|Movie Title/Year and Brief Scene Description|
The Vanishing (1988, Neth/Fr.) (aka Spoorloos)
This original film masterpiece, a psychological chiller from director George Sluizer, was based upon the novella The Golden Egg. In this unnerving tale, a Dutch couple were vacationing in France:
At a French roadside gas station, Saskia suddenly and mysteriously vanished - about 15 minutes into the film.
Later it was shown, in flashback, that middle-class chemistry teacher, and sociopathic kidnapper Raymond Lemorne (Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu) was at a vending machine to buy drinks inside the truck-rest stop, next to Saskia. He lured her to his car - she sat in the front seat after seeing a picture of his family (believing that he was respectable and harmless). He discreetly poured chloroform into a handkerchief, and applied it to her face. She struggled against him, but then passed out.
Haunted by the curious, obsessive need to find his missing girlfriend, Rex spent three years on a frantic search for her. He eventually came face-to-face with her abductor, who had devised a similar hideous fate for him. Rex was also targeted by Lemorne, who realized that he could commit an ultimately more evil crime. Raymond promised Rex that after he drank some spiked coffee, he would experience what happened to his girlfriend.
In the shocking, heart-stopping ending, Rex woke up in pitch darkness. He found himself buried alive in a cramped coffin under the earth, with only a cigarette lighter for brief light. He discovered that he was claustrophobically entombed alive. He cried out: "Help! Help! Help!...Saskia!" He dug with his fingers at the few seams he could find in his coffin, before realizing that his lighter was about to go out forever.
The dwindling light of the flame became a tunnel through which he saw Saskia. Newspaper headlines in the back seat of Raymond's car told about a Mysterious Double Disappearance - of both Saskia and Rex.
(Johanna Ter Steege)
Kidnapper Raymond Lemorne
Hitchcock's film was a romantic suspense/thriller about a macabre, doomed romance - a desperate love for an illusion. It followed a troubled man's obsessive search to end his vertigo (and the deaths that resulted from his 'falling in love' affliction). The thriller became a masterful study of romantic longing, identity, voyeurism, treachery and death, female victimization and degrading manipulation, the feminine "ideal," and fatal sexual obsession for a cool-blonde heroine.
The dizzying trick camerawork (a reverse zoom, dolly-out) visualized the vortex of vertigo and acrophobia (fear of heights) in the film's opening shots and in the bell tower scenes.
Acrophobic obsessed and retired SF police detective John "Scotty" Ferguson (James Stewart) slipped into a surrealistic world of obsession, confused by the real and the imaginary. In one of filmdom's best 'identity-switch' plot twists ever invented (although revealed to the audience before the main protagonist), Scotty fell in love with the blonde, ethereal Madeleine Elster (Kim Novak), the suicidal wife of his old school friend Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore). As it turned out, Elster had hired a red-headed shop-girl named Judy Barton (also Kim Novak) to impersonate his blonde wife, and act suicidally "haunted" in front of Scotty. It was a ruse that worked, especially after Scotty pulled Madeleine from drowning in San Francisco Bay, and fell in love with her.
When 'Madeleine' climbed a high Spanish mission bell tower to jump to her death, Scotty's vertigo prevented him from following closely behind. This was when Elster pulled the switch - after already murdering his 'real' wife (whom Scotty had never met), Elster dumped her corpse from the tower and made Scotty the perfect witness to her "suicide." Conveniently, Scotty never took a close look at the body.
The film cycled back on itself when Scotty ran across Judy - who bore an uncanny resemblance to the now-dead "Madeleine." After forcing her to look like his lost love, he realized that Judy was not Elster's wife but his mistress and they had meticulously planned his wife's murder. The key to solving her identity was a necklace.
In the film's second terrifying sequence, Scottie dragged Judy Barton / Madeleine (Kim Novak) up the stairs to the top of the mission's bell tower to recreate the suicide. He confronted her about the first faked fall from the bell tower, orchestrated by her and Elster:
Judy anguished and pleaded for forgiveness, explaining how she willingly endangered herself by getting emotionally involved with him after the murder. With great sincerity and commitment, she professed that she still loved him even though he was her targeted victim:
Then, suddenly the footsteps of a black-clad figure in the shadows startled Judy. Judy backed away from Scottie gasping: "Oh, no!" The dark, shadowy figure said: "I hear voices." Terrified, thinking and believing she was seeing the ghost of the murdered Madeleine (or the reincarnation of the ghostly doomed mother Carlotta Valdes), Judy recoiled, stepped and fell backward through an opening in the tower and plummeted to her own death (off-screen) in an emotionally-shattering climax. She plunged off the tower -- and this time, her death was real!
The figure, actually a nun from the mission, crossed herself and murmured the last words of the film: "God have mercy." The nun pulled the bell rope and rang the mission bell. As the bell tolled (signalling not salvation but eternal damnation), Scottie emerged from the arched window of the tower onto the belfry ledge. He stared down in horror at Judy's body far below - stunned, open-mouthed, shocked and glassy-eyed with his arms slightly away from his body. He was cured of his vertigo, but totally destroyed by his other delusions and burgeoning sorrow. Tragically loving and losing the same woman twice, repeating the pattern he had intended to break, the scene faded to black.
The Second Fatal Fall
Director David Cronenberg's film was a terrorizing, hallucinatory tale of erotic sci-fi and "body horror." In the tale, the main character was sleazy cable TV station owner-director-producer Max Renn (James Woods) of X-rated CIVIC-TV Channel 83 in Toronto, which aired soft-core pornography and violent content. He became enticed (and obsessed) by his own pirated TV show called Videodrome, which pushed the envelope on content - with "snuff' films (not re-enacted as originally thought, but live and real!) in which people were tortured and killed.
Professor Brian O'Blivion (Jack Creley), an optimistic and idealist thinker about pop culture, only communicated through TV broadcasts. He prophesied that television would replace 'real life' - a technological, quasi-spiritual achievement to better life:
However, there were other conspirators in a nightmarish cult whose goal was to create marathon television watching (of extreme sex and violence) - to control and manipulate the masses. That would produce fatal brain tumors in homeless "lowlifes" - and purge American audiences that watched such X-rated and violent fare, so that they would become docile, easily-led consumers. When O'Blivion learned of these malevolent and devious tactics, he was killed (he was garrotted during one of his broadcasts by black-hooded Nicki Brand (Deborah Harry), Renn's 'girlfriend'). His daughter Bianca O'Blivion (Sonja Smits), who led the Cathode Ray Mission, a large homeless shelter that provided 'healthy' doses of TV to destitute watchers - had become Videodrome's arch-enemy.
Renn didn't know that he was being used by the villainous forces behind Videodrome - the Spectacular Optical Corporation (and Videodrome's producer), headed by Chief of Special Programs Barry Convex (Leslie Carlson). Renn was deceived into watching (and becoming hooked on) Videodrome because Spectacular Optical (with the motto "Keeping An Eye on the World") wanted to seize and take over his Channel 83 TV station to broadcast its signal to the masses ("It can be a giant hallucination machine, and much much more!").
A mind-controlled Renn began to become infected due to his own TV watching (that seduced and controlled him), leading to his brain mutating and developing tumors, and he was experiencing many disturbing, mind-altering sights. In one bizarre surrealistic scene, Max kissed a hallucinogenic TV screen displaying a pair of giant seductive red lips of his girlfriend Nicki with heavy breathing that began to suck him into the glass monitor. He also saw that his abdomen opened up and he could stick his hand into a large slit.
In another, a brain-washing videotape was inserted into the VCR-like abdomen of Max Renn by Barry Convex ("Open up for me, Max. I've got something I want to play for you"), to "program" Renn to kill his partners at the station and the Cathode Ray Mission Leader. At the same time, he was "counter programmed" by Bianca to murder the Videodrome people (fronted by Spectacular Optical), who told him: "You turn against Videodrome. You use the weapons they've given you to destroy them. Death to Videodrome. Long live the new flesh."
Under the influence of these forces, a "reprogrammed" Renn began to assassinate others:
In the film's conclusion, Max (his head filled with tumors) watched a TV show - his now-dead girlfriend Nicki seductively prompted him to shoot himself in the head. She enticed him:
He watched as he blew his own head open - and the TV set exploded, with bits of his own intestinal flesh hurled into his living room. After being instructed about how to kill himself, Max imitated what he had just seen, followed Nicki's orders to evolve into the "new flesh." He suicidally shot himself with his own hand-gun, as he proclaimed: "Long live the new flesh."
Videodrome "Snuff" Torture
Slit in Abdomen
VCR in Abdomen
O'Blivion's Executioner Nicki
How to Kill Oneself (1)
How to Kill Oneself (2)
Village of the Damned (1960, UK)
In director Wolf Rilla's scary B-movie horror film (about an alien takeover) - loosely adapted from John Wyndham's 1957 sci-fi novel The Midwich Cuckoos, the tagline asked: "What Demonic Force Lurks Behind Those Eyes?" It also warned: "Beware the Stare That Will Paralyze the Will of the World." At the time of its release during the Cold War, the film functioned as an allegory for the Communist Scare of the 1950s. It was later remade as John Carpenter's Village of the Damned (1995).
In the film's opening during what was dubbed a "time out," a mysterious force-field caused everyone to collapse or fall asleep (and go unconscious) in the British village of Midwich during a mist. An impenetrable force field was established around the town. Later, it was discovered that the same phenomena of spawned mutant children occurred in other places around the world.
When everyone awoke, every women of child-bearing age was pregnant, including unwed teenage girls and married women whose husbands were absent. There were many accusations of infidelity and premarital sex, although the children were virginally conceived.
The Final Stand-off:
"I Must Think of a Brick Wall"
Wait Until Dark (1967)
Terence Young's suspenseful, Hitchcock-like crime thriller told about the deadly search for drugs, unknowingly stashed in a rag doll. The female-in-jeopardy film told about how vulnerable blind woman Susy Hendrix (Audrey Hepburn) was victimized by criminals who thought her ground-level Greenwich Village apartment held the missing doll.
There were a number of shocking, scary moments, mostly in the nail-biting conclusion:
In the final battle of wits, after Susy had smashed most of the light bulbs in her claustrophobic apartment, she was confronted by Roat one-on-one, who coldly described how he had eliminated his partners, and how he wanted her to give up the doll. He put on plastic gloves, then stroked her face with a sheer nylon cloth:
When he suggested taking her to the bedroom (to rape or kill her?), she asked if he was looking at her - when he said he was, she tossed a vase full of flammable photographic hypo solution into his face. She extinguished one of the last lights in the room, as he confronted her. Using all of her tactile skills, Susy retaliated by threatening to ignite his soaked body with a match. During the tense and chilling match-up between them, however, the cunning psychopath discovered the light in the refrigerator (and put a towel in the door to prevent it from closing).
Finally, Susy decided to hand over the doll - stashed in the bottom of her kitchen wastebasket, while she grabbed a long kitchen knife for protection. Roat slashed open the doll and removed heroin packets, and then again suggested taking her to the bedroom. As he marched her across the room, she stabbed him in the abdomen. She retreated back to the living room where she found that her outer door was blocked.
There was the exciting and extremely-scary jump-out-of-your-seat (or shock-leap) moment when the villainous and crazed Roat lunged with a knife from the dark bedroom hallway toward blind Susy. She screamed as he grabbed at her left ankle. He dragged himself across the floor using the knife blade, stalking her. She outwitted him by hiding behind the refrigerator door and pulling its plug, plunging her apartment into complete darkness.
Would she survive his attack?
In the film's denouement, Susy's husband found her collapsed behind the refrigerator door.
Roat (Alan Arkin)
The Battle of Wits, Including Hypo Splashed into Roat's Face
The War of the Worlds (1953)
Paramount's Technicolored science-fiction, alien-invasion film from director Byron Haskin (and producer George Pal), loosely adapted from British author H.G. Wells' 1898 novel (of the same name), was about a Martian invasion of Earth, occurring in 1950s Southern California near Los Angeles. [Note: This was one of the things purists objected to, although other cities around the world were also affected.] It was an historically-interesting film, the grand-daddy of alien attack films, which won the year's Academy Award for Best Special Effects. The film was preceded in 1938 by Orson Welles' Mercury Theater on the Air radio version which shocked listeners who thought there was a real invasion occurring in Grover's Mill, New Jersey.
In the film's opening, the commentator (Sir Cedric Hardwicke) explained how Martians wished to migrate to Earth, to colonize the thriving planet:
Meteorites landed in a California forest in the small town of Linda Rosa. When a trio of townsfolk approached the downed spacecraft with a truce flag after the object's hatch unscrewed itself, they were vaporized by a blast from a tentacled, cobra-snake-like heat ray (or disintegrator beam) appendage, emanating from a sleek, hovering manta ray-like flying machine. Their remains were later viewed as patterned piles of disintegrated ashes.
One of the most effective scenes was when pretty library science instructor Sylvia Van Buren (Ann Robinson) and handsome, bespectacled Dr. Clayton Forrester (Gene Barry), a vacationing Pacific Tech scientist, were caught in a partly-demolished abandoned farmhouse - after a Martian war machine landed on it. A Martian electronic eye on a long, flexible cable failed to notice them when it inspected the interior of the ruined farmhouse. Sylvia had a scary farmhouse cellar encounter with an actual Martian creature which extended its creepy suction-cup fingered-hand onto her shoulder. The alien explorer was a hideous crab-like biped with a three-hued color television camera for an eye. She was defended by Forrester before they fled and the house was incinerated by the hovering war machine.
The warring invaders begin an assault on Earth, and destroyed everything that resisted - by employing protective force-fields. The dropping of an A-bomb was ineffective - one of the Martian flying machines, seen in a binocular view, emerged unscathed from a cloud of dust. One of the military generals, Maj. General Mann (Les Tremayne) was dismayed: "Guns, tanks, bombs - they're like toys against them!" Soon, Los Angeles was evacuated as the Martians were proceeding to conquer the world, and mobs of people panicked during their flight.
When the Martian threat fell prey to bacterial infection (an ironic twist), the commentator intoned (in voice-over) that God had saved humanity by "the littlest things." Miraculously, the Martian flying ships collapsed throughout the world (and outside a church in SoCal where Sylvia and Clayton were reunited) and the aliens died - and the film ended in an uplifting scene with survivors standing on a hillside thankfully singing hymns:
The Abandoned Farmhouse Invasion
When a Stranger Calls (1979)
The horror-thriller from director Fred Walton opened with the film's scariest sequence.
Teenaged baby-sitter Jill Johnson (Carol Kane) suffered fearful torment as she received repeated anonymous phone calls (about every 15 minutes) from an unknown, lunatic assailant, who asked the same question and then hung up:
She was somewhat assured that the windows and doors were locked. A call to the police led to this response: "It's probably just some weirdo. The city's full of 'em. Believe it or not, we get reports like this every night. It's nothing to worry about." She was told to find a loud whistle, and the next time there was a call to blow it loudly and break the caller's eardrum. And she was reassured that patrolmen were cruising the area.
She attempted to dissuade the insistent caller during his final conversation:
When the phone went dead, she received another call - this time from the police, who issued a classic warning to her:
She attempted to escape the house - and came face to face (in a scary zoom) with a burly-faced man - not the caller but a police officer: Detective John Clifford (Charles Durning). Behind him were patrol cars with flashing lights. The Mandrakis' two children had been cold-bloodedly murdered (massacred!) several hours earlier and the disturbed serial killer Curt Duncan (Tony Beckley), an English merchant seaman, was found covered in blood. He had been using an old bedroom phone that had never been disconnected. He was sent to an asylum.
By film's end seven years later, Jill was now married with two children of her own. While out to dinner with her husband Stephen Lockhart (Steven Anderson), a baby-sitter named Sharon (Lenora May) was tending to her children. Jill received another chilling phone call at the restaurant: "Have you checked the children...?" - she screamed:
That night, Jill discovered the returning escaped killer was in her own bed! - fortunately, police detective/PI John Clifford was on the case and shot the killer dead (with two shots) as he was assaulting her in her bedroom. Stephen, who had been knocked unconscious, was found alive in the bedroom's closet.
[Note: The film returned as a big-budget remake by Simon West, titled similarly, When A Stranger Calls (2006). It followed fairly closely to the original 1979 film, with the additional murders of Jill's (Camilla Belle) best friend Tiffany (Katie Cassidy) and the maid Rosa. Also, the mostly-unseen Stranger (voice of Lance Henriksen) was not killed, but apprehended and taken away by police. While hospitalized, Jill continued to have insane delusions about the stalker attacking her.]
The Original Stalking
Seven Years Later: The Attack of Curt Duncan in Jill's Own Bed and Bedroom
This great psychological thriller, black comedy, and over-the-top camp classic featured the bizarre (and sole) pairing of two legendary -- and rival -- screen legends in a gothic, macabre, Grand Guignol horror film. The great trashy melodrama was directed by Robert Aldrich (known earlier for the great nihilistic film noir Kiss Me Deadly (1955)). The screenplay, by Lukas Heller, was based on Henry Farrell's 1960 novel Baby Jane (who also authored the novel Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte).
The film opened with the two stars living together in a gloomy, crumbling mansion in Los Angeles in the early 1960s:
Pasty white-faced Jane, whose career faded long ago, was now a deranged alcoholic, and vengefully bitter and jealous toward her wheelchair-bound sister secluded in an upstairs bedroom. Enmity worsened when a local TV network aired a marathon tribute to Blanche Hudson movies, and Jane learned that Blanche was planning to sell the mansion and put her in a sanitarium.
There were many stunning scenes and excessive performances, particularly Jane's relentless tormenting of her sister:
Rat for Dinner
Practicing Forged Signatures
The Wicker Man (1973, UK)
In this suspenseful and erotic horror-occult film, sexually-repressed and devoutly religious Scottish policeman Sergeant Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) searched for a missing young 12 year-old schoolgirl named Rowan Morrison (Geraldine Cowper) from an anonymous tip in a letter. The townsfolk were openly-sexual pagan worshippers and inhabitants living on the remote Scottish island of Summerisle. They worshipped the teachings of leader Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee). Sgt. Howie believed (although wrongly) that she was to be a potential virgin sacrifice (the May Queen) on May Day, as part of a fertility rite.
While there, he learned that one of the people's odd practices was to place a frog in a child's mouth to cure sore throats. Women danced naked in a circle around a ceremonial fire in a Stonehenge setting, copulated and were naked in a graveyard, and there were various fertility rites. Girls in a school class were openly taught about how the Maypole was a phallic symbol -- "It is the image of the penis, which is venerated in religions such as ours, as symbolizing the generative force in nature."
In the chilling finale of the cult classic, Howie learned that he was the one to be sacrificed. He was brought there to the island to be their good Christian sacrifice, to appease the gods and to bring a plentiful harvest. The 'missing' girl was never really missing - but had served as bait to lure him there. He learned about virginal fire sacrifices inside a giant, hollow wicker-constructed figure of a man, where he suffered his own fate - after not having succumbed to the fleshly temptations provided by Willow MacGregor (Britt Ekland), who tried to seduce him in his Green Man Inn room next to his.
He was burned alive ("Oh, my God!") at sunset as the perfect virginal sacrifice inside the massive hollow 'wicker man' statue (created of wicker materials designed to be used for fire sacrifices). He was told he was the "unique" sacrificial one that they needed, for four reasons:
He protested his fate, but the heathen leaders refused to listen to him, believing that their apple crop would be restored because of his sacrifice. They prayed to the "Mighty god of the Sun, bountiful goddess of our orchards. Accept our sacrifice and make our blossoms fruit." As Howie was consumed by the flames, he recited the 23rd Psalm ("The lord's my shepherd, I'll not want, He takes me down to lie in pastures..."), and prayed for deliverance.
Sgt. Neil Howie
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)
This children's family film, a fantasy musical, was set in a fanciful land, Willy Wonka's (Gene Wilder) candy factory filled with orange-skinned, green-haired Oompa-Loompas workers.
It had an unlikely scary scene for a family-friendly film. Tormenting, purple-clad Willy offered a boat ride down the Chocolate River to the kids and their parents, and promised: "I take good care of my guests... Everybody aboard? You're going to love this. Just love it."
Mr. Beauregard (Leonard Stone) was skeptical when he saw the upcoming tunnel: "I don't know, but I don't like the looks of that tunnel up there. Hey, Wonka, I want off!" Wonka kept ordering the rowers to go faster, as young Veruca Salt (Julie Dawn Cole) complained: "I don't like this ride, Daddy." Violet Beauregard (Denise Nickerson) also asked: "What is this, a freak-out?"
While hallucinatory, colorful, hellish and surreal images (a slimy worm on a person's mouth, a beheading of a chicken, and a kaleidoscope of insects, etc.) were back-projected behind or next to them, Willy sat at the front of the boat, and provided strange commentary and eerie singing:
Suddenly, Willy ordered the boat to stop, and they arrived at their destination, the Inventing Room.
Everybody's cherished favorite, perennial fantasy film musical from MGM during its golden years is The Wizard of Oz (1939). Lonely and sad Kansas farmgirl Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) dreamt of a better place, without torment against her dog Toto from a hateful, cranky neighbor spinster named Miss Gulch (Margaret Hamilton) who had a court order to take her dog. So Dorothy ran away from home during a fierce tornado.
She was struck in the head -- and in her dreams was transported to a land 'beyond the rainbow' where she met magical characters from her Kansas life transformed within her unconscious dream state. After travels down a Yellow Brick Road to the Land of Oz, and the defeat of the Wicked Witch of the West (also Margaret Hamilton), Dorothy and her friends were rewarded by the Wizard of Oz with their hearts' desires - and Dorothy was enabled to return home to Kansas.
Many of the fantasy's scariest scenes involved the alter-ego of Miss Gulch - the cackling Wicked Witch of the West, who continually tormented Dorothy and her travel companions:
Wolf Creek (2005, Australia)
Director Greg Mclean's thriller was a somewhat repulsively-sickening, brutal and punishing film based on a true story (of a serial killer) and a very-deliberate throwback reminiscent of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). The film's opening legend was only semi-accurate, about the 'dark side' of the Australian outback:
A trio of stranded backpackers were threatened in the remote outback of Western Australia in 1999 on a three-week road trip from Broome to Cairns, Queensland via the Great Northern Highway:
At Wolf Creek National Park when they found that their watches stopped working (magnetic interference?) and their car was inoperable, the three were aided by a "Crocodile Dundee"- type local named Mick Taylor (John Jarratt), who turned out to be a sadistic, cruel, and brutal antagonist. At first, he made a show of fixing their car, and promised to take them to his camp - an abandoned mining camp several hours south of Wolf Creek. He did so, but only after drugging them with tainted water and causing them to go unconscious - something he had done numerous times with other fated travelers through the region.
The sadistic killer, gleefully enjoying every minute of causing pain, inflicted violent acts upon the group -- including kidnapping, rape, torture, and murder.
There was no justice for the victims - in the final scene, Mick walked off, away from the camera, toward an outback sunset with his gun in his right hand - fading from view and ready to kill again.
Serial Killer Mick Taylor
"This is a Knife!"
Kristy Hailing Help
Motorist Shot by Sniper
Kristy Shot and Burned in Car
The Wolf Man (1941)
This was one of the greatest, classic horror films - a tense, well-made, eerie production, and one of the last of Universal's great monster films. Star Lon Chaney, Jr. would eventually star in a total of five werewolf films from 1941 to 1948.
Easy-going, innocent British heir Lawrence Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.) returned to Wales to the castle-mansion of his father Sir John Talbot (Claude Rains), to be reunited with him after an education in America. Larry was set to run the vast Talbot estate.
When he visited an antique shop and its pretty blonde antique shopgirl Gwen Conliffe (Evelyn Ankers), the daughter of the shop owner, he purchased a rare silver-topped, wolf-headed cane with a pentagram design - a symbol of the werewolf. She explained what a werewolf was: "That's a human being who at certain times of the year changes into a wolf...Little Red Riding Hood was a werewolf story. Of course, there have been many others. There's an old poem: 'Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.'"
Shortly after, at a gypsy festival attended by Larry, Gwen, and Gwen's girlfriend, beautiful young Jenny Williams (Fay Helm), Jenny had her palm read by traveling gypsy fortune-teller Bela (Bela Lugosi). Nearby was his mother Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya), another gypsy fortune teller - and the results were alarming (the image of a pentagram) - meaning she would be the werewolf's next victim.
Then, Talbot was bitten by a ravenous, hairy werewolf (also Bela Lugosi) when he attempted to save Jenny from being attacked in the throat on the moors (marsh). In her arms, Gwen comforted the wolf-bitten Talbot. Later, when the police investigated, they only discovered the bodies of Jenny and Bela (who had been beaten to death by the silver-topped cane that Talbot used as a weapon).
In a chilling scene, Maleva told Talbot that he hadn't just killed any normal wolf: "Bela turned into a wolf and you killed him. A werewolf can only be killed by a silver bullet, or a silver knife, or a stick with a silver handle." She also informed Talbot that he was in danger. The bite was from no ordinary wolf - he had been bitten by the werewolf, and at each new full moon, he was now condemned like her son Bela was. She warned: "Whoever is bitten by a werewolf and lives becomes a werewolf himself...Heaven help you!" Talbot confessed to Gwen that the old gypsy woman told him: "She said that I was a werewolf." He offered his pentagram amulet to Gwen to protect her. Indeed, Talbot was fearful when he saw the fabled pentagram in the palm of Gwen's hand - a sign that she would be his next victim.
In an amazingly-effective transformation scene (when the moon was full) (filmed with a series of lap dissolves), Talbot was transformed into a blood-thirsty creature with furry feet. There were shots of his legs growing hairier and hairier through dissolves, followed by the appearance of paws for feet. First, he killed a gravedigger.
In the final moments of the film, an atmospheric, exciting climax in fog-shrouded woods/swamp (during a full moon), Talbot's father Sir John joined a search party and killed the beast with the silver-tipped cane as it attacked Gwen on the moors, ending the man's suffering. After Talbot's body (transformed from a werewolf and reverted back to the human facial features of Talbot) was found at the site, he was praised as Gwen's heroic rescuer. The chief constable commented: "The wolf must have attacked her and Larry came to the rescue. I'm sorry, Sir John." However, Sir John looked on in horror, realizing that he had slain his own son. He cried out: "Larry!"
The Chilling Foot
Wolf Man's Attack on Gwen
Director David Fincher's lengthy yet taut crime-drama thriller (with a script by James Vanderbilt), his sixth feature film, was a follow-up to some of his previous films, including the serial killer thriller Se7en (1995), Fight Club (1999) and Panic Room (2002). There have been numerous true-life (and dramatic) exposes about serial killers, including (to name only a few) Dirty Harry (1971) (inspired by the Zodiac case), Spike Lee's Summer of Sam (1999), Monster (2003) and The Hillside Strangler (2004). Fincher's Zodiac was the only one notably backed by a major studio.
The actual Zodiac killer was involved in the shootings or stabbings of at least (probably more) seven individuals in four different attacks in the late 1960s, in the vicinity of San Francisco in Northern California. In three cases, the attacks were on couples, and in some cases there were survivors. The Zodiac became infamous for sending cryptograms and threatening letters to newspapers, notably the San Francisco Chronicle. He also took credit for other crimes (that he may or may not have committed), including the Cheri Jo Bates murder in Riverside in 1966 and the highway abduction of Kathleen Johns in 1970. The Zodiac's warnings first came in a letter to the newspaper ("This is the Zodiac speaking"), along with an encrypted note demanding that his missives be published or else he'd threaten with a larger killing spree - later, he said he would shoot out the tires of a school bus and then "pick off the kiddies as they come bouncing out."
Although the random acts of violent manslaughter were often portrayed off-screen, there were a few scenes of the Zodiac's killings told with graphic detail, with the pained reactions of his victims (and the subsequent detailed discussion of their deaths by authorities). These were among the five killings the police felt sure that the Zodiac committed.
In the opening blood-chilling sequence depicting the first two murders on the fourth of July, 1969 in Vallejo, Darlene Ferrin (Ciara Hughes) and Mike Mageau (Lee Norris) were in their car in a quiet park parking lot late that night. They were just "sitting, listening to music, talking"). They noticed that they had been followed by a dark car from Mr. Ed's. Mike asked Darlene: "Is that your husband?" - which she denied. She tried to reassure an increasingly-nervous Mike: "It's nothing." But then, the car returned, parked behind them, and a mysterious hooded figure stepped out and shone a bright flashlight in their faces. After Mike joked: "Man, you really creeped us out," the killer raised his weapon (a 9 mm Luger) and began firing - the couple's bodies were riddled with bullets. The deaths were extreme, with spasms and spurting blood. Although the figure walked away, he returned and unleashed more bullets into the limp bodies - but Mike survived.
In another equally horrifying, realistic sequence in broad daylight, another couple was picnicking by Lake Berryessa in Napa - law student Bryan Hartnell (Patrick Scott Lewis) and Cecelia Shepard (Pell James). A man dressed in black (with a zodiac symbol on his chest) approached with a gun, and demanded: "I want your money and your car keys." Bryan politely bargained with the man:
Then, the intruder ordered Cecelia to tie up Bryan, with rope that he provided. He came closer and threatened: "I killed a guard escaping from prison in Montana...I'm not afraid to kill again." He then tied Cecelia's hands behind her back, and told them: "I'm taking your car and going to Mexico." A knife (at close-range) was repeatedly plunged into Bryan's back, as his hog-tied girlfriend screamed and watched in horror next to him. Then, she was also knifed and twitched as she cried for help and died (reportedly, the "boy lived, the girl didn't" - with eight stab wounds to the back).
Another murder was the shooting execution of cab driver Paul Stine (Charles Schneider) on a Presidio Heights street corner, after an aerial view of the taxi motoring through San Francisco at night. At the corner of Washington and Cherry, the Zodiac passenger committed the crime (one shot to the back of the head) while on a talk radio program (on the soundtrack), voices discussed the Zodiac phenomenon.
The SF Chronicle's editorial cartoonist, Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal in the film), who was also an author about true crimes (including two best-selling books about the Zodiac killer), undertook an investigation of his own, and named Arthur Leigh Allen (John Carroll Lynch in the film) as the chief suspect. The Zodiac case ran into numerous bureaucratic snags and was officially unsolved - Allen was reluctantly cleared in 1971 by the police's own handwriting expert (Philip Baker Hall).
Fincher's very authentic, labyrinthine, complicated film, spanning 22 years from 1969 until 1991, was mostly a police procedural with fascinating characters - similar to the method taken in Alan J. Pakula's All the President's Men (1976) and Oliver Stone's JFK (1991). It meticulously followed the case (and Robert Graysmith's dogged and obsessive investigation also), in terms of sets, shooting locales, and costuming. Forensics experts and private investigators were hired to research the facts and study handwriting samples. There were references to the killer's interest in treating victims as prey, due to his mention of the short story The Most Dangerous Game, a 1932 film.
The main crime reporter for the Chronicle in the case was neurotic, cocaine-using, hard-drinking, self-destructive, chain-smoking Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.), flamboyant and ineffectual, and two dedicated SFPD lead homicide detectives: attention-seeking, hot-shot Inspector Dave Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and Bill Armstrong (Anthony Edwards), who ran into procedural delays, bungling, and miscommunication which hampered their efforts.
After the official police case grew cold, the unassuming, Boy-Scout like, naive Graysmith began to conduct his own investigation, but only found circumstantial evidence that couldn't be substantiated. In a chilling scene at the end of the film, in 1983, Graysmith stood face-to-face with the suspected killer, Arthur Leigh Allen, in a Vallejo Ace Hardware store, where he was employed as a sales clerk.
The Attack on the Couple at Lake Berryessa in Napa
Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) Face to Face with Suspected Zodiac Killer Arthur Leigh Allen (John Carroll Lynch)
Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979, It.) (aka Zombi 2)
This gory Lucio Fulci horror-sci-fi film was one of many Italian redos (or unofficial sequels) of George Romero's Dawn of the Dead (1978) (released in Italy as Zombi). Therefore, this one was alternately titled Zombi 2.
Most of the film's action was set on a voodoo-worshipping Caribbean Island, although it opened with an eerie scene as a yacht-ship (un-manned except for one fat, deformed flesh-eating zombie) (a rip-off of Nosferatu (1922)) entering NY harbor. Anne Bowles (Tisa Farrow, the sister of Mia), the daughter of the boat's owner Dr. Bowles (Ugo Bologna), joined up with British newspaper reporter Peter West (Ian McCulloch) and discovered a note written by her father to her. He claimed he had caught a mysterious, contagious disease and had died on the island of Matool in the Antilles. The island was plagued by increasing zombie attacks.
After arriving in the Antilles, they hitched a ride to the island with two American tourists: Bryan Curt (Al Cliver), and sexy girlfriend Susan Barrett (Auretta Gay), who decided to go scuba diving (topless). During her underwater excursion, she was attacked first by a tiger shark, and then a zombie. She fought off the zombie with a sharp piece of coral - who then took a big bite out of the shark, until the shark grabbed the zombie's arm and tore it off.
On the island, Dr. David Menard (Richard Johnson) told them that Anne's father had died, but was revived from his grave through miraculous voodoo. In one of the most gruesome and scary eye gouging or 'splinter-into-the-eye' death sequences ever filmed, Dr. Menard's estranged wife Paolo (Olga Karlatos) was at first seen taking a shower. A creepy zombie hand emerged at the bathroom window as it spied on her. When she realized she was being assaulted, she squished the zombie's fingers in her door, locked it, and then hid behind it to avoid an undead, marauding flesh-eating zombie from attacking. With great effort and exertion, she struggled to push a large, heavy cabinet over to the locked door to try and blockade it, as it was being splintered.
Through gaping slats in the door, the zombie reached in and grabbed her by the hair. It slowly dragged her right eyeball into a serrated shard of wood sticking out - horrifyingly filmed from her POV. After her death (off-camera), she was eaten by zombies. [Note: A similar scene appeared in director Lucio Fulci's The Beyond (1981).]
In the film's blood-splattered climax, a horde of flesh-eating zombies (all rising from their graves) attacked the few human survivors on the island in a siege similar to the one in Night of the Living Dead (1968).
Zombie Attack on
the Deserted Ship
The Actual Eye Gouging
(alphabetical by film title, illustrated)
Intro | #s-A | B | C-1 | C-2 | D-1 | D-2 | E | F | G | H
I-J | K-L | M | N-O | P | Q-R | S-1 | S-2 | S-3 | T | U-Z