“Sir, is this your home?”
“No, no I’m a retired cop from Philly. Name’s Kel. I’m watchin’ this home on the Chesapeake.“‘
“Problems here, Kel?”
“Possibly… Close friend of mine, Mary Ellen and her kids. The husband Tony. Still works in the summer but comes by every few weekends.
“Is there another woman involved her Kel?”
“Damn right. Su Lee. I just don’t know who did what and who’s upset. I just think Mary Ellen and the kids are at risk.”
“That Mustang. Orange Mustang. It was parked in front of the beach house.”
“I don’t feel comfortable addressing that right now. I’ll find out what’s going on. May take some time but I’ll figure it out.”
“Be careful, Kel. Sounds like you’re dealing with someone who’s very crafty and deadly.”
“Got a job to do. Maybe I’m just working on ‘the big one.’ “
Why is it that we would plop down hard-earned money to watch someone being stalked? I’m serious. Haven’t we enough God-awful problems in the world without paying to track the ultimate problem: being trapped by someone out to injure, harm or even kill. The good part is we aren’t really there, but we can experience all the horror and fear and then casually head for the concession for some more popcorn. But we hurry back in for more- horror and fear.
And there is another element. Hitchcock sums this up a lot better than I can:
“Drama is life with the dull bits left out. There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it. I believe in putting the horror in the minds of the audience, and not necessarily on the screen. The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.”
Anticipation is a funny thing. The anticipation of something wonderful is markedly at odds with the anticipation of doom. Anticipation is like a carrot, luring and drawing one closer to the ultimate- the ultimate what? That’s the point.
I know of dozens of stalking movies and there maybe hundreds because people will never tire of being a voyeur to the unthinkable.
Okay we’re in 1981. Lauren Bacall is Sally Ross, actress of stage and film. Bacall links up with her ex-husband James Garner aka Jake Berman. But Garner isn’t the obsessed stalker. Michael Biehn (Douglas Breen) becomes infatuated with Bacall. Breen begins writing to Bacall (Sally Ross) The letter is filled with wandering nonsense. This and subsequent letters are screened by Maureen Stapleton (Belle Goldman) as Douglas Breen becomes consumed by his love for Sally Ross. Sally scoffs at a hand delivered letter from Breen. Breen later attacks Belle, and then kills Sally’s maid.
Sally, distraught, flees New York and retreats to a secluded house in the country, where she is visited by Jake. After a third murder Breen shows up in the audience at a Sally Ross performance. Breen kills a costume designer and night watchman before he reaches Ross in her dressing room. Ross whips his face with a riding crop. As he tries to make love to her, she confronts Breen and in his rage he attempts to embrace her-only to get a knife plugged in his neck. So long Breen.
The formula: Obsessed stalker: Kills along the way: Final confrontation.
Martin Scorsese produced Cape Fear. A second time for the film, original in 1962, based on the John D. MacDonald’s novel, The Executioners. In this film we have revenge as a major factor. Cady (Robert De Niro) is a former client of Sam Bowden, (Nick Nolte) a lawyer from North Carolina. Cady learns over the years that evidence was hidden in his rape trial. He is a sophisticated psychopath who now knows the law from his time in prison. Without reason the family dog is killed. Bowden cannot get Cady arrested. Cady then rapes and almost murders a courthouse clerk, Lori in love with Bowden. Lori refuses to press charges. Bowden employs Kersek a PI (Joe Don Baker ) to follow Cady. The clever Cady pretends to be Bowden’s daughter’s new drama teacher and makes a clear effort to seduce the daughter. Bowden now activated his PI’s plan to beat up Cady. But Cady overwhelms his attackers.
As the story unfolds Cady enters the house killing the PI and the housekeeper. Bowden and his family race to their houseboat once they find the bodies. Cady, lighting a cigar, is engulfed in flames and leaps off the boat. As a thunderstorm commences Cady returns and sets up a mock trial for Bowden. Cady is swept off his feet in the storm. Bowden uses Cady’s handcuffs to secure him to the boat. The boat hits a rock, Cady is washed overboard and drowns. But the terror lives on.
One can almost feel the unlimited rage brewing in DiNiro. You have to be angry and want Cady taken out.
When the Bough Breaks
A stunning woman Anna is hired to become surrogate mother for John and Laura Taylor. Anna’s boyfriend Mike beats her up and Anna is taken in by the Taylors. But Anna is whacky and is enamored with John Taylor. Mike and Anna had planned to extort money from the Taylors. When Mike returns and wants money from the Taylors through Anna, she kills him. That’s right. He’s gone. What kind of a woman is this?
Anna puts a full court seduction press on John, wanting him to go out to lunch. When he declines she nixes the call. John now refuses to answer any call from Anna. Anna ratchets it up and tries to seduce John in his office but the performance is stopped, and Anna departs the office when John’s supervisor arrives.
In the guest house Anna laments her longing for John, but John is emphatic he doesn’t feel the same way. Anna goes into a highly animated temper tantrum. John stabilizes the outburst. So how to solve this dilemma? Anna gets a knife from the main house! Cops arrive and Anna confabulates a story about having sex with John every night. But she still possesses the surrogate baby.
Now it’s John’s turn to make up stories. He claims he cares about Anna. Even when he slaps the make on Anna and asks her to come to the house by the lake, Anna is suspicious. The next day Anna, snooping sees John and Laura holding each other. Whoops! Anna drops a message on the phone voicemail informing the couple the baby is about to be born. John hurries to the hospital leaving Laura behind…. Not good.
The demonic Anna makes a beeline to the Taylor House. She whacks the cat and then bops Laura’s skull with a lamp. Laura is down for the count. But surprise-surprise Laura goes into labor. She does have the baby and exits the hospital to of all places- the house by the lake. The Taylors find this out. John grabs the baby but when Anna awakens, she attacks John in a vicious fight. John hurls her body against a cabinet-Good for you John. John and Laura place the baby in their car. Laura flips on the lights, but Anna is ready to blow her away with a shotgun. Anna fires at the vehicle, smashing the window. Laura flattens Anna with her car, and the ignominious Anna is dead.
When the Bough Breaks absolutely brings about the unexpected, the evil, demonic, and the ever-present threat of a painful death. When something good (the surrogate) is about to brighten up the Taylor’s life down comes the Sword of Damocles.
Being alone was not a problem in itself for Mary Ellen in the Beach House. Leaving her suburban Pennsylvania home for an endless summer on the Chesapeake with her family is a wonderful experience. This is just the set-up for the summer that could have been. Kel is an integral character, because he carries the baggage of unjustly been accused of incompetence. When things are closing in around Mary Ellen, Kel has a chance to redeem himself. The little man scrounger Su Lee is exceedingly clever, able to murder with impunity, and willing to torment those affected. Added to those despicable qualities is her charm mixed with an irresistible sexuality. In her Mustang or in her bikini short shorts as a bartender she maneuvers Mary Ellen’s husband Tony into a checkmated reality. In the end it is Mary Ellen who must suffer the monstrous demons that lurk inside Sun Lee’s soul.
The anticipation is there, the demented killer weaves in and out of the story, the murders are real, and the over the hill cop does his job. And in the end there is no way to know what will happen next.
Robert P. Fitton
And a P.S. From Alfred Hitchcock….