Friday, July 29, 2011

Preview: Don't Go Into The House!

Oooooooh. Time for another theme week at The Paramount Theatre.
This time, it's... horror. Thrills and chills, as they say.

Oh, how I could lambast the current state of cinematic affairs when it comes to horror. While at least the Saw movies have finally appeared to run out of steam, there is still a plethora of "horror movies" that are light on terror but are big on gore or cheap scares. Can you believe they're making another Final Destination movie?! And let's be real, the "found footage" subgenre may have been scary when The Blair Witch Project came out, but when the plots now revolve around a hidden lunar exploration, you know Hollywood's slurping the last of the slurpee from the straw.

They can keep all their gimmicks. To me, the scariest kinds of movies are those that get in your head.

Horror week kicks off with two horror classics, featuring ghost encounters of the cerebral kind. In effect, they are haunted house tales. The spookiness you find in these are more intense than any episode of "Ghost Adventures."

There are so many creepy things in The Shining (aside from the overly late 1970s decor) that it's not even funny. This unlikely hybrid of Stephen King's bestseller and Stanley Kubrick's horrific sterility made for the ultimate in the cinema of the unnerving. Jack Nicholson plays Jack Torrence takes a job as a caretaker in a hotel for the winter so he can focus on his writing. HIs family comes along for the ride, and although it's clear they have inner demons of their own, it's nothing compared to what they encounter at this haunted hotel.

The Shining is Kubrick's overt attempt at a horror story, and it's chock full of unsettling imagery. That trademark "sterility" of Stanley's films really is served well here, and the film features some great steadicam work and long shots of desolation and despair. Nicholson's work here is the source of endless imitation and parody, but that's because it's so damn frightening to see his descent into madness. The effects on his loved ones is also startling, from his son's susceptibility to supernatural forces ("REDRUM!"), to his wife's (Shelley Duvall) becoming unhinged in fear. All in all, it's some intense (and deliberately paced) stuff.

The Haunting, based on the novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, is a very stylish classic film directed by the great and versatile Robert Wise (West Side Story, The Sound of Music, The Day The Earth Stood Still). Here, a doctor investigates a notorious house with a dark past. Assisting him is a skeptic young man, a mysterious clairvoyant, and a sensitive psychic. Before long, all discover that they are in waaaaay over their heads. Full of terror and boasting a clever array of lens trickery to enhance the disorientation of the paranormal, The Haunting stands a darker and more intellectual horror movie.

Alas, this creepy movie spawned a truly horrible remake in 1999, directed by Jan DeBont (Speed, Twister) and starring Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Lili Taylor, and Owen Wilson (before anyone but Bottle Rocket fans knew who he was). True story: I saw the original with a friend of mine about ten years ago, and they dismissed it as boring (!!). Furthermore, they went on to say that the remake was much better (!!!).

Yeesh. If you need CGI effects as the basis of your scares, then you probably don't have a scary movie on your hands. If Jan DeBont is the director, don't expect a tiny shred of subtlety. A big budget remake does not assure that bigger will be better. No small coincidence, I am no longer friends with this person who preferred the remake.

Sigh. That remake only proves that they don't just even try to make 'em like this anymore. I wish modern audiences had better sensibilities so that Hollywood could stop churning out the crap. There's really no need for the senseless and purely visceral gore fests of today for experiences in fear. Sometimes all you need for a good scare is a cold and dark theater, where imagination can take over... and your heart can pound about the things that go bump in the night.

Showtimes for the films:

The Shining
Tuesday, Aug 2nd
Wednesday, Aug 3rd

The Haunting
Tuesday, Aug 2nd
Wednesday, Aug 3rd

Final Notes about the screening

Come drink Red Rum and hear Paramount ghost stories from stage before the screening of The Shining!

Double Features:
"When two movies are grouped together under the same thematic heading, one ticket is good for both features when viewed back-to-back on the same day." (cha-ching!)

"Hassle-free downtown parking available for $6 at the One American Center for all summer films! Since you’re also supporting the theatre when you buy parking, they're giving you a free small soda each time you park there for a film. Buy online with your film tix and print out your confirmation e-mail or buy directly from the garage attendant (cash only). Attendant will have your soda ticket as well."

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