Two movies to talk about.
Best shark movie since JAWS. 89 minutes of tension. A simple set-up, a stomach-churning 70 minutes of characters in the water with the sharks. All made on a shoe-string budget.
Why does it work? Six things that make this a must-see white-knuckle ride…
1) Notice how, when they’re in the water, the horizon is in the upper third of the frame? The water consumes 2/3rds of the POV. It’s extremely claustrophobic (even though they’re in the middle of the ocean). Freaky! It’s like you can’t escape the unknown!
2) No motivation. The shark(s) don’t care anything about you other than they’re hungry and you’re meat. No back story. Not needed. The fact they have no motivation makes their relentless stalking that much more nerve-jangling.
3) Only ONE person can look underwater at a time. HOLY CRAP TURN AROUND THE SHARKS RIGHT-FUCKING-BEHIND-YOU!
4) Real sharks (no CGI that I spotted). No cheesy special effects (more on that in a while).
5) No soundtrack. The envoirnmental sounds are MORE than enough.
6) Shark attacks that are horrifically real, yet not gory. You know the MOMENT the characters are doomed by the way the sharks move. This is FAR less graphic than Jaws, yet… even more horrific? See for yourself.
Frankenstein (Uni, ’31)
In my writing, I frequently mention / manifest / subvert ‘The Monster’ aka ‘Frankenstein’s Monster’ and / or the things that The Monster is an allegory for.
Some of it, I suppose, is where my life crosses the cinematic timeline. When I was young, I watched Universal and Hammer horror ALL THE TIME. No no… you don’t understand. ALL. THE. TIME. My mom raved about it. How scary it was! And to me, the 9 year old me, IT WAS! Scary, fascinating, alluring.
I can’t stress this enough. My mom pushed me into horror movies because of her visceral reaction. How deeply she was moved by FRANKENSTEIN, PSYCHO, THE BEAST WITH FIVE FINGERS — these were the things she gave to me that, as a nine year old, I HAD to see.
When I was a kid, I watched all the movies. Collected the cards. Bought the magazines. Built the plastic models. Built the resin models. I was (and am) a hardcore, straight-outta-Compton original horror G. I’d put my credentials up there with almost anyone.
Back to Frankenstein’s Monster…
The thing that works is that the monster (again, /sarcasm/ “minimal CGI”…) is that Karloff has imbued The Monster with humanity. He’s not Jason. He’s not Pinhead. He literally is a man-child in our world, horribly misunderstood and unaware of his own superhuman powers.
This is most on-display in the scene between The Monster and Maria…
The Monster, not understanding that Maria won’t float like the flowers, (SPOILER!) tosses her in. When she doesn’t surface, The Monster walks off, hurt and confused.
Karloff made the most of the make-up, brought out the humanity within The Monster. THAT’S WHY IT WORKED.
Today’s monster’s don’t work. Maybe I’m jaded. But all of the CGI? Really? When was the last time a CGI monster invoked fear or horror? I seriously can not point to one.
On the flip-side, Tim Curry’s portrait of Pennywise the Clown in Stephen King’s IT…
.. it’s what we in the biz call “all sorts of fucked up.”
M A R K
P.S…. you’ll float too.