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The Art of the Thriller

post #1 of 48
Thread Starter 

Every filmmaker working in the genre is chasing the Master. There's a whole subgenre -the Hitchcock-ian Thriller- made up of films that are either pastiches sampling his whole body of work or films serving as direct homages. We have multiple generations that know the tropes he invented, and whenever viewing a new genre entry, in the back of the mind, there's a hope of that same rush; the experience achieved viewing even his lesser films.

 

Obviously, De Palma is the most ardent disciple, and he has films like DRESSED TO KILL and BODY DOUBLE that are arguably on par with the iinfluence. However,  Richard Franklin and Curtis Hanson are also legends for how excitedly they played around with formula.

 

<QT once said he preferred PSYCHO II to PSYCHO, and i'm not mad at him>

 

It's exciting when coming across filmmakers not directly beholden to Hitch; directors who have their own flavor. I'm a big fan of Harold Becker, and MALICE is his masterpiece. It plays with expectations, and breaks most of the rules. His THE BLACK MARBLE is kind of forgotten, but has this pitch black humor mixed in with flirting with Noir set up and mystery. It's brilliant. SEA OF LOVE, another Becker film, is fun sleazy and unapologetically wacky.

 

It's also fun when an unexpected Director dips their toe in the genre. Blake Edwards' EXPERIMENT IN TERROR is amazing. Maybe my favorite Thriller from the 60's. Also awesome is Jonathan Demme's LAST EMBRACE. It's DePalma-esque in its influence and mood, but the nods are fun, and Demme deftly pulls off level of suspense here that he failed to do in later genre attempts.

 

Another favorite deep cut is the Doris Day vehicle MIDNIGHT LACE.  Give it a look if it pops up on TCM.

 

So.....let's discuss the best of the best -your genre favorites, and the odd ducks that are really fun and successful in their own way. If you want to mention giallos that drift and influence excitedly to mainstream genre, and fans might appreciate, go ahead.

 

Have at it.

post #2 of 48
di-dark2.jpg
The cinematography is just breathtaking
Barbara Stanwyck performance just pulls you in her world to how she looks to who the real her.Fred MacMurray transformation is just as intriguing.
From the quotes Were Both Rotten Only your a little more rotten to I couldn't hear my footsteps It was the walk of a dead man are words to remember.Double Indemnity is one of the best thrillers I ever seen.
post #3 of 48
Thread Starter 

BODY HEAT is a favorite, I think it's a perfect film. However Dellamorte's diss has stayed with me all these years:

 

"Body Heat, the definition of knowing the words but not the music."

post #4 of 48
Thread Starter 

The Golden Age for my tastes is the 70's. The Paranoid Thriller took the genre to the darker places of the times. The country was at unease, and like the generation before escaping the Depression with Universal Horror, here the dark reflection pondered how corrupted was the dream and promise of Camelot. They'd killed the President, was anyone really safe?

 

Pretty much invented by Frankenheimer with MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE and SEVEN DAYS IN MAY, it was Alan J. Pakula who perfected it. KLUTE and ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN are amazing, but his masterpiece is the stunning PARALLAX VIEW.

 

A favorite is Peter Hyams bug nuts CAPRICORN ONE.

 

The final statement is perhaps De Palma's BLOW OUT. There was a chill in the wind as the 80's dawned.

 

You can't get much more death of dream than to go from JFK to Reagan. No happy endings, the bastards had won.

 

See Also: THE CONVERSATION and WINTER KILLS.

post #5 of 48
Thread Starter 

Best Thriller of the last 20 years? ZODIAC. Runner up: THE GAME. Fincher's the genius of the genre right now.

post #6 of 48
"Mother" is the best thriller of the last 10 years. Bong Joon-Ho follows himself with his own "Memories of Murder". "Zodiac" may be the best recent western thriller, but does Sicario count as a thriller?

That film is a goddamn masterpiece, and "thriller" is the best genre I can think about its placement.
post #7 of 48

One of the reasons I found Jonathan Mostow's career a letdown is that, in my opinion, Breakdown was pretty much a masterclass in Hitchcockian suspense (and action, later).

post #8 of 48

Quote:

Originally Posted by andrevellozo View Post

"Mother" is the best thriller of the last 10 years. Bong Joon-Ho follows himself with his own "Memories of Murder".

 

God yes, Bong Joon-Ho is an absolute genius. MOTHER puts every single recent western thriller to shame.

 

It's a shame Roman Polanski turned out to be such a creep because he was, for my money, one of the best directors of thrillers since Hitchcock. REPULSION, CHINATOWN, ROSEMARY'S BABY... The underrated GHOST WRITER is a great old-school paranoid thriller.

post #9 of 48
Thread Starter 

Polanski is an artist and a genius who survived the Holocaust and the murder of his wife by a kill crazy cult. I forgive him for everything.

 

"The Apartment Trilogy": essential genre films.

 

THE TENANT is my (current) favorite.

post #10 of 48
Thread Starter 

A screenwriter I've just recently looked back on fondly or even considered - Wesley Strick.

 

He had this decade run of fun, at times lurid, at times Hitchcockian, audience friendly, B movie influenced genre films - Arachnophobia, Cape Fear (remake), Final Analysis, Wolf, etc. I wonder if twenty plus years something like The Glass House will be reappraised/reconsidered - much like many once thought lesser Noir have now seen reclaimation as lost gems.

post #11 of 48
I think a great way to understand what makes a great thriller is to watch the Coen's Burn After Reading.

Essentially it's a film about empty self-important people whose stories and ego are blown out of all proportion. On the first viewing you're completely sucked into the narrative, wondering what happens next as the tension is continually ratcheted up until each character's outcome either on or off-screen is revealed. Once it's all over you revel in how silly and inconsequential each of the characters were.

On second and repeat viewings you're continually aware of the tricks and tools the Coens use to manipulate the viewer and it's a joy to discover how they pull the wool over your eyes in making you think you're witness to events that seem more important than they actually are.

They completely deconstruct the thriller and lay it all out in front of viewer in repeat viewings.
post #12 of 48
I WISH I found Body Double that thrilling. Dressed to Kill and Blow Out for damn sure. But not that one. As much as I love De Palma when he's on fire, he's one GREAT director who ain't infallible. Nobody's perfect but sheesh.

I've ragged on that movie in other threads so I won't go into it too terribly much here. It seemed like De Palma's attempt at something like Deep Red or The Bird with the Crystal Plumage or Don't Look Now.

But when he's great he's great. His best are on par with your Sevens and Silence of the Lambs and No Country for Old Men..
post #13 of 48

The Italians are not to be underestimated in this category. Argento has already been mentioned, but Fulci made some superlative Hitchcockian thrillers, including ONE ON TOP OF THE OTHER and A LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN.

 

Mario Bava's THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH and its U.S. cut THE EVIL EYE (arguably better) is another great nod to The Master.

post #14 of 48
I don't think I've ever totally watched any of Argento's movies past the 70s. THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE, DEEP RED and SUSPIRIA are genre classics but at some point he just lost me. There was one of his movies past the 70s that I tried to watch that I couldn't even make it through (I think it was called INFERNO...?).

I need to familiarize myself with Mario Bava's filmography more..
post #15 of 48
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Edited by dilla7 - 2/8/16 at 11:20am
post #16 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by andrevellozo View Post

"Mother" is the best thriller of the last 10 years. Bong Joon-Ho follows himself with his own "Memories of Murder". "Zodiac" may be the best recent western thriller, but does Sicario count as a thriller?

That film is a goddamn masterpiece, and "thriller" is the best genre I can think about its placement.


Not gonna lie, but South Korea has been pumping out quality thrillers for quite awhile.  The Yellow Sea is damn great.

post #17 of 48
Fritz Lang's M is one of the great films of all time. Not sure I'd classify it as a THRILLER exactly but that's irrelevant to a recommendation. Anyone who hasn't seen this, do so at your earliest possible convenience..
post #18 of 48

Even though it has moments of horror, I think Silence of the Lambs is definitely more of a thriller. I also think it is one of the strongest of that genre, and definitely a favorite of mine.

post #19 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul C View Post
 

One of the reasons I found Jonathan Mostow's career a letdown is that, in my opinion, Breakdown was pretty much a masterclass in Hitchcockian suspense

 

See also Mark Pellington and Arlington Road. I think Hitchcock would have especially loved the way that movie ended.

post #20 of 48
Some directors just only have that one GREAT movie in them and then the tank's outta gas..
post #21 of 48
Speaking of, I'm gonna go ahead and go to bat for MNS' first 3 flicks. The guy knows how to ramp stuff up and stage a suspenseful sequence. Or, he did once.

Sixth Sense is brilliant
post #22 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by DARKMITE8 View Post

Speaking of, I'm gonna go ahead and go to bat for MNS' first 3 flicks. The guy knows how to ramp stuff up and stage a suspenseful sequence. Or, he did once.

Sixth Sense is brilliant

For its first two acts, Signs is one of the best thrillers of the past 15 years. Then the third act happens. I'm still going to the chiropractor for adjustments from that whiplash.

post #23 of 48
Thread Starter 

The third act makes the movie.

post #24 of 48

Unwatchable. ;)

post #25 of 48
Yeah I love that ending too. Especially because of James Newton Howard's score just going all out for it.
post #26 of 48

There are too many really obvious choices to name, but the first underrated title that came into my mind was Richard Franklin's ROAD GAMES.  Such a fun little thriller, boasting a flat-out fantastic central performance from Stacy Keach.  The movie is both witty and tense, and when watching it, you can see exactly why Franklin was a perfect choice to helm the sequel to an Alfred Hitchcock film (in this case, PSYCHO II).

post #27 of 48
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Malmordo View Post
 

The Italians are not to be underestimated in this category. Argento has already been mentioned, but Fulci made some superlative Hitchcockian thrillers, including ONE ON TOP OF THE OTHER and A LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN.

 

Mario Bava's THE GIRL WHO KNEW TOO MUCH and its U.S. cut THE EVIL EYE (arguably better) is another great nod to The Master.

 

Look what's getting a Blu release!

 

Cay-gG7UcAAMlue.jpg:large
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post #28 of 48

Oh, how I love this genre.


Often underappreciated are the Hammer riffs, like Scream of Fear  and Paranoiac.

post #29 of 48

As far as recent genre entries go, I was quite taken with Almodovar's The Skin I Live In.

 

post #30 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by Agentsands77 View Post
 

As far as recent genre entries go, I was quite taken with Almodovar's The Skin I Live In.

 

Yup. That reveal.....very, very fucked up and unsettling.

 

 

Also: I just watched Dressed to Kill. Oh man, I love how it unabashedly dives into its trashy premise, and you can so tell that Brian Depalma was having an absolute blast.

post #31 of 48

The museum sequence in Dressed to Kill is one of my all-time favorite scenes.

post #32 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by Agentsands77 View Post
 

The museum sequence in Dressed to Kill is one of my all-time favorite scenes.


Pino Donaggio's score for that sequence is amazing.

 

post #33 of 48
Oh, Donaggio.

I was so thrilled that he reunited with De Palma for PASSION.
post #34 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by Agentsands77 View Post

Oh, Donaggio.

I was so thrilled that he reunited with De Palma for PASSION.


How is PASSION, anyway?  I've mostly heard it's fairly bland and, despite the title, doesn't generate much heat, either erotically or violence-wise.

post #35 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by Belloq87 View Post


How is PASSION, anyway?  I've mostly heard it's fairly bland and, despite the title, doesn't generate much heat, either erotically or violence-wise.
It's a minor lark, but, as a die-hard De Palma fan, I find it to be very enjoyable.

It's not very erotic or chilling, but it is nevertheless a blackly funny, campy riff on a capitalist culture that has made surveillance a commonplace feature of society. De Palma directs his actresses as though he wants to see just how outrageous and artificial he can get them to be; barely anyone in the film is recognizably human, but that's part of the joke.

The masterful ballet sequence is one of the purest and most beautiful expressions of the De Palma ethos.
post #36 of 48

Sold!  Will give it a look soon.

post #37 of 48
Didn't like passion when I first saw it, but I'm willing to give it another shot
post #38 of 48
Has anyone here watched "Stranger by the Lake"?

The talk about "Passion" reminded me of a comment about it I read somewhere; a gay friend of mine jokingly said he'd watch it if they gender-swapped the cast with Michael Fassbender and Henry Cavill instead of McAdams and Rapace.

The pace and the extremely (actually X-Rated) explicit gay sex scenes might be jarring to some, but it's a fascinating psychosexual thriller about being attracted to danger (and it gets even more interesting if you see it as an allegory for male homosexuality and a satire of sorts of how its perceived to be practised).

It's a bit on the slow side, but it has some good suspenseful bits.
post #39 of 48
I've had STRANGER BY THE LAKE on my to-watch list for a while now.
post #40 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ska Oreo View Post

Didn't like passion when I first saw it, but I'm willing to give it another shot
That moment where Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Noomi Rapace runs her car into a Coke machine in the car garage and then breaks down in an artificial rain, all the while watched by the surveillance camera, is worthy of Godard.
post #41 of 48

I've seen STRANGER BY THE LAKE.  Some interesting ideas, but on the whole it didn't really work for me.  The thriller stuff is almost underplayed, to the extent that I didn't feel like there was an adequate pay-off to the slow build.  On the pure filmmaking side, there are some great long takes, but some equally stale stuff, too (I never, ever need to see an establishing shot of a nude beach parking area again!).  The psychological character study elements (which is where the focus really seems to be) are fairly strong, but I felt like my thirst for true suspense was not quenched by the movie.

 

And I did find the sex to be perhaps a bit too strong (and no, I am not just saying that because I'm straight).  I get that one of the movie's primary concerns is about the power of lust and attraction, so naturally you've got to present that visually in some form, but I think the scenes could have been depicted as visceral and passionate without necessarily needing to resort to showing ejaculations and the like.  But what do I really know?  I'm likely one of the few heterosexual guys who says the sex in BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR is gratuitous to such an extent that it hurts the movie, so maybe I'm just really picky about cinematic depictions of sex in general!

post #42 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by Agentsands77 View Post

I've had STRANGER BY THE LAKE on my to-watch list for a while now.

I've given it a re-watch since my posting. It's an amazing piece of directorial work. I still do think that the real sex was unnecessary - I think it's always unnecessary.

The character work and scene building, though? Top notch.


I still think the best thriller (in my understanding of what the genre is) to come out during my lifetime is "The Talented Mr. Ripley". ("Silence of the Lambs" and "Seven", better films IMO, fall under a more ambiguous mix between "thriller" and "horror"). "...Ripley" was on TV late one night last week and it's so damn good.

I'd even go so far as to say that it actually improves on its very very good source material.
post #43 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by andrevellozo View Post

I still think the best thriller (in my understanding of what the genre is) to come out during my lifetime is "The Talented Mr. Ripley". ("Silence of the Lambs" and "Seven", better films IMO, fall under a more ambiguous mix between "thriller" and "horror"). "...Ripley" was on TV late one night last week and it's so damn good.

I'd even go so far as to say that it actually improves on its very very good source material.
It's okay, but turning Highsmith's chilly thriller into weepy melodrama is kind of unforgivable to me.

As far as cinematic RIPLEY adaptations go, PURPLE NOON and THE AMERICAN FRIEND are tops.
post #44 of 48

Going back to Dressed to Kill (which now that I think about it--duh),

 

It's interesting how reviled the movie was upon release, with social activist groups and critics claiming Dressed to Kill to be "anti-woman" and sexist, when, whether due to hindsight or simply because standards are much different now, I can't really see how that's the case. Brian DePalma seems pretty damn self-aware of horror conventions; I mean, one of the film's ending scenes is of the killer murdering a nurse and removing her clothes--all while a crowd of mental patients cheer on. Pretty on-the-nose if you ask me. But honestly, I thought the movie had one of my favorite heroines in any horror film; I really did enjoy Nancy Allen for, ummm, obvious reasons. But I also thought her Liz Blake was pretty damn progressive for her time. Unlike Kate Miller, who represents the conventional horror victim by paying for her transgressions with her life, Liz refuses to be shamed for her lifestyle. Her personality summed up in that exchange with Detective Douchebag in which she tells him to fuck off.

post #45 of 48
Yes, De Palma's critics, as usual, missed the point. DRESSED TO KILL is driven by its interest in the vulnerabilities inherent to female sexuality.
post #46 of 48
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fat Elvis View Post
 

The Golden Age for my tastes is the 70's. The Paranoid Thriller took the genre to the darker places of the times. The country was at unease, and like the generation before escaping the Depression with Universal Horror, here the dark reflection pondered how corrupted was the dream and promise of Camelot. They'd killed the President, was anyone really safe?

 

Pretty much invented by Frankenheimer with MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE and SEVEN DAYS IN MAY, it was Alan J. Pakula who perfected it. KLUTE and ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN are amazing, but his masterpiece is the stunning PARALLAX VIEW.

 

A favorite is Peter Hyams bug nuts CAPRICORN ONE.

 

The final statement is perhaps De Palma's BLOW OUT. There was a chill in the wind as the 80's dawned.

 

You can't get much more death of dream than to go from JFK to Reagan. No happy endings, the bastards had won.

 

See Also: THE CONVERSATION and WINTER KILLS.

 

I wasn't sure where to post this, so I'm bumping an old thread.

 

DVR ALERT! Tonite 10 PM on TCM, is the out of print end of the 70's Paranoid Thriller WINTER KILLS starring a fantastic Jeff Bridges. It's very DePalma-esque, especially capturing the dark humor and cynicism of his early work. (Think BLOW OUT by way of GREERTINGS and HI, MOM) It's weird, at times outrageous, yet maintaining an unflinchingly chilling tone. STRONG RECOMMENDATION!

 

Winter_kills_imp.jpg

post #47 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fat Elvis View Post
 

 

I wasn't sure where to post this, so I'm bumping an old thread.

 

DVR ALERT! Tonite 10 PM on TCM, is the out of print end of the 70's Paranoid Thriller WINTER KILLS starring a fantastic Jeff Bridges. It's very DePalma-esque, especially capturing the dark humor and cynicism of his early work. (Think BLOW OUT by way of GREERTINGS and HI, MOM) It's weird, at times outrageous, yet maintaining an unflinchingly chilling tone. STRONG RECOMMENDATION!

 

Winter_kills_imp.jpg


That's one hell of a cast!

post #48 of 48
John Huston and Toshiro Mifune? Sold!
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