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Safe from Larvae and Rust: Psycho and Mulholland Drive


Psycho, Mulholland Drive

“…what makes a work of fiction safe from larvae and rust is not its social importance but its art, only its art”. — Vladimir Nabokov, 1964

As Halloween approaches, I hope you have some good horror films planned. You might not have heard of these, but they will definitely stay with you long after the night has ended. Here’s week two of horror movie recommendations.

Psycho (1960)

I said last week that the films I’m writing about are “less popular”, which is completely untrue of one of Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpieces, Psycho. But I still wanted to include it because I feel like while most people have at least heard of it and its plot twists, if you don’t live under a rock, not all have actually seen it. It’s been worked so much into pop culture – most people are familiar with the high violin screeches and the “scandalous” shower scene – that the public ceases to see its true value as a horror masterpiece.

A lot scarier than The Night of the Hunter, this movie makes you pee your pants with Hitchcock’s pure genius with suspense and the camera. Even though Hitchcock admitted that Bernard Herrmann’s famous score makes 60% of the scariness of the movie, I still think it’s deeply disturbing without the music. Great performances, cinematography, blah blah blah… I feel like the more I stress its greatness, the less effect will have on you, so I’ll shut up now. If you know the plot already, the more reason you should watch it. Watch it.

Mulholland Drive (2001)

I’m not sure how I’ll persuade you to watch this movie because I can’t even begin to explain it. It follows the logic of nightmares. That’s right – what logic? Like Fellini’s 8 ½, it’s centered around dreams and contains many dream sequences and vignettes. Except in 8 ½, reality and dreams are, for the most part, clearly distinguished. In Mulholland Drive, you have no idea whether each scene is real or imagined. The same characters are present throughout, and you can make out a linear narrative of a young actress moving to Hollywood and making friends with an amnesiac who found her way into her house. But soon seemingly unrelated scenes and cryptic symbolisms are interjected, characters take on different names and previous events are inverted, eventually turning everything you already believe inside-out.  It is up to the viewer to decide what each scene and the whole movie represents.

Sounds exciting, right? I definitely want to watch a film I can’t understand. On the conscious level. Dreams make sense in their own way and strangely intrigue the dreamer; the mystifying pool of absurdities seems to make perfect sense because your own subconscious is being projected. That’s exactly how Mulholland Drive feels. It creeps into your subconscious level. It’s like a dream one can actually watch and try to explain rationally.

I can’t really tell you about specific scenes because they won’t make sense individually and out of context. The director, David Lynch, insists that a cohesive storyline can be pieced together. The interesting thing is that Lynch never filled his actors in on the true meanings of the scenes that they acted in; they are left to interpret the film on their own. Honestly, I don’t think it’s that hard to make sense of the story if you just sit back and watch it instead of scrutinizing it under a microscope. Let it do its work and it’ll make sense – for the most part, I think.

And this is supposed to be a horror movie, right? While it wouldn’t normally be categorized as “horror”, it’s still hands-down the scariest movie I’ve ever seen. It is a nightmare, after all. It’s David Lynch, what do you expect? Don’t expect monsters-under-your-bed type of nightmare; this is uncannily real and unsettling. It has probably the most accurate depiction of dreams on film. Wonderfully absent of blood and gore, ghosts and goblins, let it thrill, disturb and mystify.

And oh, Billy Ray Cyrus is in it.

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