I’ve been watching a bunch of horror movies lately.
As a young feller, I steered clear of horror films as a rule. They were scary, I thought. Catching up now, one thing becomes very clear to me: I was kind of a wuss.
I mean; c’mon. Most of this stuff isn’t scary at all. Generally you’ll have to wait at least an hour before anything really happens. Then, maybe, some boogie man will jump out from behind the door and go “oogity-boogity” before someone screams and has to expose her breasts for reasons that are essential to the plot. For the most part, in the end, the ‘monster’ or whatever is just some idiot in a mask and a lot of fake blood.
That isn’t to say that I haven’t had the crap scared out of me by some movies, though. Some have made me want to stay up all night huddled in a corner with a nice, protective blanket made out of kittens and a very sharp ax.
We’re going to watch two of those honestly scary movies this week in the lead up to All Hallow’s Eve. Or Hallow’s Ween, as the kids say. Do they say that? If not, they should. Get on that, kids.
When I was at university, I took a cinema class entitled “Subjective Vision.” This course focused on films that showed you the world as it is seen—subjectively—by a character. We watched The Fourth Man, which is a weird early Verhoeven film; Don’t Look Now, with Donald Sutherland bugging out all over; and Repulsion.
Most of the films we watched were shown in one of the University of Michigan’s large lecture halls. Repulsion, however, screened at the historic Michigan Theater—a restored 1928 movie palace near campus. I went to see the film with my friend and classmate Jeff.
When Repulsion ended, Jeff and I had a fight about who would have to walk whom home. Neither of us wanted to be on the quiet streets alone. I didn’t trust a thing I saw. My belief in my basic sanity, in my heretofore-assumed security was brittle.
This is a scary film.
But what’s it about, you ask? Nothing much, really.
A young woman, Carol, played by Catherine Deneuve, stays at home in her apartment. There are no ghouls. There are no crazed dream-warriors with razor fingers. No revenge-driven murderer torments her with his hook hand. The scary thing in Repulsion is Carol’s brain. And Roman Polanski—in this, his first English language film—locks you in Carol’s head, in Carol’s apartment, with Carol’s malevolent brain.
I will go on record as saying I do not like being in Carol’s brain. It is a super creepy place to be.
Now, if you haven’t seen any Roman Polanski films, this is a good way to jump in and flounder for a while. This man understands what really scares people—and that, in itself, is frightening. It’s not gribbleys or giant spiders or 40-foot anacondas—those things give us the heebie-jeebies and make us want to look away. What really scares people, what shakes us to the core, is losing faith in our senses.
Becoming lost in the world, getting seriously untethered, that’s terrifying. Watch Rosemary’s Baby. You’ll see.
Is everyone crazy, or is it just you? My money is on you.
My hat, see, it’s like a shark’s fin. And that is also very scary.
No. Don’t run screaming. There’s no point. These sharks? They’re super intelligent and they’ll just track you using your cell phone, or by pretending to be your mother or something.
In case you haven’t seen the masterwork of modern cinema that is Deep Blue Sea, I will break it down for you. There are these scientists, see? And they’re going to cure Alzheimer’s disease by making these sharks crazy smart and then sucking out their brains or something. They’re going to do this on a floating/submarine research station with Samuel L. Jackson.
Unfortunately, the scientists have forgotten the basic rule of film scientists—do not meddle with things in which humans were not meant to meddle; like shark brains. Hands off the shark brain, okay? Jeez.
Without giving too much away, the sharks learn advanced physics and figure out they can eat all the scientists they can catch by sinking the lab. There are, and I’m not kidding, some of the best death scenes of all time in this picture. Namely, this one:
Right? And this is just the start of the ghastly horror in store for you here. It is all so dreadfully believable that you will forget all about Repulsion and have never-ending nightmares about sharks who steal your job and make you look like a ponce in front of that cute girl at the coffeeshop. I’m sorry dude. It was bound to happen.
In case I haven’t sold you yet, this film is directed by Renny Harlin. That’s right! The same genius who brought you Cutthroat Island and Cliffhanger!
That’s okay. No need to thank me. Have a nice evening.