An evil old house, the kind some people call ‘haunted,’ is like an undiscovered country waiting to be explored.
Robert Wise’s 1963 The Haunting (adapted from Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House) is a masterpiece of measured suspense, a truly haunting portrait of repression and anxiety mounting from dread to outright terror. It’s also the bittersweet tale of a young woman struggling to overcome a lifetime of isolation and alienation, determined to see a slice of the world and find adventure, love, and somewhere she belongs.
Then during Halloween week, visit The Toast for my analysis of late-bloomers, love, and friendship The Haunting and Lucky McKee’s 2002 May, a genre-straddling horror-romance story of a lonely woman seeking company and comfort. (And join the May live-tweet on Monday, October 27th!)
The Haunting will play on Turner Classic Movies at 8:00 Eastern on Saturday, October 25th. You can check out the Facebook event for live-tweet, where I’ve posted plenty streaming options, or look for The Haunting in independent video stores everywhere. We’ll be live-tweeting the 1963 original, not the 1999 remake.
“Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is a romping example of female agency in limited circumstances. These women work and play together, wresting their power and pleasures from the hands of men with relish.” Gentlemen Prefer Blondes upends tired sexist tropes, indulges the female gaze, and showcases fierce female friendship. My new essay, today at The Toast!
“Movies about mothers – mothers’ relationship with their children, children’s relationship with their mothers – can trade in easy sentiment or melodrama. But motherhood isn’t all swaddling and coddling and comfortable archetypes. In the rough terrain where a woman becomes a mother, she can feel she’s been corralled, her personality, her persona, her entire independent self suddenly defined largely by her actual or idealized connection to a child. These three thrillers tap into the poignancy and pressures that many mothers face, digging into the complicated web of social expectations in a world that both mythologizes and devalues motherhood, while translating the everyday tensions of caregiving into the language of the fantastic and the grotesque.”
A sort of Babette’s Feast of the American West, Jonathan Demme’s Silence of the Lambs shows how the strength of one determined woman can save a ranch, a flock of sickly sheep, and a family – with a little bit of help, and a lot of quid pro quo.
Determined to save her elderly uncle’s foundering sheep ranch, Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) gives up her demanding training with the FBI and moves to rural Montana to take over the operation. The opening scene shows that, however out of her element she may be, Starling knows how to show up when duty calls: rough, unsteady, but rugged and ready for action.
When the struggle becomes too much for one set of hands, veterinarian and father-figure Dr. Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) pitches in, joining her on the lonely landscape of the isolated ranch, and proves to be as adept in the field and the kitchen as he is in the clinic. Be sure to have a good Chianti on hand for the luscious dinner scene.