Countdown, Day 17: Rosemary’s Baby

Witches… All of them witches!

I am following Suspiria and The Witch with yet another witch movie: Rosemary’s Baby (1968, dir. Roman Polanski). Despite my reservations about Roman Polanski as a person, this is such a great film. I particularly love Mia Farrow as Rosemary. Her descent into paranoia and then her resistance to what’s being done to her are powerfully performed.

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Although I opened by describing it as “yet another witch movie,” it’s really a movie about abuse. Rosemary’s husband, Guy, is such a classic abuser, controlling even before the Satanists get involved. Watching Guy gaslight Rosemary is more horrific than Satanists and black magic.

Earlier countdown entries:

  1. Night of the Living Dead, dir. George Romero (1968)
  2. Dawn of the Dead, dir. George Romero (1978)
  3. Invasion of the Body Snatchers, dir. Philip Kaufman (1978)
  4. Get Out, dir. Jordan Peele (2017)
  5. Hellraiser, dir. Clive Barker (1987)
  6. Psycho, dir. Alfred Hitchcock (1960)
  7. The Birds, dir. Alfred Hitchcock (1963)
  8. Jaws, dir. Steven Spielberg (1975)
  9. Teeth, dir. Mitchell Lichtenstein (2007)
  10. Candyman, dir. Bernard Rose (1992)
  11. Creep, dir. Patrick Brice (2014)
  12. The Wicker Man, dir. Robin Hardy (1973)
  13. Texas Chainsaw Massacre, dir. Tobe Hooper (1974)
  14. Cabin in the Woods, dir. Drew Goddard (2012)
  15. Suspiria, dir. Dario Argento (1977)
  16. The Witch, dir. Robert Eggers (2015)

Countdown, Days 15 & 16: Witches

The next two entries, to kick off a week focusing on women in horror, pairs two movies about witches: Suspiria (1977, dir. Dario Argento) and The Witch (2015, dir. Robert Eggers), which I have previously written about at greater length than I do here.

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Suspiria might be one of the most beautiful, stylized horror films I’ve ever seen. It’s worth watching for Argento’s play with light and color and design, if nothing else.

Bad luck isn’t brought by broken mirrors, but by broken minds.

The Witch is visually stunning, too, but less beautiful in its style than Suspiria. It is rather more bleak than beautiful. Dark and gray, with the forest looming over the tiny human settlement, it’s easy to imagine yourself in such an isolated situation, and this imaginative connection makes it a bit easier to understand why the characters behave as they do. The score is especially worth noting, too. Stark (like the visuals) and sometimes difficult to listen to, it presents a sustained anxiety throughout the film.

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The best part of the film, however, has to be Black Phillip:

Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?

Earlier countdown entries:

  1. Night of the Living Dead, dir. George Romero (1968)
  2. Dawn of the Dead, dir. George Romero (1978)
  3. Invasion of the Body Snatchers, dir. Philip Kaufman (1978)
  4. Get Out, dir. Jordan Peele (2017)
  5. Hellraiser, dir. Clive Barker (1987)
  6. Psycho, dir. Alfred Hitchcock (1960)
  7. The Birds, dir. Alfred Hitchcock (1963)
  8. Jaws, dir. Steven Spielberg (1975)
  9. Teeth, dir. Mitchell Lichtenstein (2007)
  10. Candyman, dir. Bernard Rose (1992)
  11. Creep, dir. Patrick Brice (2014)
  12. The Wicker Man, dir. Robin Hardy (1973)
  13. Texas Chainsaw Massacre, dir. Tobe Hooper (1974)
  14. Cabin in the Woods, dir. Drew Goddard (2012)

 

Countdown, Days 13 & 14: Slashers

Friday the 13th (1980, dir. Sean S. Cunningham) would be the natural choice for Friday the 13th, but I don’t actually much like Friday the 13th. Instead, I’ve turned to other slasher films for this pairing: Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974, dir. Tobe Hooper), a classic, alongside Cabin in the Woods (2012, dir. Drew Goddard), a sort of meta-slasher.

I seriously considered Scream (1996, dir. Wes Craven) for this weekend, because it’s also a pretty great meta-slasher and because it was kind of a big deal for me and my friends in 1996 when it was released. I think it’s ultimately outranked by these two, though.

I just can’t take no pleasure in killing. There’s just some things you gotta do. Don’t mean you have to like it.

I actually only watched Texas Chainsaw Massacre for the first time a couple of years ago. I read about it a lot and knew it was important, but I was scared of it. I thought I wouldn’t be able to handle it. Happily, as it turns out, I could handle it. It, like many other 1970s films on my list, is a favorite because of its combination of violence, philosophy, tension, and boredom.

On the other hand, I saw Cabin in the Woods in the theater not long after its release. I didn’t know much about it going in, so it was a nice surprise seeing how things developed. In fact, this film got me into horror as an adult. I had been watching bad Syfy and Asylum movies with my friend Rachel, but this may have been one of the first actually good horror movies I’d seen in a while. It has moments that work so well as simple, straightforward horror, but it’s also such clever commentary on the genre, really, a love letter to the genre.

Marty: [incredulous] Giant evil gods.
Dana: I wish I could’ve seen them.
Marty: I know. That would have been a fun weekend.

Earlier countdown entries:

  1. Night of the Living Dead, dir. George Romero (1968)
  2. Dawn of the Dead, dir. George Romero (1978)
  3. Invasion of the Body Snatchers, dir. Philip Kaufman (1978)
  4. Get Out, dir. Jordan Peele (2017)
  5. Hellraiser, dir. Clive Barker (1987)
  6. Psycho, dir. Alfred Hitchcock (1960)
  7. The Birds, dir. Alfred Hitchcock (1963)
  8. Jaws, dir. Steven Spielberg (1975)
  9. Teeth, dir. Mitchell Lichtenstein (2007)
  10. Candyman, dir. Bernard Rose (1992)
  11. Creep, dir. Patrick Brice (2014)
  12. The Wicker Man, dir. Robin Hardy (1973)

 

Countdown, Day 12: The Wicker Man

I’ve seen both the 1973 Wicker Man (dir. Robin Hardy) and the 2006 remake (dir. Neil LaBute and starring Nicolas Cage). Here I am concerned with the 1973 Wicker Man, not the remake. The remake is . . . interesting. But also boring somehow. The 1973 film is, on the other hand, amazing.

The way it pits paganism and Christianity, rural and urban, old and new, etc., against each other is fascinating. The imagery of the Wicker Man of the title is striking. And Christopher Lee (Lord Summerisle) is always worth watching.

Lord Summerisle: I think I could turn and live with animals. They are so placid and self-contained. They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins. They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God. Not one of them kneels to another or to his own kind that lived thousands of years ago. Not one of them is respectable or unhappy, all over the earth.

Earlier countdown entries:

  1. Night of the Living Dead, dir. George Romero (1968)
  2. Dawn of the Dead, dir. George Romero (1978)
  3. Invasion of the Body Snatchers, dir. Philip Kaufman (1978)
  4. Get Out, dir. Jordan Peele (2017)
  5. Hellraiser, dir. Clive Barker (1987)
  6. Psycho, dir. Alfred Hitchcock (1960)
  7. The Birds, dir. Alfred Hitchcock (1963)
  8. Jaws, dir. Steven Spielberg (1975)
  9. Teeth, dir. Mitchell Lichtenstein (2007)
  10. Candyman, dir. Bernard Rose (1992)
  11. Creep, dir. Patrick Brice (2014)

 

Countdown, Day 11: Creep

Creep (2014, dir. Patrick Brice) is an interesting one. I wasn’t sure I liked it at first while I was watching it, but it grew on me, largely due to Mark Duplass, who I generally really like. By the end, I was very much into it, and this movie has stuck with me. I don’t know how to say much more without giving away a lot, but I suspect this one is less well-known than most of the others on my list, so let me just say this: watch it.

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I love wolves. because they love deeply, but they don’t know how to express it, and they’re often very violent and, quite frankly, murder the things that they love, and inside of the wolf is this beautiful heart. And yeah it’s misguided, and yeah occasionally it murders things. . . . I want to encourage you to embrace your inner wolf, so take the wolf and enjoy it, and more importantly, take the knife, and don’t be afraid to murder it, because when you stick a knife in something, and you gut it and you really dig inside, I don’t know man, there’s all this beautiful stuff. 

Earlier countdown entries:

  1. Night of the Living Dead, dir. George Romero (1968)
  2. Dawn of the Dead, dir. George Romero (1978)
  3. Invasion of the Body Snatchers, dir. Philip Kaufman (1978)
  4. Get Out, dir. Jordan Peele (2017)
  5. Hellraiser, dir. Clive Barker (1987)
  6. Psycho, dir. Alfred Hitchcock (1960)
  7. The Birds, dir. Alfred Hitchcock (1963)
  8. Jaws, dir. Steven Spielberg (1975)
  9. Teeth, dir. Mitchell Lichtenstein (2007)
  10. Candyman, dir. Bernard Rose (1992)

Countdown, Day 10: Candyman

Come with me and be immortal.

There’s not a lot of 1990s horror on my list of favorites, but Candyman (1992, dir. Bernard Rose) just has to be included. Its commentary on urban legends and myth-creation, race, urban segregation, and the way the past follows and shapes the present are all thought-provoking and meaningful, especially for its historical moment – immediately after Rodney King and the L.A. riots and well past the mid-20th century Civil Rights movement. Tony Todd’s performance as Candyman is also genuinely creepy.

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Earlier countdown entries:

  1. Night of the Living Dead, dir. George Romero (1968)
  2. Dawn of the Dead, dir. George Romero (1978)
  3. Invasion of the Body Snatchers, dir. Philip Kaufman (1978)
  4. Get Out, dir. Jordan Peele (2017)
  5. Hellraiser, dir. Clive Barker (1987)
  6. Psycho, dir. Alfred Hitchcock (1960)
  7. The Birds, dir. Alfred Hitchcock (1963)
  8. Jaws, dir. Steven Spielberg (1975)
  9. Teeth, dir. Mitchell Lichtenstein (2007)

Countdown, Days 8 & 9: Jaws and Teeth

This pairing is organized not by director or even by subgenre but by teeth. I’ll be honest, it amuses me greatly to be able to put Jaws (1975, dir. Steven Spielberg) next to Teeth (2007, dir. Mitchell Lichtenstein). One is the quintessential shark attack movie; the other is a movie about vagina dentata. I love them both.

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The poster alone is a striking reminder of the iconic nature of Jaws. Everyone knows it, even if they haven’t seen the movie. Everyone also knows the score. And everyone knows at least one line from the film:

Jaws is more than these things, though. Like The Birds, Jaws does not provide a clear answer for why the shark attacks, making its presence and its threat less easily manageable and more dangerous.

Chief Brody: I used to hate the water.
Hooper: I can’t imagine why.

It is a film about how we as humans deal with threats from the nonhuman world and about the our anxieties regarding those parts of the world (like the ocean) that we don’t fully understand. It features science lectures, a Spielbergian concern with fathers and family, and relatively little blood or gore, especially given how much I (and others I know) were afraid of it growing up.

Teeth, as a total change of pace, is a weird little movie about vagina dentata. It has a sense of humor about its topic, but it also includes some truly horrifying moments, especially if you are squeamish about sex and/or penises. There are more penises in this film than I think I’ve seen in any film that wouldn’t count as pornographic. However, they are all severed. I taught this movie in my horror class a couple of years ago and we had a productive debate about whether or not the film is feminist, so your take on it may vary from mine, but I think it is at least not anti-feminist and it is exploring some very feminist territory. I sometimes hesitate to recommend this one because it’s definitely not a movie for everybody, but I just think it’s great.

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Dr. Godfrey: It’s true! Vagina dentata! Vagina dentata! Vagina dentata!

Earlier countdown entries:

  1. Night of the Living Dead, dir. George Romero (1968)
  2. Dawn of the Dead, dir. George Romero (1978)
  3. Invasion of the Body Snatchers, dir. Philip Kaufman (1978)
  4. Get Out, dir. Jordan Peele (2017)
  5. Hellraiser, dir. Clive Barker (1987)
  6. Psycho, dir. Alfred Hitchcock (1960)
  7. The Birds, dir. Alfred Hitchcock (1963)

Countdown, Days 6 & 7: Hitchcock

For my second set of paired days, who better than Alfred Hitchcock? So here are 6 and 7 on my list: Psycho (1960) and The Birds (1963).

How can you not love Psycho? Even knowing what’s coming at every step of the way, it is a masterpiece of suspense and style. The use of taxidermy to set a mood, Bernard Herrmann’s score, the shower scene, and – of course! – creepy, creepy Anthony Perkins. This final scene never fails to give me chills.

 

We all go a little mad sometimes. 

The Birds is a horror film of a different stripe. Where Psycho is narrowly focused, internally oriented, The Birds travels and wanders a bit more, brings in more color and range, and turns the focus outward – to the natural world. This is an early film in one of my favorite subgenres: creature features, or natural horror. What causes the birds to attack? We get no explanation (psychological, ornithological, or otherwise) from the film, the way we do in Psycho. We never really know. That’s part of the fear.

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I have never known birds of different species to flock together. The very concept is unimaginable. Why, if that happened, we wouldn’t stand a chance! How could we possibly hope to fight them?

Earlier countdown entries:

  1. Night of the Living Dead, dir. George Romero (1968)
  2. Dawn of the Dead, dir. George Romero (1978)
  3. Invasion of the Body Snatchers, dir. Philip Kaufman (1978)
  4. Get Out, dir. Jordan Peele (2017)
  5. Hellraiser, dir. Clive Barker (1987)

Countdown, Day 5: Hellraiser

Clive Barker’s Hellraiser (1987) is so ridiculous that I can’t help but love it. I’m honestly not even sure what I want to say about it. The design of the Cenobites is so very memorable, and the 1980s hair and costumes are . . . also memorable. There are moments or images that are truly horrific, then the film will cross a line and it becomes hard not to laugh. It’s just so much. 

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Kirsty Cotton: Who are you?
Lead Cenobite: Explorers… in the further regions of experience. Demons to some, angels to others.
Kirsty Cotton: It was a mistake! I didn’t… I didn’t mean to open it! It was a mistake! You can… GO TO HELL!
Female Cenobite: We can’t. Not alone.
Lead Cenobite: You solved the box, we came. Now you must come with us, taste our pleasures.
Kirsty Cotton: Please! Go away and leave me alone!
Lead Cenobite: Oh, no tears please. It’s a waste of good suffering!

Earlier countdown entries:

  1. Night of the Living Dead, dir. George Romero (1968)
  2. Dawn of the Dead, dir. George Romero (1978)
  3. Invasion of the Body Snatchers, dir. Philip Kaufman (1978)
  4. Get Out, dir. Jordan Peele (2017)

Countdown to Halloween, Day 4: Get Out

Some of my countdown choices are quite recent. Only time will tell if they stick with me the way Night of the Living DeadDawn of the Dead, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers have done. I think Get Out (2016, dir. Jordan Peele) has a good chance of doing so, though. It’s smart, well-written, and visually appealing.

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I want your eyes, man. I want those things you see through.

Like Invasion of the Body SnatchersGet Out explores fears of possession and loss of agency. Unlike Invasion, of course, Get Out is attentive to race and the kinds of aggressions (both micro- and more overtly violent) black people face in 21st century America.

Earlier countdown entries:

  1. Night of the Living Dead, dir. George Romero (1968)
  2. Dawn of the Dead, dir. George Romero (1978)
  3. Invasion of the Body Snatchers, dir. Philip Kaufman (1978)