April 2024



Grand Piano (2013)

DIRECTOR: Eugenio Mira

CAST: Elijah Wood, John Cusack, Kerry Bishe, Tamsin Egerton, Allen Leech, Alex Winter


A Spanish production with an English-language cast (despite being set in Chicago, all interior sets were filmed in Spain, though some outside scenes were filmed in Chicago), Grand Piano had the most limited of theatrical releases, screening briefly at only one New York City theater, though for anyone interested (or anyone who even heard of its existence), it was available for online streaming.  Those who check it out will find a diverting but slightly silly little Hitchcockian-esque thriller which zips along with enough slickly-crafted style to be engaging in the moment, even if it ultimately builds up too many plot holes and flimsy elements. Continue reading

Red Eye (2005)

Red Eye movie review & film summary (2005) | Roger Ebert

DIRECTOR: Wes Craven

CAST: Rachel McAdams, Cillian Murphy, Brian Cox, Jayma Mays, Jack Scalia


Red Eye belongs to that specific subgenre of thriller that takes place (mostly) in one confined setting, and also to that of the “Fridge Movie”, where the filmmakers try to keep the level of tension and engagement high enough to distract from plot holes and the underlying flimsiness of the screenplay. Alfred Hitchcock is perhaps the most iconic filmmaker to color within these lines, and widely-regarded as the most masterful at it; Hitchcock was not above working with scripts riddled with plot holes, but overcame them at least in the moment through sheer directorial prowess. Wes Craven’s Red Eye does a serviceable, if not superlative job at this; running a breezy hour and twenty-five minutes, it’s a brisk, economical battle of wits and wills between two characters, but while there are times when the tension is sufficient to distract us, there’s other times when the seams in the storytelling are too evident. Nonetheless, for those who aren’t too critical, it’s nothing particularly ambitious or original, but a tense little thriller that serves its purpose as a breezy diversion.

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Signs (2002)

DIRECTOR: M. Night Shyamalan

CAST: Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin, Abigail Breslin, Cherry Jones


For his latest venture, The Sixth Sense helmer and thinly-veiled Hitchcock wannabe M. Night Shyamalan has crafted a sparse, low-key thriller using an alien/home invasion scenario as a vehicle for a thinly-veiled parable about faith and predestination.

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Panic Room (2002)

DIRECTOR: David Fincher


Jodie Foster, Kristen Stewart, Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto, Dwight Yoakam, Patrick Bauchau


A slickly-crafted thriller that doesn’t quite reach the Hitchcockian levels it obviously aspires towards, but is good for a couple hours of engrossing entertainment nonetheless Continue reading

A Perfect Murder (1998)

DIRECTOR: Andrew Davis

CAST: Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow, Viggo Mortensen, David Suchet


A Perfect Murder is a slick, stylish Hitchockian thriller that serves up plenty of diabolical twists and turns (in fact, it’s a loose remake of Hitchcock’s 1954 film Dial M for Murder, although much is changed).  For fans of this genre, it’s a suitably devious little entry. Continue reading

Misery (1990)

DIRECTOR: Rob Reiner

CAST: James Caan, Kathy Bates, Richard Farnsworth, Frances Sternhagen, Lauren Bacall


Following 1986’s Stand By Me, Rob Reiner has now chosen to bring another one of Stephen King’s stories to the screen, this time Misery, an adaptation of King’s same-named 1987 novel. Misery delves further into the horror genre—well-traversed territory for King—than the coming-of-age story Stand By Me but avoids any supernatural elements. The horror here is of the comparatively banal variety but one suspects may be a fear sprung from Stephen King’s own imagination: the obsessed fan.

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Desperate Hours (1990)

DIRECTOR: Michael Cimino

CAST: Anthony Hopkins, Mickey Rourke, Lindsay Crouse, Mimi Rogers, Kelly Lynch, David Morse, Elias Koteas


Bad movies are a dime a dozen. We generally know what they’re trying to do, they’re just not very good at doing it. Desperate Hours is on a whole other level, a movie not merely incompetent—although it’s that too—but so relentlessly strange that by the end, one is wondering what everyone involved is smoking, and if the proceedings might have been more enjoyable—if not necessarily more coherent—if you’d had some too. A loose remake of a same-named 1955 William Wyler film starring Humphrey Bogart and Fredric March and an earlier Broadway play, both written by Joseph Hayes, it’s purportedly loosely “inspired by real events”, although it also shares plot similarities with the 1951 John Garfield film “He Ran All The Way”. Director Michael Cimino and a script credited to Joseph Hayes, Lawrence Konner, and Mark Rosenthal tries to craft a slow burn suspense thriller, but seemingly have absolutely no idea how to go about it, and the result is an overwrought melodrama with ridiculous dialogue, unintentionally comical overacting, and plot holes you could drive a truck through. Unless one is imbibed enough to find the nonsensical proceedings hilarious, the only Desperate Hours might be the ones endured by the viewer.

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Narrow Margin (1990)

DIRECTOR: Peter Hyams

CAST: Gene Hackman, Anne Archer, James B. Sikking, Nigel Bennett, Susan Hogan, J.T. Walsh, M. Emmet Walsh, Harris Yulin


A loose remake of 1952’s The Narrow Margin, Narrow Margin is a nicely old-school, no-frills, lean and taut thriller that relies more on good old-fashioned cat-and-mouse suspense than flashy action sequences or special effects, with a brisk 99 minute runtime that gets in, gets the job done efficiently, and doesn’t overstay its welcome.  It might not be the deepest or most substantial experience, but for those simply seeking a good old-fashioned suspense thriller, it’s a solidly diverting time. Continue reading

Alien (1979)

DIRECTOR: Ridley Scott


Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Ian Holm, Veronica Cartwright, Yaphet Kotto, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt


In some ways, Alien could be seen as moving the Halloween-style slasher horror movie into outer space, but its achievement was more than that. While the best-known sci-fi at the time was the fairly lightweight Star Wars and Star Trek, with Alien Ridley Scott looked through the glass darkly.  The movie is a dark experience, a slow-moving thriller that gradually and inexorably builds up the suspense until certain scenes and the climax in particular ascend to nerve-wracking tension. It’s the kind of movie that’s dark and harrowing to the extent that it’s questionable to call it conventionally “enjoyable”, but it is undeniably skillful filmmaking that shows a keen understanding of building suspense. Continue reading

The Day of The Jackal (1973)

The Day of the Jackal (1973) | BFI

DIRECTOR: Fred Zinnemann

CAST: Edward Fox, Michael Lonsdale, Tony Britton, Derek Jacobi, Cyril Cusack, Ronald Pickup


Fred Zinnemann’s The Day of The Jackal, adapted from Frederick Forsyth’s 1971 novel of the same name, is a masterfully executed piece of filmmaking methodically setting all its many pieces in motion like a fine watch. Its dry, almost documentary style and slow burn pace might not be appreciated by modern viewers demanding something flashier and more action-oriented (while this is considered a suspense thriller, it’s not an action movie and those who go in expecting such may be disappointed and bored), but for those to whom this kind of movie appeals, it’s hard to imagine this material being more masterfully executed, or an assassination plot and the investigation opposing it being written with more meticulous logic.

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