Tag Archives: thriller

Rear Window (1958): Sympathy for a devil

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Lars Thorwald, as played by Raymond Burr is undoubtedly one of the most iconic film villains of all time. Besides the great acting on the part of Burr, the direction of the great Alfred Hitchcock definitely marks his performance in the film “Rear Window” as one of the greats. But when one carefully analyzes what the film presents us as an audience, a truth becomes clear: This is a villain that we virtually know NOTHING about.

We know he’s a salesman, and that he killed his wife. And that based on the witnesses Lt. Doyle mentions to Jefferies, that Thorwald possibly did it because he was seeing another woman behind his wife’s back. But there are other things the viewer should consider.

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Remember, that Jefferies may be the film’s hero, played by the beloved James Stewart. But he is far from an honest character. He alienates himself from his girlfriend constantly, and tries to distance himself from her by keeping her “outside his world” which has shrunken to his apartment. He is a photographer, he traveled the world a lot. He views each neighbor as an extention of himself. The piano player is Jefferies enveloped in his work. Miss Lonely Hearts is Jefferies if he ends up alone. Thorwald and his wife are mirror images of Jefferies and Lisa. He sees that Thorwald is frustrated with taking care of his wife and projected their situation onto him and Lisa. This sympathy for Mrs. Thorwald stems from the seeing her like himself, sick and immobile. Jefferies is a hero who projects the restrictions of his situation on everyone around him.

Essentially, Hitchcock has tricked us into rooting for a peeping tom who got lucky and caught a bad guy. If more of Thorwald’s background were presented, it’s quite possible that Thorwald might appear more morally inclined than Jefferies.

 

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We’re given no background to the state of Thorwald’s marriage. Aside from the fact that his wife is an ill woman who needs care, and he obviously does. One factor of their relationship that is shown once, but not again. Is a shot of Mrs. Thorwald laughing hysterically at her husband.  He doesn’t appear to be amused at all. While this is never addressed again, either by the story or the observations of Jefferies it does hint at a possible clue of Thorwald’s motives. Perhaps he was being emotionally abused by the woman he tried to care for.

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If Lars Thorwald really was an abuse victim who sought comfort from another woman, it might show a small bit of sympathy in his actions. Thorwald wouldn’t be the devil, he would be a desperate man who killed his wife (maybe accidentally for all we know). And tried to get rid of all the evidence he could. Besides the implied gruesome method of disposing of the body, and the killing of the neighbor’s dog, these seem more like the actions of someone who’s terrible at discretion.

In his final confrontation with Jefferies in Jefferies’ apartment, the only scene where Thorwald actually speaks, it should be noted that he doesn’t threaten Jefferies first. He assumes Jefferies is trying to blackmail him, inquiring that he has no money. He only attacks Jefferies when Jefferies makes it clear that the final piece of evidence, his wife’s ring, is bringing Doyle and the police after him.

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That fact the no further details of Thorwald’s past are ever explored is the only real reason that he is classified as a villain, and Jefferies it could be argued, is only a hero because his habit of invading the privacy of his neighbors was just the lesser of two evils.

Joe’s Random Movie Review: “Us” (2019)

Lupita Nyong'o in Us (2019)

 

!!!!!!WARNING!!!!!!!!!!!

SPOILERS AHEAD

 

In 2019 writer director Jordan Peele has given presented “Us”, a follow up to his film “Get Out”. Like it’s predecessor, “Us” contains within a very deeper messages hidden behind the horror.

Lupita Nyong'o and Winston Duke in Us (2019)

The film follows the Wilsons, a family on vacation in Santa Cruz. Adelaide, Gabe, Zora, and Jason. Adelaide seems very worried about going to Santa Cruz because of a traumatic event that happened to her there back in 1986. Which the film initially begins with. Then later that night, they are attacked by four strangers which they soon realize are in fact doppelgängers, or doubles, of themselves. Going by the names of Red, Abraham, Umbrae and Pluto. These doppelgängers referred to themselves as “The Tethered”.

Initially, this section of the film is structured and looks and feels a lot like a classic 80s slasher film. Instead of one killer stalking many people, it’s a few killers stalking a few people.

Lupita Nyong'o, Winston Duke, Evan Alex, and Shahadi Wright Joseph in Us (2019)

Eventually it is revealed that Adelaide had encountered Red before, back in 1986. As the film progresses towards its final moments, we find out that this doppelgänger phenomena was not limited only to the Wilsons but rather to people worldwide. Apparently the Tethered had existed in this long network of underground tunnels constructed by the United States Military as an experiment to try and control the populace. When the experiment failed, the Tethered were left to fend for themselves living only off of live rabbits.

Winston Duke and Shahadi Wright Joseph in Us (2019)

As the battle for the Wilson survival culminates in a final confrontation between Red and Adelaide, the big twist at the end is revealed. Back in 1986, when Red first encountered Adelaide, Red knocked her out, chained Adelaide to her bed inside the tunnels, and switched clothes with her Replacing her in the real world. Thus revealing to the audience, as well as to the character Adelaide herself, that she in fact was the doppelgänger of the entire time. A dark and surprising twist ending indeed, for any of us who are fans of Peele’s work.

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Doppelgängers in folklore and myth have long been shown as Omens of impending doom or death. Many historical figures including that of Abraham Lincoln and claim to of had encounters with doppelgängers of their own soon before such impending doom happened upon them. There’s something very otherworldly and very frightening of seeing something that looks like you, behaves like you, and yet isn’t you. It also calls into question the idea of individuality as to whether or not you in fact have it, or if you are completely alike with the double. And with what little information we’re actually given about the Tethered in this film, Jordan Peele leaves it greatly open to interpretation. However he leaves it open to interpretation, but not in a way that feels as though the film is riddled with plot holes. This is one of those movies where new bits of clues and symbolism will be discovered and rediscovered as “Us” is watched and rewatched.

Lupita Nyong'o in Us (2019)

As “Us” progresses and gets darker along the way, you’re showing little bit more of the nature of the Tethered, especially when they were living in the tunnels to fend for themselves. The Tethered themselves seem to be a metaphor for the lower class ascending and finally going after the privileged upper class who weren’t even aware of their existence. Even though these “lower class citizens” have always been there.

Evan Alex in Us (2019)

The whole revolt of the Tethered seems to be a great metaphor for oppression, or possibly a class struggle. This would make the message of “Us” a little bit greater than the message given to us would “Get Out”. With “Get Out” the message was one of racial differences, where is this one is about class differences regardless of skin color. It becomes less a story of man vs. monster, and is more about the privileged against the underprivileged. And because the Tethered in the very nature didn’t exactly have freedom of choice, after all they could do was mimic the actions that their counterparts in the surface world could do. Their fight becomes more logical and much more sympathetic in that they feel they don’t have freedom of choice. At least not in the way we understand it.

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When the twist ending coming into play though, the motivations of the film’s main antagonist Red seem to be a little bit clearer. It seems the Tethered chose her to lead them because they understood that she was different than the rest of them. Primarily because she actually, in fact, wasn’t one of them. And her motivations seem to be very logical at the very least. After all she only wanted to reclaim the life that was forcibly taken from her by her doppelgänger.

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And Adelaide herself and her fight to preserve family, seems to by the end of the film realize that all she was doing was justifying the horrible action she did when she was a child. But it really calls into question as to whether or not the villain of the story was right in their motivations. Very few times will film actually make you question the moral compass of the hero that you’ve been presented, A sort of unreliable narrator.

Jordan Peele has undoubtedly come along way since the days of being a comedian. But with what he has set up so far with both of his films, and in a little bit more poignantly in “Us”, Jordan Peele is setting himself up as one of the greatest directors of the horror, thriller, and indeed one of the greatest directors of the 21st-century.

9/10 Excellent, excellent film!

Joe’s Random Movie Trivia: “Silence of the Lambs” (1991)

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One of the SWAT team members going after Lecter is played by singer Chris Isaak.

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Joe’s Character Analysis: Johnny Smith from Stephen King’s “The Dead Zone”

It is been said that a film is only as great as it’s villain. This can be true in many cases. It certainly is the truth in many of the works of author, Stephen King. In most of the films that have been adapted from his work, we have various and very memorable villains. It could be very easy to forget heroes which he has also written in his books. People forget, especially in the world of movies, that is the human elements which give the story it’s true strength, and not necessarily the supernatural parts. Stephen King’s human heroes are really where the power of his stories comes from. But in all fairness the scares are a pivotal part as well.
 Enter Johnny Smith. From King’s story, and David Cronenberg’s film adaptation in 1983, of “The Dead Zone.”

 In the story , Johnny Smith is a simple schoolteacher who is the result of going into a coma five years, awakens with psychic powers. One touch, and he can see someone’s past, present, and future. In the story, it has Johnny uncovering cases and going through certain events in his new life discovering both who he is now in the world, and what his powers can accomplish. This includes solving murder cases, and political conspiracy.

 There are many layers to Johnny as the story goes farther and farther. It’s worth mentioning first and foremost that he is a reluctant hero . He did not ask for these powers, and there are probably parts of the story where he regrets having to use them. But in using them and in accomplishing the deeds that he does , he discovers a little bit more more about himself.

The very name Johnny Smith implies that he is the everyman. Therefore as a representation of the average person, it’s fair to say that he in fact is a representation of every individual audience member who either watches the movie, reads the book, or even watches the TV series that is loosely based off of both. 

 As the story continues, Johnny Smith becomes less of the average, everyman and more more of an outsider.

 What else is very fascinating about the character of Smith, is that he follows a sort of character arc not too dissimilar from Brandon Lee’s portrayal of the undead hero Eric Draven, in “The Crow”. Smith is a man who was awoken from a coma after five long years. It really begs the question, how exactly does somebody reintroduce themselves into a world, and into a life, that is essentially already learned how to live without them? So Johnny’s mission in life is not only finding out how to use his powers, but also how to find a new meaning in his life . This quality makes him one of the most sympathetic heroes ever created by Stephen King . As stated before, it is the human elements and not necessarily the supernatural ones that make, not just Stephen King stories, but also horror, mysteries, thrillers, etc. into good movies and good stories altogether.

Joe’s Random Movie Review: “Get Out” (2017)


It’s very easy to see , how horror movies are undoubtedly changing in this day and age. Horror movies are becoming deeper, more psychological. And have very strong social messages to deliver to the audience. We’ve seen this in films like “The Babadook” and “The Witch”. It seems almost like the very genre of the horror film is changing into an entirely new animal. And this film from comedian, Jordan Peele, is no different. This is a horror film for the ages.

In the film, a black photographer named Chris is going with his white girlfriend to meet her family. Even with the reassurance that they’re Liberal and have no qualms about their relationship, but something suspicious is definitely going on.


 Horror, much like how one would use metaphor and satire, can be used to tell the truth in such a way that actually telling the truth could never do. It actually forces the audience to confront the issues that they seem uncomfortable with dealing. It seems plainly obvious, but the more conservative the situation or more conservative society becomes, the more extreme horror movies tend to become. In that case, “Get Out” is a film that definitely has a place in today’s world.


 The film definitely has a Stepford Wives-like vibe about it. Almost like the entire film is plotted around the idea of a twist ending. Meaning that use an audience member discover more and more about the film the more you watch it. More clues become known to you . And even more clues make themselves known to you the more you watch this film. This is a product of good writing and there are only a few horror movies that have actually successfully done this. A good example would be Roman Polanski’s 1968 film “Rosemary’s Baby”.

 Another point worth mentioning is its approach toward racism. Stereotypically racism against African-Americans would be shown as coming from white conservatives. But the genius of this film and it’s writing is a doesn’t target white conservatives. It actually targets white liberals. And it really extends to the idea that racism and objectification actually comes in many forms. And it also helps to clarify that it stems from the inability to understand one another. By presenting these issues in a horror movie, the filmmakers are actually able to get you to confront the issues of today through the symbolism of what appears on the outside to be a scary movie. 

Great acting, and excellent writing. This is a film that will scare everyone, and is definitely a film for the ages.

Final Score: 9.5/10

Joe’s Random Movie Trivia: Stephen King’s “The Dead Zone” (1983)

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The filmmakers initially wanted the psychic visions that Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) to have, should look sharp and painful. The character “jolts” as it happens. Walken wanted these “jolts” to look authentic. So director, David Cronenberg would fire a .44 Magnum pistol off camera and not tell Walken when it would go off.