Roman Polanski

“Cabin in the Woods” (2012) pays homage to the typical horror movie tropes.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Lionsgate Entertainment | Daily Texan Staff

Halloween is upon us and with it comes a perfect excuse to indulge in the cinema of the disturbing, the horrifying and the campy. With hundreds of horror films to choose from, The Daily Texan has compiled a list of scary classics and contemporary horror films that we consider must-sees this Halloween season. 

 

“Rosemary’s Baby”

This is the film that began the horror genre’s obsession with devil worshippers. Absent of violence and gore and set in an antiquated New York apartment complex, the film is so realistic it is almost plausible until the Devil himself makes an appearance. The film was directed by Roman Polanski and its script and visuals are as strong as the psychological horror it causes.

 

“The Cabin in the Woods”

Acting as a homage to every horror movie trope ever conceived, “The Cabin in the Woods” scrutinizes and lampoons every cliché in the genre. After five teenagers take a vacation to an isolated shack, they soon find themselves stalked by brutal killers, which a mysterious entity seems to control. Bursting with creativity, the story leaves horror movie lovers reevaluating their favorite films in a new light. Great comedic timing, along with brilliant writing and directing, make this movie a great Halloween choice for those wanting a bloody — but clever — traditional scary story.

 

“ParaNorman” 

“ParaNorman” is a family-friendly zombie movie. The film stars Norman, a young boy who can see ghosts. After a centuries-old curse threatens to destroy his small town, he and his friends race to stop the undead and break the spell. The film features gorgeous stop-motion animation on par with classics such as “A Nightmare Before Christmas” and likeable characters who bring out the charm in a fun, creepy story. Its themes of acceptance and its fantastical imagery and design make it a kid movie that adults and even hard-core horror fanatics can enjoy.

 

“Let Me In”

“Let Me In” proves that vampire romance can be done without witless characters and stilted dialogue. A remake of a Swedish horror film, the story follows Owen, a young adolescent who is mercilessly bullied and ignored by his parents. He soon meets Abby, a secretive girl who may not be what she seems. While the story is a twisted romantic tale at its heart, it also features the grizzly action expected in any supernatural horror film. The two young leads perfectly convey the sweetness and horror of the grotesque relationship the two have developed. “Let Me In” puts more life into a sub-genre that is often mocked.

 

“Oculus”

Although it’s not even a year old, “Oculus” has the makings of a new classic by presenting genuine supernatural terror. Following two siblings determined to destroy a possessed mirror that has wreaked havoc upon their family, the film follows two separate time lines: one from the duo’s youth, and another set in present day. “Oculus” delves into paranoia and the slow disintegration of a family trapped in the mirror’s grasp. With a story that plays with expectations and perceptions, the film is a terrifying revival of the “haunted object” horror movie that is sure to be enjoyed for many years.

 

“Freaks”

The film’s subtitle, “Can a Full Grown Woman Truly Love a Midget?” deceivingly makes light of what is a truly horrifying movie. This pre-code Hollywood production features real carnival sideshow performers and physically deformed people in a nerve-racking, fast-paced and unsettling film with a campy quality. “Freaks” is a cult classic that may not be scream-worthy but depicts some disturbing and lasting images of mental and physical brutality.

 

“Santa Sangre”

“Santa Sangre,” Spanish for “Holy Blood,” is a 1989 surrealist horror film combing sly humor, psychological pain and resounding poetry. While it pays homage to classic horror films, such as “The Beast With Five Fingers,” the film does not celebrate evil with dramatic over-embellishment and fantasy. Rather, it chastises a society’s complacency with evil using subtle but potent images of depravity rooted in the everyday life, such as drug use, homelessness and child abuse. While it does contrast with the dramatic films of the horror cannon, “Santa Sangre” should not be overlooked. 

"Rosemary's Baby" isn't bloody, but it's still scary

A lot can be said about "Rosemary’s Baby," the first US film from director Roman Polanski. It caused a social uproar when it was released, has one of the best movie posters of all time and features no gore or blood. Creepy, subversive and technically flawless, "Rosemary’s Baby" is not only a classic of the horror genre, but is a masterpiece of film.

The story follows Rosemary (Mia Farrow) as she moves into an apartment in New York City with her struggling-actor husband. She is “welcomed” by creepy elderly neighbors, and befriends a girl in the building. Said friend turns up dead, and things miraculously start looking up for Rosemary and her husband. They decide to work on a child together, and after a trippy dream sequence of Rosemary getting raped by a demon (with her elderly neighbors present), she becomes pregnant. I won’t say too much here, but for those of you that don’t know, *SPOILERS* it’s the devil’s baby *SPOILERS*. Things get weird, creepy and demonic, all assured by Polanski’s steady hand. This might sound like campy horror, but it’s just as serious and dramatic as any Academy Award winning film.

Pop culture didn’t know what to do with itself upon the release of the film, and it instantly became both taboo and the talk-of-the-town. Even Farrow’s haircut as Rosemary caused uproar, because *gasp* it was short! "Rosemary’s Baby" remains important to the horror genre today. Things get even eerier and more real once you realize Polanski’s wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered a year after the film’s release. She was eight-and-a-half months pregnant at the time.

Review

The ensemble cast of “Carnage,” from left to ri

Stage-to-screen adaptations are always a tricky endeavor, and it’s all too easy for directors to find themselves restrained by their material’s inherent staginess, which can sometimes result in films that are entirely too lifeless and muted, or packed with big, loud performances that would be great on Broadway but grate on screen. Thankfully, Roman Polanski’s “Carnage,” while not quite able to be a fully cinematic experience, works just as well on film as it does on stage.

When a schoolyard tiff turns ugly and a participant ends up down a few teeth, the parents of the two boys involved meet for a mediation of sorts in a swanky Manhattan apartment. Polanski’s most brilliant stroke in “Carnage” is his casting, and he manages to find perfect fits for each of his script’s four principal roles.

Jodie Foster has rightfully been receiving a lot of attention for her performance, especially for a loud, near-breakdown moment where she truly gets to cut loose in a hurricane of insults, profanity and veins sticking out of her forehead.

However, Kate Winslet is wildly entertaining and makes for a hilarious drunk, and John C. Reilly’s interplay with Christoph Waltz is perhaps the film’s most reliable source of laughs. Meanwhile, Waltz steals the show, making his smarmy, cellphone obsessed businessman almost likeable despite being a massive bastard.

Polanski is stylistically reined in by the single setting of “Carnage,” but the director seems more than content to sit back and let his actors spar, and he keeps the film moving quickly. At a brisk 79 minutes, “Carnage” never stops to take a break, always throwing its characters into new conflicts with each other, and by the time it reaches its close, watching these four strong actors bounce off one another hasn’t even begun to get old.

“Carnage” may not be as strong as its source material simply because it’s better-suited to the stage, but Polanski has produced a caustically hilarious, brilliantly cast film — a more than valid excuse to watch four of Hollywood’s best actors go head-to-head.

 

Printed on Thursday, January 19, 2012 as: 'Carnage' actors bring stage presence to film adaptation