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Friday, June 25, 2010

Dark Movies, Dark Stories

           My Mom could always tell a good scary story when I was a kid.  I would enjoy the thrill of the fright and the sigh of relief that I had survived another scare.  We also regularly went to the movie theater matinees where the fare was frequently horror movies.  I can recall going to see films like Abbott and Costello Meet the Wolfman, The Amazing Colossal Man, and The Creature From the Black Lagoon.  But the one the really grabbed me was Godzilla--the version where Raymond Burr, television's Perry Mason witnesses the destruction of Tokyo.  I had seen the future and it was doom and destruction caused by atomic radiation.

          Consequently, one of my favorite types of films were the ones that dealt with darker themes.  These were often monster and horror films, but they also grew into the realms of movies that dealt with the darker side of humanity and the impending doom of the unknown forces of nature and man's irresponsible stewardship of the Earth.   Potentially fear producing and nightmare inducing films became a genre of intense fascination for me.

            Today I offer up thirteen dark stories on film:

Thirteen Scary Favorites: 

The Creature Walks Among Us (1956)--The third in the Creature from the Black Lagoon trilogy is perhaps the darkest of the three.  Whereas The Creature From the Black Lagoon was a good monster flick and the follow-up Revenge of the Creature went for more sensationalism, The Creature Walks Among Us tends to be more contemplative as it examines more ethical and philosophical questions.  It is a somber and brooding film in the end.

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) --While sailing in the ocean, a man exposed to a toxic substance later begins shrinking in size.  He becomes smaller and smaller as his wife tries to get him help.  The special effects are not bad for its day.  The ending is among my all time favorites in filmdom.

Vertigo (1958)-- An Alfred Hitchcock film is certainly worthy of a place on my favorites list.  Since one has not yet appeared, it is imperative that one show up on my dark films list.  Vertigo starring James Stewart and Kim Novak is an excellent one to fit the bill.  A film with a twist in the tradition of the best of Hitchcock also has a great psychedelic dream sequence.  The Birds is another excellent choice for Hitchcock that fits into the horror genre.

The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961)--Here's a film that tackled the issue of global warming before Al Gore ever thought of it.  Except this is global warming to the extreme.  After nuclear testing gone awry the orbit of the Earth is disrupted causing the planet to begin to head toward the sun.  Filmed in black and white then tinted orange to create a look of heat, this low budget film is well acted with a good story line.  I found the ending to be almost spiritual, but maybe that was my interpretation.

The Tenant (1976) -- This film from Roman Polanski is a mind-bending experience that may have you shaking your head.  It's creepy fun trying to figure out who's who and what's what. 

Falling Down (1993) --This is my favorite Michael Douglas role and a film that anyone living in Los Angeles can empathize with.   Douglas plays a man frustrated by his failures in career, marriage, and fatherhood who, after being stuck in traffic on an intensely hot day, abandons his car on the freeway.  He then sets out on foot on a cross city trek to get to his child's birthday party.  On the way, he wreaks havoc with anyone who stands in his way.  It's a story of prejudice, urban frustration, and culture conflict.

Ed Wood (1994)--This is actually somewhat of a comedy and one of the most optimistic films I've seen.  Yet it deals with some dark topics about an individual whose life was actually somewhat dark.  This is a loving and playful look Ed Wood, a low budget film director who is credited with making some of the worst films ever.  Johnny Depp is amazing as always.  Martin Landau won an Oscar for his portrayal of Bela Lugosi.  This could have gone on my Dirty Dozen Favorites list because it is a favorite film of mine.

Lost Highway (1997) --This is one of the darkest, most mind-bending films ever--certainly not everyone's cup of tea.  Lost Highway is surrealistic madness from David Lynch.  The film deals with the nature of evil and immorality and graphically depicts it.  With a hard, hard R rating this is a film that justifiably presents sexual images, extreme violence, and crude language in order to get its point across.  It is a film that I like very much for its surrealism and weirdness.   Another Lynch film that deals with similar issues is Blue Velvet.  A Lynch film that is also dark, but not with so much R content is The Elephant Man.

Abre Los Ojos (1997) -- This Spanish film translated as Open Your Eyes was later remade in an English version called Vanilla Sky with Tom Cruise, Penelope Cruz and Cameron Diaz.   Vanilla Sky was pretty good, but the original version was better.  The film is a science fiction about cryogenics and virtual reality dreams. 

Dark City (1998) --This is another science fiction film about mind control and artificially devised realities.  The main character begins to sense something is peculiar about his life and the world he lives in.  He sets out to find the answers to the questions that begin to plague him.  It's a clever premise that is along the lines of movies like The Matrix and The Thirteenth Floor.

Limbo (1999) -- This is a John Sayles film about people in Alaska whose lives are falling apart.  They have become alienated within their despair and just get by in their lives.  A lonely single mother, her self-mutilating teenage daughter, and a lonely former fisherman are brought together in a situation of survival in the wilderness.  This film has some superb acting.  The ending may leave you laughing, slapping yourself in frustration, cursing the screen in anger, or just staring at the screen wondering what it was all about.  When I saw this film the first time I thought about it for a couple days and then realized the genius of the ending--it was the most appropriate way to end the movie and explained much of the story.  At least that's the way I saw it.

The Prestige (2006)--This is a fascinating film about two rival magicians obsessed in finding the greatest magic trick.  Although it essentially starts as a show biz type movie, the story takes a turn to science fiction.  The premise is pretty clever.

The Dark Knight  (2008) -- The most recent of the Batman films was made especially notorious with the incredible performance by Heath Ledger as the Joker.   Fabulous sets, effects, concepts, and good acting from all.   The dark superhero Batman is pitted against the madness of the Joker and his army of crazies.  One of the best batman films so far.

         On Monday we will be listing our 10 Favorite Love Songs and 10 Favorite Break Up Songs.  Sign up on the Linky list at the top of the page if you'd like to add yours.


  1. A good list there Lee, I once watched 2 really scary films, one was called Night Of The Eagle, and the othere one was called Homicide both back in the 60s, I was scared believe me,

    Have a good day.

  2. Dark City and The Presitge! Both dark films. Dark City is such an underrated film. Pan's Labyrinth is another really dark film.

  3. I agree - Dark City is a masterpiece. Proyas created such a unique world.

  4. I remember Falling Down. Especially the scene at the fast food place.

  5. I am pretty picky about my monster flicks, but I LOVE the psychologically dark ones--Falling Down is a great choice, and I ALWAYS love Hitchcock. I will have to check out a few more of these.

  6. Love Vertigo! What a great movie. Thanks for the list.

  7. R-LEE-B ~
    Although I did like (and even own on DVD) "Ed Wood", I've said for years that "A movie BY Ed Wood is better than a movie ABOUT Ed Wood". (Nevertheless, "Let's shoot this f#%&@#!")

    In this "Dark Category", I would put at the top of my list "Jacob's Ladder" - without a doubt one of my Top 25 favorite films of all time. But I think it would only frustrate most viewers. One doesn't really know what's going on in that movie until the very end, and I think most viewers become too frustrated being left confused for nearly two hours.

    But I loved "Jacob's Ladder". Almost certainly the most thought-provoking "Horror" movie ever made and it has some off-the-charts creepy sequences.

    ~ "Lonesome Dogg" McD-Fens

  8. Awesome list Lee! Have you read the book for Incredible Shrinking Man? I love Richard Matheson...

    Thanks for sharing!!

  9. ...never was fond of scarey movies:) sleep never came easy until a few month's ago. the movie Limbo sounds like one i'd like to watch though... i love Alaska! but only in the summer.

  10. Love the idea of this BEST LOVE SONGS blogfest, too bad my blog isn't suited for such topic (unless I find ten love songs from movies :))) but I can't wait to see which songs will people list on Monday.

  11. I've missed a few of these! Falling Down is one of my favorite Michael Douglas movies, too.

  12. "Why so serious Arlee?" Sorry but I couldn't help myself when I saw the dark knight.
    "The Incredible Shrinking Man", one of my absolute favorites!! Also "Falling Down". All good picks Arlee!
    Love Di ♥

  13. All I can say is that I haven't seen anyone these movies. I haven't heard of many of them.

  14. Thanks for the visit Lee and comment, I can get a poem out of most things if I put my mind to it.

  15. Yvonne -- I've never heard of those. Are they British films?

    Diane-- Pan's Labyrinth was a good dark film.

    Alex-- Dark City is one of the few films I rewatched and listened to the commentary.

    Ocean Girl -- yes, the fast food scene was uncomfortably funny.

    Tart -- Most of my picks are not monster films, but just dark in theme.

    Debbie --Vertigo is probably my favorite Hitchcock film, but it's a hard choice.

    Stmc-- Yes Jacob's Ladder was very good. I've only seen it once and liked it so well I bought a copy which still remains unopened after a few years of owning it. I really need to watch it again.

    B. Miller-- I have not read the book. He has a few books that I really want to read.

    Bud -- Limbo is not at all scary, just dark in theme. Be forewarned --if you like endings that are real explanatory and closed you may not like this, but I thought it was a very good film.

    Dez -- Love songs from movies would work great. Join us!

    Jane-- For one who lives here in L.A. Falling Down is especially beloved.

    Diana -- thanks!

    Gregg- Actually you might like some of these.

  16. A spine tingling list Lee! I thought 13 was most appropriate, but I'd like two of my favorites, Psycho and Dracula with Christopher Lee. ;)

  17. I tried, I really tried to like Dark City.

    I just could not follow it.

    The Dark Knight was a fine moment for Heath Ledger, and sadly he did not live to see it.

    Similar to Brandon Lee and his performance in "The Crow," one of my "dark" favorites.

  18. Paula -- Are you talking about the Hammer films from back in the 60s? I think Christopher Lee was in a lot of those. I used to love those and I would go see them at the theater whenever a new one came out. I'd forgotten about Psycho--it's such a great film, although I still prefer Vertigo and The Birds.

    LC--Yes I really did like the brooding film The Crow and it was very dark--I need to see that one again. I liked from the first viewing because I like themes about dreaming and alternate realities, but repeated viewings and watching it with the commentary really enhanced my appreciation and understanding of the film.


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