I have always been the sort of person that tries to stay away from horror movies as I get scared easily, but there is something about the classic horror movies of the 1970s and 1980s that deliver a level of terror and suspense that makes you want to sneak a peek through your covered eyes or over the shoulder of your date, to see what the outcome will be. I thought I would start this series of reviews by looking at Kubrick’s The Shining and Friedkin’s The Exorcist – two movies that left me with unforgettable imagery that has become iconic of a unique generation, and continue to haunt my dreams to this day!
The Exorcist (1973)
Directed by William Friedkin. Featuring Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Lee J. Cobb, Jason Miller and Linda Blair. Based on the novel by William Peter Blatty
The Exorcist was released in 1973 to much controversy due its strong religious themes but it proved to be a major success at the box office and is now regarded as one of the most influential horror films of all time. It is a supernatural thriller that concerns the daughter of a wealthy actress who becomes possessed by the devil after playing with a Ouija board As an archaeologist, I found the discovery of an evil artefact in Northern Iraq at the beginning of the movie to be quite intriguing, but the plot fails to live up from there and does not adequately link the introduction to the rest of the story.
The plot follows the possessed teenager, Regan (played by Linda Blair) as she rapidly changes her behaviour, and her mother (played by Ellen Burstyn) who desperately seeks medical help for her as an answer to what she is going through. For me this was actually one of the most horrific parts of the movie as Regan’s mother permits her daughter to be tortured through various medical experiments in an effort to diagnose and potentially cure her. Over the course of the film, it becomes clear that Regan is nowhere near the person she once was and the evil begins to terrifyingly manifest itself inside her.
After trying all possible medical options, Regan’s mother realises that there has to be another reason for her daughter’s behaviour and so, she begins to come to the conclusion that her daughter must be possessed by an evil spirit. After trying all other options, she calls on the psychiatrist Priest, Fr. Damian Karras (Jason Miller) to help them. He in turn, calls on the experienced exorcist, Fr Lankester Merrin (played by Max von Sydow) – who discovered the artefact at the beginning of the film – to carry out the religious rites.
The make up and gore in The Exorcist is of a great quality for its time, and it certainly makes the demonic possession more believable. One of the scenes that stayed with me was when Regan in demon form sexually assaults herself with a cross. This brings the horror, violence and evil to stark life and is very difficult to watch. Whilst The Exorcist will remain a classic of its time for many, it is the lack of connection in the story-line that, for me, fails to deliver it as a masterpiece.
Annabelle’s Rating: 3/5
The Shining (1980)
Directed by Stanley Kubrick. Featuring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd and Scatman Crothers. Screenplay by Kubrick and Diane Johnson. Based on the novel by Stephen King
The Shining, released in 1980, is an all time classic horror movie with stunning visuals and thrilling suspense. It is certainly not one for the faint-hearted. Jack Nicholson plays Jack Torrence, a writer looking for change and some isolation, so he decides to take on the job as caretaker of the Overlook Hotel – a secluded mountain hotel that is cut off by snow for most of the winter (it is also supposedly built on top of an old Native American burial ground). The ominous build-up to what is to come starts very early on when Jack is warned that in 1970, the previous caretaker had chopped up his family with an axe here. Despite the warning, Jack decides to take the job and he and his family (wife Wendy played by Shelley Duvall and young son Danny played by Danny Lloyd) move in as residents at the hotel.
Nicholson’s acting is phenomenal as he switches brilliantly between sanity and insanity throughout the film. He readily releases a chilling and violent character that is driven by the evil that is manifested within the hotel. Jack’s son Danny is psychic – he has what is known as ‘the shining’, as explained by the chef played by legendary actor Scatman Crothers – and it is not long before he has visions of what has happened at the hotel in the past, as well as what is to come. For such a young actor Danny Lloyd’s performance is amazing and entirely believable. He was apparently chosen by Kubrick due to his ability in maintaining concentration for extended periods of time (not a common trait in 6-year-olds).
Kubrick’s visuals are masterful and they leave the viewer with a vivid and intense impact of imagery. The terror in the film cannot be forgotten easily either. If you are looking for an intense, suspenseful horror-thriller, then this is certainly not a movie that should be overlooked. It is one of the greatest of all time.
Annabelle’s Rating: 5/5