The Film Society of Lincoln Center announced the lineup for Scary Movies 9, the annual horror fest featuring highly anticipated new thrillers, genre rarities, and special guests, as well as a two-day event to celebrate the release of Kent Jones’s new documentary Hitchcock/Truffaut.
The 9th edition of Scary Movies (October 30 – November 5) opens with Southbound (pictured in main image above), an anthology road film from some of the key players behind V/H/S, followed by a blow-out Halloween bash where prizes will be given for the best costume.
The fright fest showcases 12 of the best new horror titles, including Sean Byrne’s eagerly anticipated follow-up to The Loved Ones, The Devil’s Candy, and the gut-wrenching Australian feral-dog thriller The Pack, plus horror movies of all stripes from Ireland, Denmark, Spain, and Turkey. Revival offerings include Juan Piquer Simón’s ’80s cult classics Pieces and Slugs, a free screening of James Whale’s essential Frankenstein as part of Lincoln Center’s campus-wide Halloween celebration for kids, and a 35mm screening of the Hammer gem The Gorgon in tribute to the dearly departed Christopher Lee. The Film Society is also thrilled to present evenings with Larry Fessenden, whose company Glass Eye Pix is celebrating its 30th anniversary, and Bernard Rose, whose new film, Frankenstein, a wildly original update set on the streets of L.A., closes this year’s festival with large doses of both heart and gore.
On the occasion of Cohen Media Group’s release of Kent Jones’s Hitchcock/Truffaut, the Film Society presents a two-day event (October 27 & 28) featuring a sneak preview of Jones’s documentary, in which leading filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, James Gray, and Olivier Assayas unpack the legacy of François Truffaut’s canonical interview with Alfred Hitchcock, to be followed by a discussion with Jones about the book that helped to establish the Master of Suspense as the legendary figure he is today. This event will also feature a selection of films directed by Hitchcock—the director’s penultimate silent film The Manxman; the undervalued I Confess, starring Montgomery Clift and Anne Baxter; and wrong-man thrillers Frenzy and Saboteur—adding up to what should be a can’t-miss celebration of one of cinema’s most towering artists.
SCARY MOVIES FILM DESCRIPTIONS
Roxanne Benjamin, David Bruckner, Patrick Horvath & Radio Silence, USA, 2015, DCP, 89m
This knock-down drag-out road movie puts the pedal to the metal as it speeds down a lost highway to hell with five separate but neatly connected stories of terror and menace that will take you on a wild ride you won’t soon forget. The action ties together the grim and bloody tales of two men on the run from a nameless menace, an all-girl rock group who break down in the desert and get a lift from some too-good-to-be-true Samaritans, a businessman trying to save the life of the woman he’s run down, a gun-toting roughneck who bursts into a bar in search of his long-lost sister, and a family whose vacation becomes a terrifying ordeal. Another mind-bending work from many of the makers of V/H/S and featuring the voice of Larry Fessenden as the radio DJ, Southbound is the rare anthology movie with no weak links. An MPI release.
Bernard Rose, USA, 2015, DCP, 89m
From the terrifically imaginative mind of Bernard Rose (who gave us the fantasy-horror classics Paperhouse and Candyman) comes the latest retelling of Mary Shelley’s immortal tale. Updated to present-day Los Angeles, the film retains much of its source material’s key story elements and sentiments as two married scientists (Danny Huston and Carrie-Ann Moss) finally achieve perfection. Beautiful and gentle, their latest artificial creation (wonderfully embodied by Xavier Samuel) does indeed seem flawless, but his mind and body soon begin dramatically deteriorating. Left for dead, he enters the outside world—only to be further taken down by the hate that festers there. This violent, heartbreaking, wholly memorable experience, told from the perspective of the “monster,” also features Tony Todd (Candyman himself) as the blind man who provides temporary, judgment-free shelter. An Alchemy release.
Bernard Rose, UK, 1988, 35mm, 92m
Sometimes deep inside an overly imaginative mind can be the most dangerous place of all. Anna (Charlotte Burke in her only film role) is very special 11-year-old. Impetuous, sickly, and dissatisfied by life (her parents are having marital issues, her father is mostly absent) she creates an alternate world through her drawings. At first it’s a peaceful, less lonesome place to escape into (she even makes a new friend there in a disabled boy), but her nightly visits soon become terrifying. Paperhouse is a highly inventive, visual dream of a film featuring lush cinematography and a beautifully atmospheric score by Hans Zimmer and Stanley Meyers. It’s never been released on U.S. DVD; don’t miss this rare 35mm screening on the big screen, where all movies this beautiful are meant to be seen.
Can Evrenol, Turkey, 2015, DCP, 97m
Turkish with English subtitles
A five-man unit of cops on night patrol get more than they bargain for when they arrive at a creepy backwater town in the middle of nowhere after a call comes over the radio for backup. Entering a derelict building, the seasoned tough guys and their rookie junior, who’s still haunted by a traumatic childhood dream, do the one thing you should never do in this kind of movie: they split up. They soon realize they’ve stumbled into a monstrous charnel house and descend into an ever-more nightmarish netherworld where grotesque, mind-wrenching horrors await them at every turn. This is one baskin (that’s “police raid” to you non-Turkish speakers) that isn’t going to end well. But wait! Things aren’t what they seem in this truly disturbing, outrageously gory, and increasingly surreal film whose unpredictable narrative slippages pull the carpet from under your feet and keep you guessing right up to the final moment. A wildly original whatsit that reconfirms Turkey as the breakout national cinema of the moment. An IFC Midnight release.
David Keating, Ireland, 2015, DCP, 90m
It’s no coincidence that, just after 15-year-old Faith (Naomi Battrick) learns that her sick father has only a few months to live, her school’s new field hockey coach Sissy (Anna Walton) takes an unusual interest in her. Sissy matter-of-factly reveals that she’s the leader of a coven of witches and has the power to cure Faith’s dad—as long as she agrees to bear a very special child for her. No spoilers here, this is just the setup for Faith’s nightmarish downward spiral, centering around a cherry tree—which according to local folklore, is nourished by the blood of human sacrifice. Will Faith keep up her end of the bargain? One thing’s for sure: if you don’t like centipedes, this film is guaranteed to freak you out! An MPI/Dark Sky Films release.
The Devil’s Candy
Sean Byrne, USA, 2015, DCP, 90m
Six long years may have elapsed since Aussie writer-director Sean Byrne made The Loved Ones—the closing-night film of Scary Movies 4, and perhaps the most satisfying horror film of the last decade—but it will come to no genre fan’s surprise that his follow-up was more than worth the wait. As exquisitely crafted as his debut feature, The Devil’s Candy stars a captivatingly intense and nearly unrecognizable Ethan Embry as an artist struggling to support his devoted wife (Shiri Appleby) and preteen daughter (Kiara Glasco). But the real fight for survival begins when the tight-knit family moves into a new house, unaware that its previous occupant is a royally disturbed child-killer (Pruitt Taylor Vince) who wants his home back. And even worse, the devil’s demands that swirl around in the sick man’s head—muted only by heavy-metal music—also begin taking hold of the artist and his paintings. After witnessing this intensely emotional and haunting work, audiences too will struggle to shake those demonic voices.
Michael Thelin, USA, 2015, DCP, 82m
It’s the Thompsons’ anniversary. They plan to go out and celebrate, but their regular babysitter Maggie isn’t available to look after their three kids. Luckily, Maggie’s friend Anna can cover for her, and she seems an absolute dream. But first impressions fade quickly, and it turns out that Anna isn’t actually Anna, she is Emelie, and she’s clearly not right in the head. A bloodcurdling mash-up of the bad-babysitter and home-invasion subgenres, Emelie builds tension steadily and uncomfortably as the young woman’s behavior becomes increasingly menacing, playing the children (all refreshingly likable and unaffected) against one another as she attempts to carry out a secret, sinister mission. Emelie is every parent’s worst nightmare. An MPI/Dark Sky Films release.
The Last Winter
Larry Fessenden, USA/Iceland, 2006, 35mm, 101m
In an isolated Alaskan base near the Arctic Circle, a team of oil prospectors begrudgingly tolerate the presence of two scientists sent by the team’s corporate bosses to assess the environmental impact of the exploratory drilling project. As an eco scientist (James Le Gros) and a roughneck oil boss (Ron Perlman) butt heads, the team slowly begins to unravel as one by one its members realize that… there’s something out there. With its linking of the supernatural to nature and landscape, The Last Winter builds upon Larry Fessenden’s 2001 Wendigo, and expands the canvas for the director’s distinctive brand of unnerving, mood-driven horror. An IFC Films release.
Mickey Keating, USA, 2015, DCP, 75m
Although Mickey Keating’s Darling, like his Pod from last year, is set mostly within the confines of one home, it is a genuinely New York film—and the city has never felt so ominous or alienating. The title character (an entrancing Lauren Ashley Carter) is hired by a kooky women (Sean Young!) to act as caretaker of a sprawling apartment building with a notoriously haunted history, where she proceeds to have a Repulsion-style psychological meltdown (black and white included). The film’s barebones approach yields considerable rewards, as audiences embark on an emotion-shaking surreal journey—and possible revenge mission—with a young woman who becomes more and more unhinged. Larry Fessenden, whose Glass Eye Pix produced the film, appears briefly as a policeman.
James Whale, USA, 1931, Blu-ray, 70m, FREE
In conjunction with Lincoln Center’s campus-wide Halloween celebration for kids—and our closing-night presentation of Bernard Rose’s new adaptation of Mary Shelley’s classic—we offer a free screening of the one of the greatest, most influential monster movies ever made, in the Amphitheater of the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center. Essential viewing for audiences of all ages—and vital in the education of the next generation of horror fans—this beloved tale of the mad scientist who creates a monster has gone down in cinema history for its iconic Boris Karloff performance, groundbreaking makeup, and, of course, the immortal line, “It’s alive!” The same can certainly be said for James Whale’s film, still magical and moving after all these years. A Universal Pictures release.
Terence Fisher, UK, 1964, 35mm, 83m
Hammer’s dream team reunites with the late, great Christopher Lee (playing the good guy for a change) joining forces with co-star Peter Cushing and Hammer’s master director Terence Fisher for this visually striking gothic horror mystery that transports one of the most memorable monsters from Greek mythology to turn-of-the-century middle Europe. Lee plays Professor Meister, who travels to the village of Vandorf to investigate a series of deaths in which the victims are turned to stone. Accompanied by the son of the latest victim, Meister is met with a frosty reception by the village doctor (Cushing) and the local police Inspector (Patrick Troughton, the second Doctor Who). While his traveling companion and the doctor’s assistant (First Leading Lady of British Horror Barbara Shelley) fall for each other, Meister begins to suspect that the good doctor knows more than he’s letting on…
Corin Hardy, Ireland/UK, 2015, DCP, 97m
In this excitingly distinctive variation on the man-versus-nature setup, a scientist is sent to rural Ireland to explore a tree-fungus infestation deep in the forest, bringing along his wife, dog, and newborn baby—which only heightens the tension. Disregarding the brusque warnings of the townspeople and an alarming early discovery, the family decides to stay put. And as can be expected, things go very, very wrong—especially when the titular woodland creatures come out to play. Employing impressive old-school effects, Irish director Corin Hardy has crafted an intense, folklore-steeped monster-movie tour de force that never loosens its grip. An IFC Midnight release.
Nick Robertson, Australia, 2015, DCP, 90m
Not to be confused with Robert Clouse’s 1977 when-animals-attack classic (which screened as part of last year’s Scary Movies), Nick Robertson’s directorial debut The Pack does feature killer canines, but their prey here is a family of four—already battling assorted harsh realities—who must rely on their own ingenuity to survive a night of sheer terror, as they are relentlessly stalked by ravenous dogs on their remote Australian farm. The film is horror of the most jarring, edge-of-your-seat kind, with the added bonus of a cast of characters actually worth rooting for.
Juan Piquer Simón, USA/Spain Puerto Rico, 1982, 35mm, 89m
Little Timmy’s toys include a naughty, naughty jigsaw puzzle and an axe, with which he gave his mother 40 whacks. Forty years later, a black-gloved killer is chain-sawing nubile coeds across a college campus and taking pieces (wink, wink) for nefarious purposes. One of the most insanely over-the-top films ever made, Pieces is packed to the gills with atrocious over-dubbed dialogue, amazing gore, stunning camerawork and murder setpieces, terrible cops, terrible tennis players, terrible tennis-playing cops, and even a completely random kung-fu fight. Co-written by Joe D’Amato, the film’s script defies any sense of narrative logic, yet this cult classic from Spanish director Juan Piquer Simón (whose Slugs we will also be screening) is a sublimely sleazy, entirely entertaining exercise in melding giallo and American slashers that begs to be watched again and again. And now’s your chance to see it on the big screen in glorious 35mm.
Juanfer Andrés & Esteban Roel, Spain, 2014, DCP, 91m
Montse (Macarena Gómez, the bewitching star of Scary Movies 7 selection Sexykiller) has spent much of her prime tending to her younger sister Nia (Nadia de Santiago) after their mother dies and their father runs off. Agoraphobic and severely anxiety-ridden, she connects to the outside world only through the now-grown Nia, and when she takes in their hunky upstairs neighbor, Carlos, who’s been injured in a fall, her fragile state unravels further and her neuroses turn monstrous. She keeps Carlos drugged and bedridden—à la Misery—and as his wounds fester, he must figure out an escape, as Montse is driven ever closer to absolute madness. Produced by Álex de Iglesia, this unpredictable, impeccably directed period piece—set in 1950s Madrid—is a claustrophobic nightmare, unfolding largely in the sisters’ apartment and within the dark abyss of insanity. But despite the cruelty Montse inflicts, as reality encroaches on her carefully protected nest, she demands empathy, thanks in large part to Gómez’s powerhouse performance.
Juan Piquer Simón, Spain/USA, 1988, digital projection, 89m
A small New England town (filmed somewhere in Spain) is beset by a plague of garden-variety carnivorous slugs. Everyman hero Mike Brady is a county health inspector who seems mad at the world as gastropods chew through his town and the local sewer management officials, zoning commissioners, and land developers do nothing to help him save it. After all, who could believe his wild theory about killer slugs? The insanity of the concept is even lampshaded in the film, with a character quipping, “What’s next? Demented crickets?” Featuring a smorgasbord of slug-on-human violence, mid-coitus slug sneak attacks, explosive greenhouses, geysers of blood, and demented dialogue, Slugs is a rare and forgotten gem of the nature-gone-wild variety. The director’s equally insane Pieces will show in this year’s Scary Movies as well.
Alberto Marini, Spain, 2015, DCP, 84m
Spanish with English subtitles
The summer camp is the setting of choice for some of the best ’80s slasher films, a locale of fun, sex, sun… and murder. But in [REC] producer and Sleep Tight scripter Alberto Marini’s delightfully fresh and nasty directorial debut, it’s off-season, and the four young American counselors that show up for duty at a secluded, run-down European camp are faced with cold temperatures, creepy backwoods neighbors, shut-off water—and so much worse. Before the kids even arrive, something is transforming the new counselors into virus-infected, blood-drooling maniacs. Viciously pitted against one another, they must race against time, trying to find the source of the infection before camp goes into session. A Pantelion release. North American Premiere
What We Become
Bo Mikkelsen, Denmark, 2015, DCP, 85m
Danish with English subtitles
The idyllic Danish town of Sorgenfir is enjoying a beautiful summer, and the Johansson family is feeling great. Their neighbors are friendly, the weather is perfect, and the cute new girl who’s moved in across the street has teenager Gustav’s eye. But young love isn’t the only thing bubbling beneath the surface in Bo Mikkelsen’s striking debut film—a virulent outbreak soon sweeps the town. Military men in Hazmat suits force everyone indoors and information is locked down. From what the Johanssons can see through their covered-up windows, the townspeople are changing, as the mysterious virus drives them mad, and turns them violent. Trapped in their home, the Johannsons face a deadly—and all too real—fight for survival.
HITCHCOCK/TRUFFAUT FILM DESCRIPTIONS
Alfred Hitchcock, UK, 1972, 35mm, 116m
More graphic than Psycho following the relaxed censorship in the ’70s, this typically English and terrifying story of a sex killer at large, written by Anthony Shaffer (screenwriter of Sleuth and The Wicker Man), deploys Hitchcock’s The Wrong Man plot structure one last time. Jon Finch (Polanski’s Macbeth) plays the disaffected bartender and ex-RAF pilot suspected by the police of being the “Necktie Killer” after his ex-wife is murdered. In truth, the killer is his cheerful Cockney friend, fruit-merchant Bob Rusk, unforgettably played by Barry Foster (after a disgusted Michael Caine turned down the role). Hitchcock has great, morbid fun with a cast of English character actors—Billie Whitelaw, Alec McCowan, Anna Massey, Bernard Cribbins, Jean Marsh, Vivien Merchant, and Michael Bates—and takes particularly dark pleasure in using London’s Covent Garden Market, the filmmaker’s childhood haunt where his greengrocer father worked, as ground zero for the murders.
Kent Jones, USA, 2015, DCP, 85m
French filmmaker François Truffaut developed the politique des auteurs—a now-ubiquitous claim that certain filmmakers have distinct styles and themes that run through all of their films. In 1962, he found an ideal test case in world-famous Hollywood Master of Suspense Alfred Hitchcock, in order to free him from his reputation as a maker of light entertainment and cement him as a bona fide artist. Over the course of eight days, Truffaut conducted a series of interviews with the man, later published as a single volume in 1967, which followed Hitchcock’s whole career up to that point, and elicited unprecedentedly candid and precise discussions of his films. Humbling himself as a student to Hitchcock’s trenchant musings on the definition of suspense and the role of the director, Truffaut’s book validated the idea of Hollywood movies as worthy of serious discussion, and became a bible for an international array of world-class auteurs. Featuring extended testimonials from David Fincher, Martin Scorsese, James Gray, Olivier Assayas, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, and others, Hitchcock/Truffaut is a lively tribute to a defining work of modern film culture.
Alfred Hitchcock, USA, 1953, 35mm, 95m
One of Hitchcock’s most undervalued films, I Confess was an early rallying point for the critics at Cahiers du Cinéma, who located a recurring theme in the transference of guilt in his thrillers of the 1930s, and which found full fruition in this Roman Catholic tale. When Father Logan (Montgomery Clift) hears the confession from his caretaker Otto (O.E. Hasse) of an accidental killing, he keeps mum in accordance with the bonds of his faith. But when Inspector Larrue (Karl Malden) hears that a man wearing a priest’s cassock was seen walking away from the scene of the crime, Logan finds himself under suspicion, and teams up with a well-meaning old flame (Anne Baxter), who might only further incriminate him. Shot largely on location in Quebec City, the film that was called “a modern masterpiece” by Eric Rohmer is as gripping and playful as any of Hitchcock’s best-known works.
Alfred Hitchcock, 1929, UK, DCP, 129m
Set in a secluded Isle of Man fishing community, The Manxman is Alfred Hitchcock’s penultimate silent film and considered one of the most mature works of his early career. The story follows two childhood friends who choose significantly different paths as adults: Pete becomes a fisherman, Philip a lawyer, but both fall for the same woman—the daughter of a puritanical Methodist—triggering a heartbreaking love triangle that clashes with not only their own moral compasses but also with the stern Manx society. With his filmmaking bravado on full display, Hitchcock’s depiction of the untamed coast is among the most expressive flourishes in his lengthy, peerless career, elevated by a nuanced performance by Anny Ondra that preceded her role in Blackmail later that year.
Alfred Hitchcock, USA, 1942, 35mm, 109m
Made shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hitchcock’s wartime thriller follows naïve factory worker Barry Kane, who is wrongfully accused of incinerating an aircraft plant. Kane, played with brilliant candor by Robert Cummings, knows the only way to prove his innocence is to catch the real saboteur. An American variation on The 39 Steps, Hitchcock’s film pulls its fugitive across disconcerting settings where civic uprightness veils ulterior motives. Hitchcock teamed with art director Robert Boyle to create a cross-country medley of imposing set pieces—from the California desert to the top of the Statue of Liberty—much like those found in their future collaborations on North by Northwest, The Birds, and Marnie. This was also Hitchcock’s first film to feature an all-American cast, and its box-office success secured his creative foothold in Hollywood for the iconic films to come.