So, just to take the time and explain a few things people may not be altogether clear on, some of Thursday's titles may feel like they belong on Wednesday's list. Perhaps the best example, '1408', ends up being a matter of the way searching for titles in each category worked. '1408' didn't spring up in my search for "psychological thrillers" nearly as fast as it did in my search for "classic thrillers" (which is kind of weird, but there we have it), so JUST in case anyone else asks me about it, that's the basic answer. Now, on with the show, as we open Thriller Thursdays with a cult classic of sorts. And I've gotta say, no offence to any of this film's fans, but I'm having a tough time understanding exactly why it's so popular.
Going into this, I only really knew a few things about it (again). I knew it inspired the opening scene of 'Scream', which sort of became the 'When a Stranger Calls' for my generation (and was MUCH better - yes, I said it). But one must give credit where credit is due, and I would imagine that in 1979, this whole concept was much scarier as, I believe, it hadn't really been done before (I could easily be wrong about that). But it should be noted that the film's opening sequence is largely based on the urban legend of "The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs". The legend itself is largely said to be based on a real event on March 18, 1950, when a babysitting 13-year-old girl named Janett Christman was murdered.
The whole opening to this film is what makes it as famous as it is among its fans. Essentially reciting the urban legend, a babysitter named Jill Johnson (Carol Kane) is called to babysit two children. Once the children are put to bed, the phone calls start, as a voice on the other end asks if she has checked on the kids. Ignored at first, the calls keep coming, which eventually leads to Jill calling the police. The police trace the call, and as pretty much anyone reading this already knows, they discover that the call is coming from inside the house. Jill is spared, but we do discover (thankfully not with any visuals) that the two children had been murdered that night. And all in all, the opening sequence is pretty much the scary part of the movie. Funny thing is, I sincerely thought this whole movie was about this girl in the house being stalked the whole time. Turns out... I was WAY off.
Fast-forward seven years, and we find that our killer, Curt Duncan (Tony Beckley) has escaped from a psychiatric facility, where Dr. Mandrakis (Carmen Argenziano) hires private detective John Clifford (Charles Durning) to attempt to find him. By the way, I should mention that Duncan ends up in a really silly-looking fight that made me laugh quite genuinely. The whole thing turns into a bit of a dull manhunt movie, but I will give credit for the ending being just as solid as the beginning. This film isn't without a decent share of thrills, but I will say that one has to sift through a lot of talking just to get there. If I'm to recommend this to anyone, it would mostly be based on the playing out of the urban legend, as it's actually executed quite well. Then read a quick Wiki synopsis, and fast-forward to the end.
I don't mean to step on anyone's opinion though. I think this is just another one I don't quite get as to why it's so popular, and there's no shortage of those (I really should make a Top 10 list one day). I found that the film had its moments, but was actually altogether quite dull and boring. Add to that the fact that this is NOT at all what I expected, which was more or less a bottle movie involving a babysitter trying to make it through the night while protecting the kids. It just goes to show that sometimes we can assume too much about something based on what little we see of it. Anyway, this doesn't come as a high recommendation from yours truly whatsoever, but I think it may still be worth checking out for some, if only to see if you can fit in with the seemingly massive cult following this has behind it. As for me, I'll stick to 'Scream'.