76 posts categorized "Suspense"

February 08, 2021

REAR WINDOW

Rear_windowAlfred Hitchcock’s take on Cornell Woolrich’s novel (screenplay by John Michael Hayes) reeks of McCarthy era anti-socialist propaganda. Hitchcock made a thematically rich story about authoritarian surveillance that flips on itself in the film's last act. What starts out as a cautionary tale about the dangers of voyeurism and scrutiny twists to confirm to the grassing behavior of a white suprematist. Reporting on your neighbors much?

It's as though the film's producers ran in at the last minute with a different ending for Hitchcock to film, and he'd already cashed his pay check so he agreed to shoot an ending in direct conflict with the story at hand.

James Stewart’s L.B. “Jeff” Jefferies comes across as either impotent, gay, or too misogynist to carry on a romantic relationship with Grace Kelly’s impossibly beautiful Lisa Carol Fremont. The scene where Jeff repeatedly tells Lisa to “shut up,” is disgusting for Jeff’s abusiveness. Memo to Lisa, you're in an abusive relationship, get out now.

Rearwindow1

Jeff is a war photographer (turned cult leader) laid up with a broken leg. Jeff is more interested proving his masculinity by running around the world in fatigues and combat boots, than he is in making love to Grace Kelly. Fool. The film’s first two acts appear to criticize Jeff’s anti-hero as a busy-body obsessed with turning in his neighbors for any perceived indiscretions. This is a man in need of a good therapist, or at least a solid hobby or two. Watching Jeff indoctrinate those him around into his crazed imagination is more of a disappointment than a revelation. Here is a rightwing reactionary patriarchal character with no redeeming value. 

Rearwindow

The telescopic lens for Jeff’s camera is his phallic substitute that he uses to invade the lives of people living across the courtyard from his New York City bedroom. The thrust of the narrative pivots on Jeff’s ability to infect the minds of those around him with a dangerous sense of suspicion and fear, relating to his neighbor Lars Thorwald (played by Raymond Burr) whom, Jeff believes has killed his wife and disposed the woman’s body.

Rearwindow

“Rear Window” may hold a special place in the hearts of Alfred Hitchcock’s legions of fans, but the film breaks with a bizarre thematic reversal that emphasizes a web of American hypocrisy at its core. It is a film with no empathetic character. Jeff Jefferies is a Joseph McCarthy wanna-be. Grace Kelly is a woman overcompensating for her low self-esteem by hiding behind expensive fashion and beauty rituals. Even Jeff’s insurance company nurse Stella (Thelma Ritter) is revealed to be a woman capable of far less independent thought than she seems to possess. As a result of this film’s bait-and-switch meaning, it remains one of Alfred Hitchcock’s more minor efforts.

Two Stars

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October 08, 2016

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

Girl-on-the-train-posterThis exposition-laden suspense thriller is so poorly adapted from its novel source material (by Paula Hawkins) that you can’t follow it. Screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson (“Secretary”) doesn’t begin to edit out subplots and secondary characters that cloud the story. Characters have far too little interaction over the course of a flashback-heavy drama that leaves you cold to their suburban issues adultery, alcoholism, and neglect.

Emily Blunt is the only thing this movie has going for it. It’s a sad state of affairs when the always-fascinating Blunt is relegated to making movies as weakly constructed as this one. Her persuasive performance as our unreliable narrator at least makes “Girl on a Train” watchable.

Voice-over narration weighs down the sluggishly paced action as we’re introduced to Rachel Watson (Blunt), an unemployed alcoholic who rides the train into Manhattan everyday to cover up her pointless existence to her female roommate. Rachel lost her perfect husband Tom (Justin Theroux) to a home-wrecker named Anna (Rebecca Ferguson). Tom has also been busy schtupping his wife’s nanny Megan (Haley Bennett), the neighborhood nymphomaniac, and any other woman he can get his hands on. Work life be damned. 

Girlonthetrain

To say that the storytelling at work is convoluted, is a gross understatement. Time unfolds in chronological order from six months ago. Regular text announcements cue the audience as to which period the movie has finally advanced to. Rachel would love to extricate Anna from the home that she [Rachel] furnished. Still, Rachel is content to imagine what it would be like to live as her former neighbor Megan and her boyfriend do, in their house just two doors down from Rachel's old place where Tom and Anna are raising their newborn baby.

At 112 arduous minutes, this movie needed some more editorial time under the knife. Any comparisons to Hitchcock are purely coincidental in a movie that will have you scratching your head about which blonde woman is which (there are three, and they look alike).

Director Tate Taylor (“The Help”) fails to sustain dramatic tension. The whole movie is at one dirge-like tempo, with even less visual interest put on the screen. “The Girl on the Train” is a disappointing movie.

TheGirlOnTheTrain

Rated R. 112 mins. (C-) (One Star — out of five / no halves)

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September 03, 2016

DON'T BREATHE

Dont-BreathDon’t let its box office receipts fool you; “Don’t Breathe” is garbage. Pitched as a horror flick, Fede Alvarez’s lame suspense thriller is a hodgepodge of disparate shock elements that might come as a surprise to some, but will fall boringly flat for seasoned audiences.

Pretentious as the day is long, the film’s narrative is set in a deserted neighborhood in Detroit where a trio of white hoodlums (played by the equally miscast Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, and Daniel Zovatto) plans to rob the home of a war vet with a safe full of cash.

Stephen Lang plays the home’s blind tenant who owes his wealth to a legal case he won against the woman who ran over his young daughter. Mr. Blind Guy has more than just money stashed in his creepy chamber of horror. If you’re a fan of plot-holes, you’ll get more than you bargain for in this waste of celluloid.

Dont-Breathe-movie

Rocky (Levy) is girlfriend to Zovatto’s Money — yes that’s the character’s name — even if Rocky’s friend-zone buddy Alex (Minnette) hangs around hoping for sloppy seconds should the opportunity ever avail itself; it does not.

From it’s “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”-lifted opening to its sexist efforts at exploitation — see a turkey baster used as artificial inseminator through the crotch-ripped leggings of a girl in suspended bondage — “Don’t Breath” presents a litany of insults to its audience. Here is a reminder of why the torture porn genre died off after the second installment in the “Human Centipede” franchise.

Whatever you do, don’t call “Don’t Breathe” a horror movie. That would be an offense to the genre.

Rated R. 88 mins. (F) (Zero stars — out of five / no halves)

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