I do not watch horror or slasher movies. They lack subtelty. For those I have no recommendations, and no apologies. As Hitchcock said, “”There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.”
Suspense movies, on the other hand, draw me in and keep me on the edge of my seat, devouring my finger nails and calling out, “Don’t go in there!” It’s not what we see, it’s what remains hidden that frightens. The master of the art, of course, was Hitchcock.
Hitchcock knew how to drag us tantalizingly into the fearful place we were afraid to go, but unwilling to stay away from. He said, “Always make the audience suffer as much as possible.” You could take a whole year and devote it to his movies—scheduling Friday evenings to snuggle up on a worn couch next to someone you trust. Dim the lights, pop a large bowl of popcorn and turn out the lights. I suspect your eyes will be glued to the screen, and you won’t notice when you ran out of popcorn.
However, for the sake of variety in this list of 5 movies, I’m only going to pick two Hitchcock films.
First, one of my favorites, is “Rear Window” starring James Stewart and Grace Kelly. Roger Ebert , of the Chicago Sun Times, wrote, “Here’s a film about a man who does on the screen what we do in the audience–look through a lens at the private lives of strangers.” It is the story of a wheelchair-bound photographer who passes the time recuperating from a broken leg by spying out his window into the apartments of his Greenwich Village neighbors. Convinced a crime has taken place, he tells his girlfriend about his observations, then watches helpless as she goes to investigate.
A more recent movie, “Disturbia,” starring Shia LeBeouf, is a 2007 version (some say it is a stolen story) of the original.
My second choice is “North by Northwest,” though “Vertigo” is a close slice. This one has Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint twisting through a tangled plot, finding love on a train, dodging a crop duster, and ending with the famous scene at Mount Rushmore. This link has information about the movie, and features a trailer.
Number three, skips through time to the recent, “Inception,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio. The movie blurb said, “In a world where technology exists to enter the human mind through dream invasion, a highly skilled thief is given a final chance at redemption which involves executing his toughest job to date: Inception.” I like how it takes the viewer into a dream within a dream within a dream. Not simple stuff.
My next two are both by M. Night Shyamalan.
The first, “Signs,” is my DH’s favorite of Shyamalan’s. Although on the surface it is about an alien invasion, the aliens are not clearly seen until the end of the movie. As with most of his movies, it is actually about something else. In this case, it’s Faith. In a final scene, Graham Hess says, “People break down into two groups. When they experience something lucky, group number one sees it as more than luck, more than coincidence. They see it as a sign, evidence, that there is someone up there, watching out for them. Group number two sees it as just pure luck. Just a happy turn of chance. . . .See what you have to ask yourself is what kind of person are you? Are you the kind that sees signs, that sees miracles? Or do you believe that people just get lucky? Or, look at the question this way: Is it possible that there are no coincidences?” Despite the deeper theme, it is a suspenseful movie that will get you to the bottom of the popcorn bowl unnoticed, and it just might make you laugh a couple of times.
Finally, my favorite, though it received mixed reviews, is “The Village.” Roger Egbert gave it 1 star and ripped it apart. Philip Horne of The Daily Telegraph noted “this exquisitely crafted allegory of American soul-searching seems to have been widely misunderstood.” As with “Signs,” this also features Joaquin Phoenix, which might account for why I like it on a subconscious level. The movie was promoted as a horror film about a village that lives in fear of nameless creatures in the woods around their homes, so I resisted going. Then a trusted source reassured me that it was not a horror film. I think that’s the main reason it didn’t do as well as Shyamalan’s other movies. It was promoted wrong. It is a suspense film with the undercurrent of a theme. A friend says it’s about human nature. I think that is an element, but mostly, I think it’s about what people will do for love. So think of it as a Halloween Chick Flick. Perfect October date movie.
If you haven’t seen one of these in awhile, pick a dark night, a favorite date, and snuggle in for a good, nail-biting time.