With Halloween fast approaching and in keeping with this week’s ‘Top 5’ theme, I thought I might share a few of my favourite thrillers in case you want to scare yourself this weekend. These are my picks for a fantastic fright night, in no particular order:
1. Jaws (1975) – I’ve written before about Jaws and my use of it as a tool in explaining the Burkean sublime. This year, I showed the clip to a 2nd year class and was somewhat dismayed to discover that more than half of the class hadn’t seen the film. I guess I’m showing my age and will have to find something a little bit more au courant in future, but I still claim Jaws as a firm favourite and one definitely worth including in any horror fest.
2. Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte (1969) – I only watched this for the first time a few weekends ago and really enjoyed it! Bette Davis looks decidedly haggard, but that just adds to the creepiness of the whole thing. Both she and Olivia de Havilland are alternately heart-wrenchingly and hair-raisingly good. Yes, the special effects sometimes leave a little to be desired by twenty-first century standards, but, in many ways, that doesn’t matter much, given that this is very much a psychological thriller, along the lines of my next recommendation…
3. Misery (1990) – just writing the title down makes me shiver! Kathy Bates is amazing in this tense thriller about a crazed fan’s insistence that the author with whom she is obsessed re-write a particular novel’s ending in a manner more to her liking. Shockingly good!
4. Psycho (1960) – an Alfred Hitchcock classic that was disastrously (in my mind) re-made in 1998. What makes the original so good, I think, is the way in which it leaves so much to the imagination, as in the famous shower scene. Somehow not seeing every last gory detail (I’m treading carefully in order to avoid inadvertently spoiling things for people who haven’t seen this – unbelievable as that may be!) makes the scene, like the film itself, so much more powerful than if Hitchcock had been more explicit.
5. The Shining (1980) – Recently someone somewhere (Facebook??) brought to my attention a clip on Youtube called ‘The Shining Recut’, which imagines The Shining as a rom com. It’s hilarious, but, to be honest, I don’t think there’s much room for improvement with the original. Jack Nicholson is positively brilliant as the struggling writer who slowly descends into a violent psychosis that may or may not be related to his apparently idyllic retreat in a grand old hotel deserted for the winter. I actually watched this for the first time while on a weekend away in a fancy hotel and didn’t sleep for nights! Still, if anyone crooks their finger at me and says ‘red rum’, I get a chill up my spine!
Any other suggestions for favourite edge-of-the-seat thrillers? Whatever you choose, have a great holiday weekend!