

Shock, hor­ror, we love scary movies

The Dominion Post - - Front Page -

Awoman once com­plained to Al­fred Hitch­cock that she had not been able to take a shower ever since be­ing hor­ri­fied by Psy­cho. The di­rec­tor re­sponded that, in that case, he was glad he had not staged the mur­der on a toi­let.

Even Janet Leigh, who played the un­for­tu­nate Mar­ion Crane, the woman stabbed to death in the world’s most fa­mous bath­room scene, said she was not able to take a shower for years af­ter mak­ing the film. Only baths. With the shower cur­tain wide open.

Uphold­ing the fam­ily tra­di­tion, 18 years af­ter Psy­cho, Leigh’s daugh­ter Jamie Lee Cur­tis, was hack-at­tacked by Michael My­ers in John Car­pen­ter’s Hal­loween. (We thought the crazed babysit­ter-killer was dead. But he re­ally wasn’t! Then he was! But he wasn’t!)

What is it about be­ing scared sense­less that keeps us com­ing back to the­atres year af­ter year? The hor­ror genre shows no signs of slow­ing down. In fact, it’s thriv­ing.

The No 1 film in Amer­ica is Tyler Perry’s Boo 2! A Madea Hal­loween. And it’s shar­ing space at the mul­ti­plex with Happy Death Day, Jig­saw and It. Boo 2 isa com­edy-hor­ror flick from Perry’s mega-suc­cess fac­tory. Happy Death Day finds a girl re­liv­ing her mur­der. Jig­saw is the lat­est in the Saw se­ries.

The record-set­ting It is the lat­est adap­ta­tion of the Stephen King novel. It stars Bill Skars­gard as Pen­ny­wise, the toothy, danc­ing clown who ter­rorises a group of chil­dren in the late 1980s. It is the top-gross­ing hor­ror movie of all time, haul­ing in more than $320 mil­lion at last count.

It’s also the big­gest money-maker ever for a King adap­ta­tion.

And that’s say­ing some­thing, con­sid­er­ing that more than 60 films and TV shows have been de­rived from King’s nov­els and short sto­ries. It all started with Car­rie in 1976.

It has bur­rowed into the pop cul­ture zeit­geist as well, most jolt­ingly on Satur­day Night Live when Kate McKin­non, chan­nelling Kellyanne Conway as Pen­ny­wise, tried to lure an un­sus­pect­ing An­der­son Cooper (Alex Mof­fat) into the sewer. In the darkly comic sketch, called ‘‘Kel­ly­wise,’’ McKin­non later mor­phed into Hil­lary Clin­ton plug­ging her new book.

I sup­pose I could insert some broad state­ment here about how the di­vi­sive, rat­tled state of Amer­ica has been push­ing au­di­ences to de­mand more scares and gore, with movie screens some­how re­flect­ing the dark na­ture of the coun­try’s mood.

The prob­lem with that is: The pop­u­lar­ity of hor­ror films is not unique to 2017. Scary movies have been part of the film in­dus­try since mo­tion pic­tures were in­vented. Two of the most revered hor­ror films of all time, The Cabi­net of Dr. Cali­gari and Nos­fer­atu, were re­leased in 1920 and 1922, re­spec­tively. Be­fore sound.

The Hal­loween se­ries launched in 1978; A Night­mare on Elm Street in 1984; Saw started in 2004.

For my money, I still have to rate Wil­liam Fried­kin’s The Ex­or­cist as the freaki­est film I have ever seen.

Maybe it’s be­cause I was so young when I saw it, or maybe it’s be­cause I’m such a wee­nie, but when those two priests were fight­ing to ex­or­cise the soul of the head-spin­ning, green-goo-spew­ing Linda Blair, it shook me to my mar­row. Shout out to writer Wil­liam Peter Blatty (who passed away this year at age 89), for his novel and screen­play.

If you are look­ing for other twisted ti­tles to rent or stream in hon­our of Hal­loween, I would also rec­om­mend Poltergeist, which bril­liantly brought the para­nor­mal to an av­er­age fam­ily’s liv­ing room. It was di­rected by Tobe Hooper, who also gave the world The Texas Chain­saw Mas­sacre. Hooper, who passed away in Au­gust, was as­sisted on Poltergeist by Steven Spiel­berg, who also co-wrote the script.

An­other peren­nial pleaser is Stan­ley Kubrick’s The Shin­ing (Stephen King again!), which lends it­self to re­peated view­ings as Jack Ni­chol­son goes pro­gres­sively bonkers in a mas­sive, snowed-in lodge.

For those who want to take a to­tal deep dive into The Shin­ing, there is also Rod­ney Ascher’s doc­u­men­tary Room 237, which points to all man­ner of weird con­spir­a­cies and hid­den mes­sages in the film. (I don’t buy any of it, but Room 237 is a hoot.)

In the spirit of hor­ror se­quels, pre­quels and re­boots, I would be re­miss if I did not share a ‘‘save the date’’ no­tice, al­beit a year in ad­vance.

The afore­men­tioned Jamie Lee Cur­tis will come full cir­cle and re­turn as Lau­rie Strode in an ‘‘all­new’’ ver­sion of Hal­loween. Yep. The 10th se­quel.

Orig­i­nal di­rec­tor (and com­poser) John Car­pen­ter is a pro­ducer/ad­viser. David Gor­don Green (Pineap­ple Ex­press) will di­rect.

‘‘Same porch. Same clothes. Same is­sues. 40 years later,’’ Cur­tis tweeted with a photo when the film was an­nounced. ‘‘Headed back to Had­don­field one last time for Hal­loween.’’

When it comes to se­quels, ‘‘one last time’’ is re­ally not an op­er­a­tive phrase.

It is slated to hit the­atres 40 years af­ter the orig­i­nal, in Oc­to­ber 2018.

Au­thor Stephen King’s work fea­tures highly in any top list of hor­ror flicks, in­clud­ing It with Pen­ny­wise, the toothy, danc­ing clown who ter­rorises a group of chil­dren in the late 1980s and (in­set) The Shin­ing with Jack Ni­chol­son go­ing pro­gres­sively...

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