As hard to believe as it might be, growing up I was a big ol' scaredy cat. I have vivid memories of hiding under the comforter of my parents' bed with my brother as they let us half-watch A Nightmare on Elm Street. They were trying to be cool parents and give in to the seemingly harmless whims of their kids, who would insist on seeing the movie, only to watch it with half-closed eyes. I can't help but think back on all those wasted video rental fees and feel bad.
A few decades later, and I've become an unabashed lover of fucked-up movies and extreme gore. It's hard to believe that there was a time when any film would make me wince in my seat, but the truth is, there are still some that manage to get under my skin in the best possible way. A good scare, likea good cry, can be cathartic. It gets the adrenaline flowing and gets the heart and mind going. For me, it isn't the bloody and disgusting that frighten me; it's the twisted psychological stuff that manage to resonate and play to my neuroses. So, if you're in need of a shaking in your boots, here's a few films that do it for me -- and a few going on around town this Halloween weekend that just might do the same for you.
Alfred Hitchcock's terrifying trip into a Northern California town overrun by malicious and evil birds was the first film that truly fucked me up. Now I know that Psycho might be the film most people think of when they speak of the Master of Suspense, and I do love it too, but The Birds still creeps the shit out of me. Perhaps it's because living in Miami, I encounter a lot more ravenous-looking pigeons than dilapidated motels on deserted roads, but my skin literally starts to itch whenever I revisit the film. It is masterful in every sense of its being, and is directly responsible for my fear of undomesticated feathered friends to this day. It takes some talent to fuck someone up for life with a movie, and kudos to Hitch for doing so with a film that was made almost 20 years before I was born.
If The Birds set me afoul on all fowl, then it's sheer necessity that hasn't instileld a fear of hotels after seeing Stanley Kubrick's psycho scare. Everything about this film is perfect. From the writing and acting to the superb editing, Kubrik managed to shape the most horrifying type of feeling: turning something we love (our parent/husband) into the the very thing we fear most. As Jack Nicholson becomes unhinged in the stately hotel which he's calling home, I can't help but get more than a little nervous, because if there's anything scarier than Freddie Kruger, Jason, or Leatherface combined, it's Jack Nicholson's face shoved through the hole he's just axed in a door screaming "Here's Johnny!" It's hard to believe that The Shining was a commerical and critical failure, since it's now universally described as one of the most frightening films ever made.
The Silence of the Lambs
They say that truth is often stranger than fiction, then perhaps thats what makes The Silence of the Lambs an addition to my "Films that Scare the Shit Out of Me" list. Elegant, polite, and well-bred Anthony Hopkins' portryal of Hannibal Lecter is more akin to a character on Frasier than what we've come to expect of a horror monster, but I can't think of anything more horrifying than just that -- a well-heeled and sophisticated scholar with a penchant for the taste of human flesh and the ability to get into your head. While the scenes between Hopkins and Jodie Foster are the film's best, the anxioussness the rest of the film creates is truly a nail-biting experience for me. At the film's, climax when you realize that Jodie Foster has successfully found the serial killer and is suddenly alone with him in a pitch dark home with nothing to guide her, there's a palpatible sense of real danger. I can't recall when Ive held my breath that long before or since that first watch, but I do know that I still hesitate a moment before eating fava beans.
Around Town this Weekend
If visiting the above films just don't cut it, and you're looking for something else this weekend, here's a list of some ghastly and gholuish flicks you can take in around town this weekend.
Sleep Tight (Mientras Duermas)
This psychological thriller from Spain takes us into a Barcelona apartment building where the seemingly normal doorman plays a game of chess with the lives of the tenants. When one attractive young resident's cheery outlook becomes more than the sullen concierge can handle, he turns his eye on psychologically torturing her from afar -- but it's when he gets too confident for his own good that things start to get particularly dicey for everyone. Playing exclusively at the Tower Theater.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
As much a tradition as turron for Noche Buena or copious amounts of beer for the Columbus Day Reggatta, the '70s splendor of Rocky Horror is an essential part of Halloween. O Cinema Wynwood is bringing the classic to screen and encouraging attendees to become their own Transylvanians by joining in and singing along. Costumes aren't solely encouraged -- the more ridiculous, they are the better. It's time to time warp with friends old and new for this weekend's midnight screenings.
Flesh For Frankenstein & Blood For Dracula
Leave it to the Miami Beach Cinematheque to unearth two semi-forgotten works of campy horror from Warhol protege Paul Morrissey, just in time for the season of fright. It's one part artsy approach to a classic horror story, and one part campy vehicle for Warhol superstar and 'it' boy dujour, Joe Deallesandro. The films were made in succession, maximizing the usage of the period set to tell two classic stories in new ways. The genuine scares are few but the campiness doesn't get old.
Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter
While cinephiles everywhere are looking forward to the upcoming Spielberg biopic Thankfully, there is this piece of gore-filled fiction about the original man from Illinois' past-time hunting vampires and the undead -- all with stove pip hat in tow. The film's making a comeback in time for All Hallows Eve at the Bill Cosford Cinema at the University of Miami.
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It can't be Halloween if there isn't something for the kiddies. O Cinema Miami Shores is hosting an evening of fun and film for kids and grownups alike with the creepy animated flick, Coraline, and her misadventures in an alternate universe where everyone has buttons for eyes. From the director of Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas, this film is both utterly-charming and a bit unnerving, yet it manages to be safe for the little ones while giving the adults lots ot ponder over its weird themes. A perfect way to kick-start trick-or-treating.