Don't Look Now ★★★★½

For me, the most terrifying scene in Don't Look Now is a testament to Nicolas Roeg's direction, Scott and Bryant's script, and Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie's skill as actors as the scene itself is nowhere near traditionally frightening, and out of context seems almost bland and/or relieving. The scene in question occurs after Sutherland's Baxter chases what he thinks to be his wife across Venice, only to call home to England and find she had arrived safe and sound earlier that day. The scene was terrifying not in that I wondered what kind of phantom he had seen, but in the absolute strangeness of the performances across the phone lines. Christie's voice is too-assuring and virtually prattles on that everything is alright as if not understanding the fear in Sutherland's voice and what he's been going through, and Roeg's technique to cast an soft, dreamlike filter over Christie's part of the scene misdirected me into one of the most terrifying things I can think of - Baxter was ever-so-slowly going insane - so slow that what I had mistaken for supernatural horror was of a more biological variety: the terror of losing your mind out of grief, knowing it, and having everyone else around you ignore it or claim that 'it will pass in time'.

After the fact, I realize I had been misdirected, but I don't take all the blame - the movie had scared me more than I realized and I needed an outlet for that fear.

I'll admit that I don't care for much horror - I've become jaded by lame jump scares and over-reliance on gore. To me, those types of scares are cheap, fleeting, and so expected in modern horror that I just don't feel like sitting down for an hour and a half at a time and subjecting myself to that kind of thing. The genius that Roeg displays with Don't Look Now is that he does the opposite - you're sitting, waiting for the jump scare and he doesn't give it to you. Instead, he builds in ominous shots which are just the tiniest bit off-kilter, drops the music, and you wait for something terrible to happen, and it doesn't (in reality, I suppose the worst thing that could happen already does in the first scene). The entire film Roeg is ever-so-slowly teasing that anticipation and dread out of you bit by bit. I suppose that makes this more of a psychological thriller, but overall, I'd still call it a horror film, and a damn good one.

I could gush about how alternately beautiful and grotesquely creepy Venice can be, I could fawn over Pino Donaggio's superb score and how well it was integrated into several scenes. But I've written much more about Don't Look Now than I meant to (and bumped it up a full star while doing so), so I will leave it by saying that I thought it was a fair effort up until the last scene, where Roeg finally delivers his payoff. After that, and the way Roeg adds a few summary shots flaunting in your face that "you should have seen it coming" - the film as a whole comes completely into focus, makes sense, and gels together amazingly well. This is my kind of horror.

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