Paranoia Picks of the Month
These songs speak to the experience of anxiety, uncertainty, and the relentless struggle to maintain one's sanity:
Repulsion - This is one of two British 1965 films I added to this list. Repulsion is a fever dream about a woman who is left alone in the apartment she shares with her sister and following a series of events, follows her descent into madness as events about her past are uncovered. Polanski never quite gives the audience the full story until a heartbreaking ending reveals the motivations for the main character's psychosis.
Bunny Lake Is Missing - Part whodunnit, part horror film and part psychological thriller. Bunny Lake is Missing is another 1965 British film about a woman whose child suddenly goes missing after dropping her off at daycare. Soon people question whether the child existed at all. This is a great paranoia flick and has lovely black and white cinematography with some truly breathtaking shots.
Let's Scare Jessica To Death - Oozing with atmosphere and dread, this 1971 horror gem is a great watch for the month of October. The story follows a woman who is looking for a fresh start after spending time in a mental hospital, but the seaside town she is staying in isn't what it seems. The atmosphere in this film is enhanced by an early synth score that brings up the creep factor. If you like slow burn films, this one is for you!
Black Swan - This one is a truly unsettling film and in my opinion, one of Aronofsky's best films. The camerawork, editing and effects in this film make for a very chilling watch.
Watcher - A 2022 film about a woman who has recently relocated to Romania from the US and is dealing with a potential stalker. This is another slow burn film, and has you guessing till the end whether the protagonist is being paranoid or whether she is truly in danger.
The Shining - One of Stanley Kubrick's only horror films and is considered one of the best for a reason. It has you filled with dread from the opening shot and from the brooding score by the prolific Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind. This one is a must see for the month of October!
The Thing - One of the best "paranoia" movies. If you haven't seen this one, you will not be disappointed. This film has some of the best practical effects you will ever see and will easily put any CGI effects to shame!
Paranoid by Black Sabbath
Paranoid Android (from the album OK Computer) by Radiohead
Afraid of Everyone (from the album High Violet) by The National
Fear of the Dark (from the album Fear of the Dark) by Iron Maiden
Bug: I saw this movie years ago and it made a lasting impression. Its adapted from a play by Tracy Letts. Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon (repeating his stage role) are superb in portraying two individuals who descend into paranoia. Directed by William Friedkin (The Exorcist, The French Connection)
Take Shelter: Michael Shannon again plays a paranoid schizophrenic as he begins to have terrifying visions and becomes obsessed with digging out a massive storm shelter in his backyard. Also stars Jessica Chastain as his wife.
A Beautiful Mind is the true story of brilliant mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr. who won the Nobel Prize for Economics for his work on game theory. Based on the bestselling book, Russell Crowe stars as Nash and Jennifer Connelly is his wife. Ron Howard directed the Best Picture Academy Award winning film.
Clean, Shaven is probably the most realistic film to depict paranoid schizophrenia. Far from being exploitative, the movie lets you see, hear and feel what it is like inside the head of this recently released mentally ill man who is driven to extremes in the search for his daughter.
The Lives of Others: This Oscar-winner for best foreign language picture (2006) is set in East Germany in the year 1984. The East German government ensures its claim to power with a system of control and surveillance. An agent investigating an artistic couple gets immersed into their lives. Paranoia is inevitable when the Stasi secret police surveillance is everywhere and you can't trust your neighbors - you never know if and when you may be turned in. This movie has been called a nail-biting thriller, but is also a tragedy of disillusionment.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers: This is the 1978 remake of the classic 1956 sci-fi thriller. It's a rare case of the remake being as good as, or in my opinion, better than the original. Spores from outer space invade people's bodies as they sleep and when they awake, they look the same but their unique souls are obliterated. Paranoia ensues as you don't know who is "real" and who has become a "pod person" and there is also the fear that you too will become one. The original 1956 version had a subtext of McCarthyism and the fear of Communism taking over people's minds, but could also be seen as the fear of mindless conformity in the suburban 1950s. Not sure if there is a subtext in the remake, but it's really creepy.
Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby is one of my favorite movies of all time. Starring Mia Farrow as Rosemary Woodhouse and John Cassavetes as her husband Guy, it's an absolute masterclass of mounting paranoia and psychological terror. Is Rosemary imagining things? Are the people close to her out to get her? Or are her fears just being written off as female hysteria? You'll have to watch to find out. I'm not one for spoilers but suffice it to say this movie never, ever gets old, despite it being released in 1968. If I absolutely had to name a favorite film, my answer is sometimes going to be this one, depending on the day and my mood when asked. A mini-series remake was released in 2014, starring Zoe Saldana as Rosemary. It's worth watching, but it's pretty different from Polanski's film and lacks a lot of the subtle, unseen horror that makes the film so great. Both are based on Ira Levin's book of the same name.
"Sometimes reality is the strangest fantasy of all." declares the film trailer for Michelangelo Antonioni's first English language film about paranoia an a possible murder among the chic and rich. A photographer is developing photographs from a photo shoot of beautiful models and looking at the photos he notices what seems to be a dead body on the edge of the frame. As he attempts to figure out what has occurred he spirals into a paranoid world surrounded by the London mod scene. Antonioni received an Oscar nomination for Best Director for this disquieting thriller which has several subsequent homages.
John Travolta stars as a sound technician for an exploitive horror film trying to capture natural noises for the film when he accidentally records what could be a car accident or a possible assassination.
He rescues a woman (a terrific Nancy Allen) from the car and through her gets pulled into a shadow world of political intrigue and violence. Director Brian DePalma is in top form from the haunting outdoor sound gathering sequence to the stunning finale, the film is riveting.
A high point for two Oscar winning talents. Both Gene Hackman and director Francis Ford Coppola are doing some of the finest work in their great careers in this movie. The plot about a professional eavesdropper uncovering a deadly conspiracy is both a great character study and a surprising twisty story.
Director Alan J. Pakula's deeply paranoid thriller has Warren Beatty as a reporter who witnesses the murder of a senator on the top of the Space Needle in Seattle. Digging deeper into how this happened leads the reporter into a reality where he truly does not know who is out to get him and who is an ally. Is it paranoia when the threat is real? The film is the second of Pakula's "Paranoia Trilogy" that begins with Klute and ends in the reality of All the President's Men. All are worth checking out.
Movies & Music - Question of the Month
Which paranoid thriller was nominated for Best Picture against and lost to a film directed by the same director?
The Parallax View0
Last Week's Trivia Answer: Wes Anderson
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It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Whether you agree with that or not, I think that we can all agree that at least some of cinema’s magic comes from the juxtaposition of images with audio in order to create an immersive experience. This spooky season, our theme is “Paranoia.” Few songs can elicit a sudden sense of unease as Halloween’s truly chilling theme. The catchy but undoubtedly paranoid (maybe for good reason…) classic hit Somebody’s Watching Me captures that sometimes inescapable feeling that privacy is dead. And whether you watch Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas for the yuletide festivities or for the Halloween season, Danny Elfman’s rendition of the Pumpkin King’s classic What’s This will have you embracing either holiday with cheer. Visit your local library for the latest programs and events that will get you ready for the holidays! See you soon…
So, I recently watched a movie on Netflix and in the opening scene the protagonist is bombing down the road on her way to a river rafting trip and she's blasting the song Backwater by Meat Puppets. It transported me straight back to the mid 90s and has since made it onto a playlist and has become something of an earworm. It's super catchy and just an all around great song. It's spurred me to revisit the Meat Puppets' back catalog, including the album Backwater appears on, 1994's Too High to Die.