I saw M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening today, and I can say nothing of that now (my review will be up at CT Movies on Friday). Well, I will say this: it has its share of creepy—sometimes downright disturbing—moments. Shyamalan continues to try to live up to the early Hitchcock comparisons, and though this is clearly a stretch, I do think both directors share a penchant for stylishly-rendered scares. Still, Hitchcock is by far the better of the two, and I’d like to pay homage by listing my five favorite Hitchcock films, with some images from Vanity Fair’s recent tribute photo spread.
5) Rear Window (1954): As thrillers go, Rear Window is about as good as it gets. So many horror/suspense film conventions were either invented or perfected in this film, which uses voyeurism to both scare us and provide a commentary on our human impulses to spy on and live vicariously through the lives of others. The below image features Scarlett Johansson and Javier Bardem as the Grace Kelly and wheelchair-bound Jimmy Stewart characters.
4) The 39 Steps (1935): Hitchcock made this spy-plotted film while still in England, and many consider it his finest British thriller. It’s certainly not one of his scariest, but it is totally engrossing (what with the burning question “What are the 39 steps?”) and thoroughly British/Scottish, which is probably why I love it so much.
3) Psycho (1960): This film still holds up as one of the most frightening of all time, and Janet Leigh’s fateful shower scene (recreated below with actress Marion Cotillard) is undoubtedly one of the most significant single scenes in film history. Killing off the star actress halfway through the film, by a cross-dressing, knife-wielding sociopath (in the shower, no less!)? Shocking!
2) Shadow of a Doubt (1943): This is one of the most under-seen and under-appreciated of all Hitchcock films, and yet Hitchcock himself cited it as his personal favorite. An unsettling, noir-ish usurping of the American suburban ideal, the Thornton Wilder-penned Doubt is perhaps Hitchcock’s most subtle, insidious American film.
1) Rebecca (1940): Hitchcock’s films were never really known for their great acting, but in the case of the supremely creepy Rebecca—with stellar performances from Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, and Judith Anderson (the latter two interpreted below by Keira Knightley and Jennifer Jason Leigh)—the performances made the film. Hitchcock’s first American feature (though set in England) is intensely elegant and ridiculously creepy.