Just watched the first half of a remake of a movie that should never have been remade.
“Closer to the author’s vision”, they claimed, after moving the story from New York to Paris.
Didn’t do a thing for me. Like the movie version of The Shining. Fed you too much too early.
But it did get me to thinking about scary movies, and whenever I don’t know what to watch on Hulu or Netflix or VUDU or my 125-disc collection, scary movies seem to be the choice. The go-to. The standard.
Except for “To Kill a Mockingbird”, “Cool Hand Luke” and “Field of Dreams”.
Scariest movie I’ve ever seen?
No question about it.
Directed by Roman Polanski.
Whose wife was murdered by Charlie Manson’s folks.
Filmed outside the apartment building where John Lennon was killed.
But during the entire movie, he never showed you anything.
Just a gorgeous apartment in one of New York City’s most famous residential landmarks. A classic example of the exquisite age during which New York rose to its luxurious fines.
You know what it is.
You know who made it.
Hitchcock only showed you what he wanted you to see.
The “scene” part of the scene lasts forty-five seconds, there were seventy different camera positions alone (and most are extreme close-ups. There are fifty different cuts – all in forty-five seconds worth of film.
That’s less than one shot per second, quite less than when you consider the longer shots in the cut.
And it took three days to film. Or was that five?
You (thought you) saw a naked woman getting stabbed. In one frame you could see a fake knife blade touching a body double’s skin on her luscious tummy, maybe a bare breast and nipple slip (if you go frame-by-frame and zoom in, and the jury is still out on that rumor)…
but you saw what Hitch wanted you to.
The bathroom. The plain, old, cheap-ass, roadside motel bathroom.
You know the ones I mean.
Here’s the classic example of what Hitch did to
Only this time, it was Stanley Kubrick in a hotel hallway.
You knew that hallway.
By that time in the movie, you had seen those hallways more than enough. You had that classic shot following Danny cruisin’ around an entire floor. You had the place memorized.
He heads down a long hallway from the kitchen, makes a right, we next see him turning left down his hallway – and he has the two hacked-up, bloody twins inviting him to a play date.
You expected another empty hallway, and you get that shit.
Hitchcock once explained that when you show two characters walking down a long street, and they pass a number of side streets, you picture the side street for yourself. You’ve seen them. He’s set up the neighborhood in previous shots.
Then Tony Perkins comes flying out you from one of those streets and Hitch done fucked your mind.
And he’s used a simple psychological principle to do it.
Here’s a scene from an underrated classic from ’67, Wait Until Dark. Alan Arkin (of the infamous “ar go fuck yourself!” in Argo) is a deranged hood terrorizing Audrey Hepburn in her small apartment. The entire film took place in this four-room basement flat, so we know the place. We know what it looks like. So does the bad guy. The heroine doesn’t
The furniture’s been re-arranged, so the heroine doesn’t know what it feels like any more.
She thinks enough to even the playing field, knocks out all of the lights, so the bad doesn’t know what it looks like any more.
They’re both going by what they think should be there.
And Audrey’s better at this game then Alan and she manages to stab him in the chest.
You gotta give it this much: Alan Arkin make a more hellacious comeback once than Michael Meyers did however many times.
So a lot of really, really scary moments come through things you don’t even see.
James Cameron or Guillermo del Toro or Eli Roth or Dario Argento can make you piss your pants, but they’re showing you what’s scary to them.
Like, I enjoyed Kubrick’s version of The Shining while I was disappointed in it. It didn’t scare me quite as much as the book.
Not half. Or ever a quarter.
I sat in full sun at high noon with chills running up my spine in California, in June, reading this guy’s masterful prose describing a desk clock in The Shining.
He didn’t try to show me anything.
He let me see what my own mind could cook up.
Much like Polanski did in Rosemary’s Baby or Hitchcock did in everything.
But in the time it took to read a six-hundred page books as opposed to seeing a two-hour movie, Stephen King gave me nothing to work with but my imagination.
Considering that, a really exceptionally gifted writer can scare you more than a Hitchcock or Roth or del Torro or Rob Zombie movie could ever hope to.
Roman Polanski had Ira Levin.
Stanley Kubrick sort of had some of Stephen King.
We have Stephen King or Dean Koontz or Bentley Little or Poe or Lovecraft …
but especially Stephen King, and we have them without a middle man.
All we need are their words to come up with the story they guide us through.
Then we take over and our imaginations are better than Skywalker Ranch, WETA, DreamWorks/Amblin and Cameron’s empire put together.
I’m impressed with us.
But someone had to come up with the words.
It’s about two hours later, give or take, and I just finished the second half of that remake I mentioned up there.
Seems like a filmmaker can do to things with a writer:
either give us a classic
beat both the writer and their work till they’re barely recognizable.
Hope Ira Levin had the rights and sold them for a shitload.
That’s the only thing that keeps this “remake” from bordering on plagiarism.