The Art of the Thriller

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Alfred Hitchcock Aims

So at the request of some of the delightful peeps over at Paramount Pictures to celebrate the release of 10 Cloverfield Lane, and with the go-ahead of the glorious senior editors, I am going to be talking about one of the best directors within the thriller genre; Alfred Hitchcock. 10 Cloverfield Lane is a spiritual successor to the original 2008 Cloverfield movie but rather than focusing upon the antics of a giant monster destroying a city, the film is much more constrained as a thriller with the human horror of survivors attempting to outlast a disaster in a bunker. The tension and complications in the film arise from the fact that humans can be as monstrous as any oversized mutant spider.

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When it comes to thrillers, as opposed to the horror genre, the body count and onscreen deaths are generally kept to a much more restrained level. Instead, thrillers aim to create fear in their audience through suspense and the heavily implied threat of danger towards the protagonist. The master of this cinematic suspense in classic Hollywood was Alfred Hitchcock who, as a renowned sadist who loved tormenting his cast, he also delighted in denying his audience cinematic climaxes by keeping them on the edge of their seat. For him there was no need to resort to the terror of the supernatural or fantastic to terrify his audience, instead he sought to frighten us with unknown depths of our own psyche. Below are a couple of my favourite films directed by him which I definitely recommend to anyone who has an interest in classic Hollywood thrillers.

North by Northwest

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Out of the films on this list, this one is much more humourous and light-hearted than the others upon this list. Ostensibly a spy thriller set during the Cold War, our hapless protagonist is wrongfully identified as a government agent by foreign spies. In a deadly game of cat-and-mouse for which he is largely ill-prepared he has to survive for as long as he can to get some answers about who is after him and what they want. Alongside the tense moments of life-or-death, we also get our fair share of humour as characters engage in witty banter or ingenious schemes to escape. A thoroughly entertaining film to watch although not one which I recommend to watch on the run.

Rear Window

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Of all of the emotions which Hitchcock loved to play with, curiosity was most certainly one of his favourites to play with. Rear Window is set in the confines of an apartment complex with the aforementioned rear windows of the neighborhood open and inviting to the protagonist and the audience. The protagonist witnesses the strange behaviour of one of his neighbours and assumes some manner of foul play has occurred. Although we’re shown alot of these character’s lives, we ultimately don’t see some very important details part way through the film and that is how Hitchcock leaves you guessing. Is the murder that we suspect real or has the protagonist (and us, the audience) become far too paranoid with how we’re reading into the events we’re seeing. Perfect for humid summer nights filled with (possible?) murder.

Psycho

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The most infamous of Hitchcock’s works, this is the go to film anyone thinks of when onscreen psychopathic killers are mentioned (alongside American Psycho). The gore and violence is very restrained, especially compared to the gore fests of more modern cinema, but Hitchcock works around this through suggestive camera angles and an awesome musical score. The music by Bernard Herrmann is definitely what gives the film the tension and suspense it needs to keep you invested even if you know the story. The twist in the film was groundbreaking for its time and even if you aren’t one of the few lucky people who have not had the film spoiled for you; you’ll definitely get a kick out of the plot. It’s definitely a classic which you can enjoy and maybe share it with a spouse, a friend, colleague… or perhaps mother?

So there you have it, a very short list of Alfred Hitchcock film recommendations to tide you over before or after you have a look at 10 Cloverfield Lane. Hopefully you’ll enjoy these movies as much as I did and feel free to tell us what you think below.

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