My top 5 directors (No.5) – Alfred Hitchcock

5) Alfred Hitchcock

 

Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock

For this entry rather then write about the man I will pick two of my favorite movies from this master and discuss them. Hopefully, this will provide a more in depth analysis for my decision. Within each category I will briefly discuss the impact of the movie, their importance in the world of cinema (influence if you will), and will provide videos of the most important scenes in my perspective. I will avoid story details for the sake of avoiding spoilers.

 

 

Vertigo (1958)

 

Vertigo (1958)
Vertigo (1958)

Many people become familiar with Alfred Hitchcock through either watching Psycho or Vertigo. I spent maybe two hours thinking about which movie deserves first place and also sat and watched both movies back to back. I finally decided Vertigo just felt like a more complete structured piece of art and everything fitted together like puzzles nothing seemed out of place. I remember a few years back me and a couple of friends were seating down having a few cold ones watching Shawshank Redemption (1994) and suddenly one of them asked “is there such a thing as a perfect movie?”

Many including myself would argue no matter how good a movie is there is always going to be a slight glitch somewhere that would take away from it being perfect whether it is a camera shot, dialogue an out of place movement by the actors etc. All that changed when I watched Vertigo a movie of epic proportions dreamy scenery, outstanding cinematography, hauntingly soothing sound track and above all the” dolly zoom” more commonly known as the “vertigo effect”. The genius that was Hitchcock was the first director to use this method in a movie in order to create the sense of confusion that the protagonists suffered as a result of fear of heights.

The various locations used for the story around San Francisco are all shot to perfection not one tree feels out of place. One particular scene featuring the Golden Gate bridge is amongst my favorite scenes from the movie. The bridge makes multiple appearances throughout the movie perhaps reminding us of the movies grandiose significance, and Hitchcock’s confidence bordering arrogance. To be this good such self-belief is expected.

Some critics have criticized the movies running time however I personally found the pacing to be perfect having watched the movie multiple times I never really felt like skipping a scene or finding myself getting bored.

 

 Why Vertigo?

Scenery, story, mastery without a doubt Hitchcock’s defining moment a masterpiece. The movie has been restored to high definition therefore there has never been a better time to watch this classic.

 

Impact?

Its influence runs wide however the “vertigo effect” is probably the most impactful influence. Movies such as Goodfellas (1990), Jaws (1975)  and Road to Perdition (2002) have all adapted the dolly shot technique. Panoramic wide shots and masterful camera work make each shot as vivid and impactful as paintings on canvas. For those familiar with the work of Federico Fellini they will start to spot his influence on Hitchcock immediately however saying that nothing seems generic. Hitchcock simply borrows and perfects with a sprinkle of his own genius.

 

Favorite scene

 

 

This scene for me encapsulates Vertigo perfectly. Dreamy cinematography, the escalation of music and wonderful use of scenery and colors.

 

 Psycho (1960)

Psycho (1960)
Psycho (1960)

What has not been said about this movie? Perhaps the most influential movie of all time specifically in the field of horror particularly the slasher genre of horror. Arguably the first slasher movie. Before Michael Myers and Jason there was the mentally disturbed Norman Bates. No other movie deals with mental illness the same way Hitchcock does with Psycho. Anthony Perkins does an outstanding job portraying the disturbed Norman.

 However, as it always tends to be the case the real star here is the man sitting on the directors seat calling the shots. That`s right the tension, the moody, almost unsettling atmosphere, and disturbing scratching and screeching music create tension that even today’s horror movies fail to replicate despite having the technology to do so. Perhaps this is where it has all gone wrong we have become too dependent on artificial means in evoking terrifying emotions, and thus reduced the impact of such movies. The impact of Psycho on popular culture has been immense the iconic shower scene, the scream of fear are instantly recognizable.

What makes this movie so great in my opinion is that very little explanation is given behind Normans obscure behavior this lack of explanation in psychological horror has become the norm in such movies ever since. There is this gut feeling that something is not quite right and this is evoked through Hitchcock’s masterful handling of the camera, and use of symbolic imagery to provide some level of explanation into Norman’s odd behavior. A good example of this being Normans use of taxidermy as decoration perhaps hinting towards his propensity for violence, yet he is portrayed as being very calm and collective in his approach.

 Psycho is as much about exploration of the mind as it is a horror movie therefore writing about this movie is no easy task. After all there has been books written about the interpretation and significance of the movie.

 The use of shadows, dark blacks and symbolic imagery symbolizing introvert desires are presented in masterful fashion. This is as much of an art house movie as it is provoking and effective. No movie horror or otherwise has been able to achieve the same level of impact as Psycho it is a colossal achievement that stands unmatched and probably never will be.

 

Why Psycho?

 

My favorite movie shot in black and white no other movie makes use of black and white the same way does Psycho possibly with Vampyr (1932) being an exception. Plus very few movies encourage as much discussion as Psycho despite endless books detailing the movies significance and interpretation.

 

Impact

 

The most explicit movie of the 1960s breaking barriers and demonstrating violence and taboo themes can be part of the industry. Its impact on popular culture and a prime example of psychological study and masterful directing make this classic a marvelous achievement. The ambiguity of the cause of Norman Bates illness has allowed spin offs, sequels and recently a fantastic TV series (Bates Motel). A show worth checking out.

 

Favorite scene

 

It’s almost impossible to choose a single scene every scene is significant and plays an important part in understanding the story. Consequently, I will provide two scenes that had the most impact on me.

 

This scene demonstrates Bateman’s complicated relationship with his mother.

Here we see Norman finally having lost control of all reason.

My top 5 directors (No.4) – John Carpenter

John Carpenter on set
John Carpenter on set

John Carpenter is perhaps the most underrated director of all time. Partly because he never quiet attained the same level of influence as in the 1980s, in the later part of his career. His impact on the world of cinema cannot be underestimated he has created movies that have influenced generations of directors and defined genres especially in the field of horror. Movies such as Halloween, The Thing, Assault on Precinct 13, Escape from New York, Big Trouble in Little China, and of course They live have all went on to become cult classics. Perhaps one of the reasons why he never quiet made many high budget movies was for his stubbornness. His attitude towards having as much control over the project as possible is just as famous as his movies. Hence why he is normally the composer, producer, writer, director and editor of his work. Not only did this allow him to have maximum creative control over the project but it allowed him to make movies as he envisioned them. This also meant less money had to be spent hiring someone else. This is now a trend that seems to be followed by today’s blossoming directors most notably Ti West.

 

What makes a John Carpenter movie?

 

Simply put they are fun to watch. They are what you would expect from watching a movie pure entertainment. That is the beauty of his work they don`t take themselves too seriously, and this is reflected in the pictures. This is not to say that he only makes fan pleasing movies. For example The Thing is perhaps one of his most notable works, groundbreaking at the time it was released and even today the film has the ability to shock and provoke the audience. Criticized heavily at the time of release for its excess depiction of gore and violence it slowly went on to become a cult classic, and one of the most influential sci-fi / horror movies of all time. This was one movie were John Carpenter simply fulfilled his role as a director and a director only. The composition was conducted by the legendary Italian conductor Ennio Morricone and editing was taken care of by Todd Ramsay.

The Thing - one of the greatest Sci-fi movies of all time
The Thing – one of the greatest Sci-fi movies of all time

Halloween in which I talked about in more detail in a previous blog check it out here, became a cult classic and became the most iconic slasher movie off all time. It has stretched past 10 sequels and it remains the granddaddy of all slashers. Like most of John Carpenters movies the movie was released to mix reactions and negative reviews, but went on to become a classic and smash records at the box office despite having a budget of no more than $200,000.

 

Assault on Precinct 13 is one my favorite John Carpenter movie. The concept is really simple and again everything in the making process was handled by Carpenter himself. The movie was released to controversy as attention was given to a particular scene where a little girl is killed. This was not going to faze Carpenter at this point in his career controversy was almost like free publicity. Without giving any story details away this movie has one of the most epic shootouts that lasts for almost 10 minutes. In the world of movies a scene dedicated to 10 minutes of no story related progression is unheard of. Yet it is moments like this that make his movies great to watch. The scene is chaotic, loud and intense. Intense is probably the best way to describe the majority of his work. There is a heightened sense of helplessness throughout the movie yet somehow it ends with the most macho high note of machismo.

Behind the scenes - Halloween
Behind the scenes – Halloween

One can construe the movies of John Carpenter to represent attacks on political establishments. Corruption, manipulation and deceit are just some of the ways he tends to portray the government in his movies. Very much matching his own rebellious views towards corporate movie studios. In this sense the role of an anti-hero who stands up against such power is very befitting. Escape from New York which went on to influence the character of Solid Snake in the acclaimed video game series Metal Gear Solid by Hideo Kojima is a perfect example of such assaults. Here not only does he portray the government as the driving force towards the worlds end, but also an imprudent force. This is demonstrated through Snake Pliskken (Kurt Russell) outsmarting the establishment even when the technology and man numbers stand against his favor.

However, no movie makes this theory seem truer than in They live. This would probably be the one movie no politician would want to watch or if they did they would turn a blind eye to the message, and instead laugh along as the film rolls. A sci-fi comedy with plenty of dark humor and fuck the establishment statements. Roddy Piper took the leading role for this movie his debut movie role without any acting experience (that is if you don`t consider WWE acting) and did a great job. One particular scene that stands out in this movie is a 5 minute street fight that seems to go on forever resembling the shootout in Assault on Precinct 13.

Check out the billboard messages
Check out the billboard messages

Check it out here:

John Carpenter is a great movie maker if there was a golden era for this director it would obviously be the 1980s; his contribution to horror and sci-fi movies along with his distaste for political power, and his `I can do all` attitude to movie making make him a very special director. Very few have made movies that have had everlasting influential impact many years after their release, many directors would be lucky to mention even one such movie in their resume. John Carpenter has at least six. Saying that his talents are not restricted to directing he has also composed some of the most iconic movie soundtracks off all time Halloween for instance or Escape from New York and so on. He also lay the blueprint on how to hit the lottery at box office whist staying under budget and independent.

What makes him stand above the rest is that his movies encapsulate the purest form of entertainment in that they are fun to watch. It is hard to believe but he is still an active director but with mediocre releases is tough to see this genius match what he has already achieved.

My top 5 directors (No.3) – Stanley Kubrick

3) Stanley Kubrick

stanley-k2

There is no great genius without some touch of madness. This could not be truer when it comes to Stanley Kubrick. His perfectionist almost obsessive trait made it extremely difficult for him to find fellow actors and actresses to work with hence only directing 13 movies despite being a director from the 1950s. His unorthodox method of storytelling allowed for a more in depth study of characters and motive. The stories in his movies often branched out in multiple directions abandoning the conventional linear storytelling.

His attention to detail has been well documented. Often retaking scenes even when it seemed perfect to everyone else. One wrong facial movement that seemed out of sync with the particular scene being filmed – retake. Therefore, tension between crew members and actors were very high. This almost obsessive behavior was not limited to filming it also occurred pre filming. He would read screenplays multiple times, edit and maybe scrap the whole thing.

 Moving on from his behavioral trait lets examine some of his work. Why do I place him in my top 3 favorites? When I watch a Stanley Kubrick movie I view it as a documentary there is serious intellectual curiosity integrated with social commentary about the darker side of human ambitions and achievements. His movies painfully dissect these themes creating powerful and impactful cinema experiences. This made him controversial. When making movies of such themes if not done correctly they would simply imply shock factor. That would be considered a work of a less skillful director. I will now briefly discuss my top three Kubrick masterpieces.

The shining (1980) 

A powerful movie that maintains its impact even today.
A powerful movie that maintains its impact even today.

Every inspiring movie director should watch The Shining. Based on the novel by Stephen King it tells the story of man`s decent into madness at the hand of isolation. Every scene in this movie is shot to perfection a horror masterpiece that maintains its impact 20 plus years on. Everything in this movie has a purpose it all contributes towards the story being told. Essentially the mind is fragile the balance between sanity and insanity is a fine thread. But what could disturb that balance? What could drive someone to commit acts behind rational reasoning? This movie raises such moral questions and does a great job at answering them. Jack Nicholson is terrific I could not think of anyone else who could have played this role with more conviction then him. Fluid storytelling, terrific acting, masterful camera work make this a masterpiece and one that everyone should watch. The eerie atmosphere is maintained throughout the film thanks to still shots and the whistling sound of the wind providing a cold sense of despair. Oh and some of the most unsettling music composition in movie history.

Favorite scenes:

The terrifying moment Jack angrily wields his axe at the toilet door shouting here is Johnny! This scene is perhaps one of the most iconic and recognized scenes in cinema history. The movie is filled with great scenes so I will mention another. The final scene with Jack chasing his son Danny through the hedge maze. It’s disturbing because it is a child who is at risk but also because the maze symbolizes Jacks point of no return at this point in the movie he has lost all hope of being sane. Madness has engulfed his judgement and eventually it is within the maze where he makes his final stop. Confirming the point of no return.

 

 

A Orange Clockwork (1971)

A Clockwork Orange
A Clockwork Orange

One of the more controversial works of Kubrick`s career. The movie uses extreme scenes of violence and immoral behavior in order to portray psychological issues and challenge methods of treatment. Aversion therapy being the main subject of the movies criticism. Like all other Kubrick films symbolism is in plenty and perhaps used to fill in gaps in the story. In what appears to be a movie about gang vandalism and excess testosterone levels during adolescent years. Soon changes into the treatment of such “delinquents”.

 During the gangs raids I believe what the movie is portraying is the ability of having free will within society and that people should be entitled to this regardless of how extreme their behavior may be. This perception of total freedom however also has consequences and within any society with a political hierarchy the outcome of these results are responded to accordingly.

 In the case of Alex he is put through intensive psychological procedures in order to cleanse his mind and convert him to a law abiding citizen. At the end we notice that the perception of freedom is only an illusion. We see Alex turned into something he is not an empty yet reformed individual who no longer finds pleasure in the things that made him an individual. The movie makes strong statements on psychological issues intertwined with political undertone. Essential watching.

Favorite scene:

 Two words cat lady.

 

 

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

2001: A Space Odyssey. A Sci-fi masterpiece.
2001: A Space Odyssey. A Sci-fi masterpiece.

 

The Sci-fi genre makes up for some of my favorite movies of all time. Soon I will make a list of my favorite Sci-fi movies. However one movie you will find on top of my list will be 2001: A Space Odyssey. One of the greatest movies ever made and perhaps one of the most influential in regards to the study of A.I and the dangers associated with such technology. It would be unfair to say the movie solely examines this particular issue since its philosophical undertones expands on many spectrum’s in relation to the mystery of life.

I could name countless movies influenced by this excellent feature. The most recent being Ex Machina. The movie studies the origin of life and gradually explores man’s rise to space, through technological advancements. It even touches on the possibility of extraterrestrial life outside of our own planet. However, much of what makes the movie special is that nothing is clear. It is essentially left to the viewer’s imagination in deciphering the story. The film features some of the most iconic movie soundtracks of all time, and one that compliments the mystery and emptiness of space.

The movie based on Arthur C. Clarke’s novel is slightly less clear and more ambiguous. Having read the book, I can confirm much of the story makes sense if you do read the novel.

Favorite scene:

The moment HAL 9000 the computer controlling the spaceship no longer complies with Dave Bowman’s commands. Illustrating the possibility of artificial intelligence essentially taking control and excising their power over ours.

There you have it folks. Let me know what you think do you agree with this list or perhaps you have differing views do share.

My top 5 directors (No.2) – Roman Polanski

2) Roman Polanski

 

Roman at work.
Roman at work.

Is difficult to categorize the work of Roman Polanski early in his career his movies were classified as independent art house films. He later transitioned into the realm of Horror and drama where he had enormous success. Saying that one thing has always been consistent with Roman Polanski themes of violence particularly abuse, madness and loss have been prevalent in all his work.

To fully understand his preference for such themes one must look at Romans past. Roman Polanski’s life like his movies have been larger than life. During the Nazi reign he and his family were taken in concentration camps where he was separated from his mother and father. He later came to understand his mother was brutally executed by the Nazi`s. He experienced his friend getting killed, and he had to move from home to home to avoid being taken in. The price you paid for being Jewish in Poland during 1936.

This is just the first part of his life. In 1969 his wife Sharon Tate was murdered at the hands of the Charles Manson family at their Hollywood home. In 1977 he had to leave America to avoid prosecution for indecent behavior with a 13-year-old girl. Much of his life experience has been expressed through his movies. Many movie critics have for this reason considered him to be a biographical director. This has contributed towards adding realism to his movies. He is as much an experimental director as he is a rebel. Known for his temper and total disregard for budgets and time constraints he has nonetheless created some of the most memorable movie experiences.

His unique style of camera technique and use of ambient, and often minimal lighting has helped create a style of picture which is instantly recognizable. Glamour and full lighting is definitely not his style. I will now give my reflection and thoughts on a few movies that perfectly encapsulate Polanski and his impact in the world of cinema. The order in which the movies are mentioned are in no way a reflection of preference. I will try my best to avoid any story mentions for the sake of spoilers and rather focus on the themes and techniques adopted by Polanski.

Knife in the water (1962), this was Polanski`s first full feature film. This movie is perhaps my favorite of all his work. There is a saying that good things sometimes arise out of keeping things simple. Polanski appears to have taken that saying and made it into a movie. The concept is simple yet the emotional issue in which it deals with is very complex. The movie focuses only on three characters an unhappy married couple and a hitchhiker whom they invite to a boating excursion.

 

A truly thought provoking movie experience.
A truly thought-provoking movie experience.

The movie deals with rivalry and sexual tension and the effects of such emotions on human psyche and the actions in which it often influences. This movie is the perfect introduction to Polanski`s work it deals with themes that he has constantly found himself visiting in his later movies. The production of the movie was fascinating. For one the actors were all inexperienced and had no previous acting experience. Secondly, the film was shot on water in a polish lake during the winter. Thirdly, the boat was big enough to fit the three actors but not big enough for the film crew making the whole process extremely difficult specifically for the camera man.

Somehow someway Polanski has managed to make this movie work and may even have created his best movie. How was this possible? I have no answer only that if it comes to cinema nothing is impossible for this man.

The second film which I believe deserves being mentioned is probably his most famous movie Chinatown (1974). A film Noir movie with a complex story line and even darker subject matters. Jack Nicholson shines in this one this is in my opinion his best performance. Initially the screenplay was roughly around 200 pages. Polanski saw potential in the script on deciding to proceed with making the movie he edited the majority of the screenplay whilst skillfully maintaining the intrigue and mysteries as intended.

Chinatown a masterpiece in the world of mystery drama.
Chinatown a masterpiece in the world of mystery drama.

Everything that makes a Roman Polanski movie great is present here from the dark gloomy atmosphere to a dark story about abuse and loss. Oh and Polanski makes a cameo appearance in this movie.

It was very difficult to choose a third movie however, Rosemary’s Baby (1968) the whole process from deciding to make the movie all the way to the movie itself demonstrates the greatness of Polanski. A friend had lent Roman Polanski a novel by the name of Rosemary`s baby and had asked him to give his opinion about whether the transition to a movie would be possible. Polanski read the book overnight and in the morning decided to write the screenplay and direct the movie. He finished the screenplay in less than three weeks. An amazing achievement on its own.

Rosemary's Baby
Rosemary’s Baby.

 

 

This is perhaps one of the most unsettling and disturbing movies Polanski has ever worked on. The story follows a housewife who is impregnated by the devil. The movie paved the way and raised public awareness of cult religious devil worshipers. It also went on to influence countless horror movies which dealt with this issue. This is perhaps his most artistic movie in terms of being able to create an extremely unsettling atmosphere despite keeping violence to a minimum. Distant still shots are filmed to perfection creating an illusion of a painting rather than a motion picture.

Roman Polanski has been a driving force in the world of cinema since the 1960’s and is still going strong releasing movies such as The Ghost Writer (2010) and Venus in Fur (2013) in recent years. He has shown that he has maintained what made him great and age has not been the cause of decline. Perhaps after the release of Tess (1979) he never managed to make movies to the same standards as his earlier years. Nonetheless, his movies speak to the heart and deal with subjects that we in normal life tend to avoid. Therefore, I consider Roman Polanski as my second favorite director of all time.

 

Favorite scene from a Roman Polanski movie:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBA3q4S1LE8

 

The moment Rosemary realizes that she is in fact pregnant yet her reaction is not that of a hopeful mother waiting to embrace her child but one of fear. The fear that something is not quite right. This particular scene demonstrates the strong bond a mother has with her baby during labor and the emotional cues a mother can sense from her unborn child. A powerful scene from a powerful director.

 

 

 

Honorable movie mentions:

  • Cul-de-sac (1966)
  • Repulsion (1965)
  • Macbeth (1971)
  • The Tenant (1979) – Roman Polanski directed and played the main role. His first and only feature where he took on the leading role.
  • The Pianist (2002) – Film about a Polish-Jewish musician. Perhaps also a movie of his own experiences during the WWII.
  • Olive Twist (2005)

 

Top 5 movie recommendations for Halloween!

It’s that time of the year Autumn is amongst us and Halloween is around the corner. For, those that are old enough to not have to knock on doors for sweets, movies are a great way to spend your Halloween. I have always enjoyed the horror genre and it has become a tradition to watch horror during Halloween. In this blog I would recommend my top 5 movies and I hope they strike your fancy and make your Halloween that much more memorable. I will limit the list to one movie per director.

In making my recommendations I will avoid giving any story details with the possible exception of character names. I would like to solely base my recommendation on my own experience watching the movies and spark interest through descriptive writing.

 

 

5) Babadook (2014) dir; Jennifer Kent

The Babadook...don't let the poster fool you.
The Babadook

The Babadook despite its low key release is in my opinion the most horrific movie released in recent years. In her directorial debut Jennifer Kent creates an atmospheric unsettling psychological thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat until the credit roll. A rather psychological study on the thin line between sanity and insanity as a result of grievance and parental responsibility. The movie portrays this decent in the most natural yet powerful way possible. Essie Davis as Amelia is fantastic her performance is nothing but stellar.

The avoidance of violence and gore is perhaps the most refreshing aspect of the movie. There is no doubt that movies of the 70s have had a major influence on Kent here. One in particular being The Shining. Where portrayal of the decent into madness through the power of long isolation was beautifully portrayed by using atmosphere as the main cause of effect. It would be safe to argue that Jennifer Kent simply has substituted isolation with grievance as the main cause of psychological disturbance, but that is not to say that the movie itself is not original or simply a recreation of The Shining.

The Babadook is intense, generic jump scares are ditched for skilfully creating fear and maintaining that fear and gradually increasing its effectiveness as the movie progresses. The best way to describe the movie would be to compare it to a roller coaster. You get on the cart. The cart slowly starts to elevate at this point your heart is racing due to adrenaline and fear. Once the cart has reached the top it stops for a second to allow you to catch your breath and boom. The decent its intense so you scream or shout in excitement and fear. Until you reach the stop. In this case the stop being the end credits.

Therefore, if you want to make your Halloween shit scary this would be my pick. Its unsettling, yet visually beautiful and extremely powerful in its message.

 

 

4) The House of the Devil (2009) dir; Ti West

The House of the Devil
The House of the Devil, a throwback to the golden era.

 

THOTD is a love letter to the horror movies of the 70s everything from its pace to the moody atmosphere. The movie itself was shot using 16mm film therefore encapsulating the grainy, stylish movies of that era. For those familiar with 1970s horror you would also know that atmosphere and tension was everything that made the movies great. Having said that the movies were also very slow and to enjoy the viewing one had to remain very patient.

 As with all things inhabiting this world change is something we all experience whether it is through aging or life changing experiences it’s all a part of life. The same can be said for the horror genre. In the 70`s the genre demanded its audience’s attention consequently the movies were more story driven; character development, and the effects of the tragedies they faced was the driving force in the movies. In recent years however the genre has shifted from this style of movie making and introduced violence and gore as the selling point in the genre. Therefore, watching this movie was a very stimulating experience and a break away from modern horror movies. As a fan of 70s horror it’s hard not to feel nostalgic whilst watching THOTD. There is nothing ground breaking here however, Ti West replicates the work of the great masters from the past and somehow manages to make it his own.

 Another thing I really enjoyed was the soundtrack and the movie sound work. It helped create a very unsettling and tensioned filled movie experience.

 Why you should watch it?

 You are a fan of 70s horror. The movie is very slow but like a Beethoven piece it concludes with an abrupt and loud manner. In other words, you have to remain patient. Attention to creating an atmospheric and moody film is certainly captured successfully. The acting is stellar. It is probably Ti West’s best movie. A great movie for Halloween with some friends.

 

3) Suspiria (1977) dir; Dario Argento

Art house horror.
Art house horror.

 

Not many would know about this movie and I am sure not many would know who Dario Argento is but for those of us who love horror he is perhaps the most revered if not the most influential slasher movie director of all time. The Italian native has numerous masterpieces on his resume however none have been more effective and powerful as Suspiria. Watching a Dario Argento movie is like being in a dream or perhaps experiencing a hallucination. The vivid use of colours and brilliantly composed soundtracks make his movies stand out from the conventional slasher films. They are more than that they are a work of art. His unique style of movie making has separated him from all other horror directors and put him in the genre coined as Giallo who Mario Bava another Italian native had helped bring the genre to public attention. Mario Bava perhaps being Dario Argentos biggest if not the sole influence on his work.

 What makes him unique was the methods he adopted using the camera. He would often use point of view from the killer’s perspective before a gruesome kill. Therefore, making the audience think they were somehow involved in the act. This has made his movies feel more personal and slightly more unsettling. Such a technique evokes two types of emotional reactions the sadistic celebrating the death of the victim or the second most likely reaction being the feeling of disgust and a sense of guilt.  

Unsurprisingly, the director has been very controversial often criticized for using women as the victim of brutal murders and for extreme use of violence that certainly shock the viewer. However, his influence can be seen in almost every single horror movie released today. Whether this be the adoption of POV camera technique or vivid use of colour his influence is evident.

 In my opinion Suspiria is perhaps the one movie that describes Dario Argento the best. Not only is it a great introduction to his work, but also a dreamy movie experience. Visually stunning accompanied by powerful movie soundtrack make this his best movie.

 

Why you should watch it?

 If you like art house movies this is perhaps the artiest horror movie out there. It`s almost like watching a painting on a canvas tell you a story. The use of red and blue to illustrate danger and loneliness is achieved beautifully. A great story accompanied by memorable soundtrack make this the overall horror movie experience. Perfect for Halloween.

 

 

2) The Exorcist (1973) dir; William Friedkin

Might cause sleep deprivation...
Might cause sleep deprivation…

 

 When I was 8 years old I was at my cousin’s house and at night he decided to watch a horror movie. However, this wasn`t just any horror movie this particular movie just happened to be the Exorcist. I sat along and watched with him what I saw terrified me. I was so terrified sleep had become a thing of the past for at least a week and the thought of making night bathroom visits on my own was out of the question. The movie had scarred me. It is perhaps for this reason to this day it has become the one horror movie I cannot fully watch. Even though I have become immune to the effect of Horror movies.

That basically sums up my experience. The movie deals with the struggle of good vs bad and general morality and faith. Despite numerous sequels and prequels, the impact of the first movie cannot be replicated. Atmospheric, moody and claustrophobic are just some of the ways to describe the film. The iconic soundtrack and the corruption of a sweet young girl by the supernatural makes this movie extremely disturbing.  Despite the year of release the movie holds well.

 

 Why you should watch it?

 Considered widely to be one of the greatest horror movies ever made and perhaps one of the most unsettling movie experiences. The movie will make you question faith and maybe seek answers about the possibility of life after death and the existence of a higher power. If you want your Halloween to be truly memorable then look no further. You would never look at a crucifix the same way ever again.

 

1)       Halloween (1978) dir; John Carpenter

The Blueprint was set.
The Blueprint was set.

 

The granddaddy of all Slasher films and the one movie that introduced the genre to mainstream media. John Carpenters Halloween was revolutionary it changed horror forever. Due to budget issues and time restraints the movie was made in less than a month with a budget of only $325,000. The movie also set the blueprint on how to make a slasher on budget. Through the use of effective lightning and slow POV camera shots, as well as John Carpenter being the editor, composer, producer and director of the project less people had to be hired to make the movie possible. It went on to make $70 million dollars at box office.

 The film went on to become a franchise, Michael Myers became an iconic character in the world of horror and beyond. Jamie Lee Curtis made her acting debut in this movie and she did a perfect job. The movie was initially released to mix reviews some calling it nothing but a violent pointless piece of cinema. Whilst some saw the potential and considered it something special waiting to be appreciated.

 Despite the movies legacy Halloween really is a great movie. The portrayal of Michael Myers this devilish invincible entity adds to the terror. Is amazing how the movie manages to briefly give some backdrop to Mikes past despite the time restraint. Nonetheless the movie touches on subjects such as abuse, obsession, mental illness and the dilemmas faced by adolescents. There are moments of real horror in this movie. The closet scene is maybe the most terrifying scene in the whole movie or the slight reveal of Mikes face before it dissolves into darkness. Guarantees to send chills down your spine.

 

Why you should watch it?

 It is a terrifying yet fun movie to watch. It would be the perfect Halloween movie. How ironic. Grab the popcorn, grab the drinks, call some friends over and enjoy.

 

 

That`s all folks  

 Hope you enjoyed the movies mentioned on this list let me know your thoughts and do comment on the movies you would recommend. Peace out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My top 5 directors (Starting from No.1) – Akira Kurosawa

My Favorite director

Every week for the next 5 weeks I will make a list of my favorite movie directors. Within this list I will also include specific scenes form their movies that I think showcased their style and genius. Please enjoy, let me know what you think of my list and what is your favorite movie from these directors.

1) Akira Kurosawa

In simple terms Akira Kurosawa is to me what Jordan is to inspiring basketball players. What Lionel Messi or Ronaldo is to football lovers and so forth. In simple terms he is the true essence of cinema. Ironically back in 1990 when he was awarded the Honorary life time achievement Oscar, he stated ‘I still do not fully understand the true essence of cinema’. Later in his acclaimed biography he said ‘In my movies there are perhaps 3 to 4 minutes of true cinema.

That was a man speaking his heart on the love of cinema, he refused to believe he had perfected the art like no other has or ever will. Akira Kurosawa’s movies are not just a great piece of cinema but art in its purest form.

Everything in his movies speak to the heart. From his ability to bring out the best from his cast and his consistency in making at least 10 to 12 masterpieces. A feat unmatched by any director with the exception of possibly the great John Ford. Who Akira Kurosawa so deeply admired. When I first watched my Akira Kurosawa movie I was in awe. Despite watching it 20 years late it triggered this feeling within me, that made me question my own life.

I was 24 going through a rough patch finishing law school and not having a job, or at least working horrible jobs. I was a lost cause no idea what to do or where to go. Until I watched Ran. It moved me, almost had me in tears. It was as if my inner artistic inhibitions where kept locked and Ran helped me blossom. I decided to dedicate every ounce of my strength in understanding cinema. Soon after I picked up photography as a hobby.

On set...Akira visioning the epic final battle.
On set…Akira visioning the epic final battle.

I had no idea on how movies were directed, I had never attended film school or had any general knowledge on the art. I started from the bottom reading Film books, reading books on all my favorite directors. I then started to write my first screenplay In between rainbow. The story was mainly about the depths of human nature and how far people are willing to go to reach a certain status. However, back to the point. What I found so fascinating about Akira’s work was the use of camera. The still shots of true artistry. The use of nature to build tension such as blowing leaves rumbling clouds. Nothing felt artificial. Possibly the pioneer in screen fades a technique used by almost every director later in the 60s.

After watching his whole catalogue, I came to realise his profound influence on the west and how without the man’s genius there could possibly not have been some of my favorite movies.

I could go on for days about Mr. Kurosawa but one thing is certain that without him I would have remained a lost cause. A wanderer. He was as much of a father figure in my life in a weird way, since his pictures spoke to me in ways no one has ever done and for that I thank him. Perhaps we could one day meet who knows.

Favorite scene from an Akira Kurosawa movie:

This is a particularly difficult, since every Kurosawa movie has its own magical moments. Touch of artistry beyond comprehension but if I had to choose one

it would probably be in Sanjuro:

 

Sanjuro (1962)

Scene – the final duel:

– A scene does not get any more poetic than this. True artistry was being shown here by Akira. Not only because the movie itself was excellent to say the least

but oh my god that last scene. The 15 to 20 second silence before the chaotic conclusion. Is in my opinion the true essence of cinema as Akira Kurosawa intended.

The whole movie was balanced well a rather serious social study told with a comic touch and an ending so intense that writing this in 2016 I still think is untouched.

Some may say the final duel in the Good the Bad and the Ugly is better. To reiterate on that – that ending is the exact imitation of Sanjuro. Only difference being that the latter is a Western with an added character in the final duel.

The Sergio Leone Spaghetti trilogy had been the western take on Akira Kurosawa’s movies “the man with no name”. I think that is all that needs to be said.

Visit this link for the finale: