14 posts categorized "Psychological Thriller"

March 19, 2018


Possession1One of the most diabolically indecipherable films ever made, Andrzej Żuławski's disturbing psychological thriller juxtaposes Cold War era West Berlin against an exploding relationship between a warring married couple played by Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neill. Exceptionally convincing performances rise to the ferociously jealous nature of Żuławski's fever-pitched script, co-written with Frederic Tuten. Supporting turns from Margit Carstensen and Heinz Bennet keep the dramatic heat high.


If ever there was an incompatible couple, Mark and Anna are it. It doesn’t help matters that they have an adolescent son named Bob who Mark unwisely turns over custody to his mentally unstable wife. Mark works as a spy for shady corporate bosses. He carries briefcases filled with cash and vials of non-disclosed liquids. This is no stay-at-home dad.

Żuławski plays with emotional, physical, mental, social, and political spaces amid West Berlin’s guarded walls. Ominous danger and grotesque discoveries lurk everywhere. The city’s simultaneously modern and ancient architecture creates a menacing sense of queasy unrest. The city’s subway allows for a shockingly violent episode of bodily expression that contributed to Isabelle Adjani’s Best Actress win at Cannes in 1981. The deeply troubling scene is one of the most frightening episodes ever captured on film.  


The duality of female nature gets thrown into forced perspective when Mark meets Anna’s [kind and sane] doppelgänger in the form of his son’s school teacher Helen (also played by Isabelle Adjani).

The division between the couple is as pronounced as the gigantic wall that divides the city. “Possession” skewers capitalism’s eternal methods of skullduggery along with the animal nature of human sexuality that, in this film, finds its level when Mark catches his wife having sex with a giant octopus.


The Polish filmmaker has famously called his movie “autobiographical,” which adds to the confusion of his only English language movie. “Possession” holds the watermark for the most bizarre cinematic experience you will ever have. No other film begins to approach the madness of romantic obsession and political oppression that this film does.

Colesmithey.comRated R. 124 mins. (A+) Five Stars
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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

In episode four, Mike Lacy and I drink Flower Power IPA (Ithaca Brewing Co.) and discuss Andrzej Żuławski's 1981 psychological thriller POSSESSION. Bon appetite. 


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April 08, 2017


WAKE IN FRIGHTTed Kotcheff’s “Wake In Fright” is an unsettling, if perverse, psychological thriller unlike any other film ever made. It captures the complete mental breakdown of a character in surreal yet viscerally physical terms, while encompassing economic conditions, prejudices, and the ruthless mindset of men in Australia's lawless Outback environment.

You might detect a tinge of anti-alcohol propaganda at the core of the narrative’s existential crisis in this unpredictable adaptation of Kenneth Cook’s 1961 novel. Nicholas Roeg’s Cinema is the closest thing you compare to Kotcheff’s fraught social study of Australia in the late ‘50s. Desolation of the human soul comes complete with senseless killing of kangaroos.  

Gary Bond’s John Grant character is a grade school teacher chomping at the bit to escape his Government-delegated job in the remote town of Tiboonda. School is out for Christmas. A reunion with his girlfriend in Sydney promises a return to civilization.


The problem is that our unreliable protagonist gets sidetracked during a night of drinking and gambling in a mining town populated with reprobates. Grant imagines winning enough money gambling to pay off the education bond that has him teaching in the middle of nowhere. No such luck. Grant’s poor choice leads him on a bitter path toward many more decisions he soon comes to regret.

Wake In Fright2

John Grant becomes a refugee in his own country, surrounded by alcohol-fueled maniacs who usher him down a spiral of destruction. “Wake In Fright” is a masterpiece of energized social satire. The team of kangaroo hunters who take Grant along for the ride represent the same patriarchy that carry on constant wars and shove guns in civilians’ faces just to see how they handle fear. “Wake In Fright” can be taken as a command or a condition. Either way, this classic picture will make you squirm in fear.

Ted Kotcheff led a varied career that spanned four decades and many genres and styles. "Fun With Dick and Jane" (1977), "Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe" (1978), "North Dallas Forty" (1979), and "Weekend at Bernies" (1989) were each box office hits. Although "Wake In Fright" died at the box office, it is a truly staggering film that represents an artistic pinnacle for Ted Kotcheff. You can see why it's his favorite of all of his films; this one is special. 

Rated R. 108 mins. (A+) (Five stars — out of five / no halves)

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January 01, 2017


Nocturnal-animalsWriter-director Tom Ford’s psychological thriller is a glorified student film. Solid performances from Jake Gyllenhaal, Amy Adams, and Michael Shannon can’t mask this film’s lacking construction and misplaced artsy embellishments that imply political commentary where no such thematic support exists. At times the movie feels like Ford is attempting to steal from David Lynch but he gets it all wrong. He goes for dark camp humor — witness a villain using a toilet attached on his secluded home’s front porch. Plop. You wouldn’t guess the script was based on a 1993 novel (“Tony and Susan” by Austin Wright).

The story involves a revenge fantasy reenacted from the pages of a novel penned by Gyllenhaal’s Edward, ostensibly to scare the crap out of his ex-wife Susan (Adams). The movie flips back and forth between Susan’s sad but wealthy life with her cheating husband (played by Armie Hammer, this generation’s Brendan Fraser), and the violent content of Edward’s pulp novel. The movie-within-the-movie is more effective than Susan’s overlying storyline but it still isn’t strong enough to stand up on its own.


Apart from some compelling suspense, “Nocturnal Animals” doesn’t give its audience anything to hang their coat on. Every composition feels overworked in a story where every plot-point leads toward a dead end. You’re glad when the movie ends but not for any sense of narrative or thematic satisfaction.

Rated R. 116 mins. (C-) (Two stars — out of five / no halves)

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