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My Favorite Scary Movie: Don't Look Now (1973)

For the month of October, JoBlo.com staff will be gearing you up for the Halloween season with My Favorite Scary Movie, where we will share our favorite scary flicks, be it gory horror, supernatural thriller or bloody slasher flicks, lending the personal touch for each film and why it stands as one of our all-time favorite spooky flicks of the season.

DON'T LOOK NOW (1973)

What’s it about? After losing their daughter in an unfortunate accident, John and Laura Baxter relocate to Venice to try and overcome their grief. While there, they experience surreal and supernatural events. Befriending a psychic, the couple are warned of impending danger as they begin to see what may be their deceased daughter all across the city.

Who’s in it? Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie are the only really recognizable actors. The rest of the cast is made up of British and Italian performers.

Who made it? Directed by Nicholas Roeg (THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH, THE WITCHES). Written by Alan Scott (THE AWAKENING, THE WITCHES) and Chris Bryant (THE AWAKENING). Based on the short story by Daphne Du Maurier (REBECCA, THE BIRDS)

Why it’s my favorite scary movie: As a huge fan of horror movies, I could have picked dozens of films with disturbing twists and creepy moments that stick with you long after the movie ends. But, each and every time someone asks me to name my favorite scary movie, I always pick DON'T LOOK NOW. Released the same year as THE WICKER MAN, DON'T LOOK NOW is ranked highly on lists of horror filmmakers (12th on Time Out's list) as well as rankings of the Best British Films of the 20th Century (ranks 8th on the British Film Instiute's list). It even joined the Criterion Collection in 2015. The amazing thing about DON'T LOOK NOW is just how influential it has been on films in the 45 years since it was released. Once you see it, you will start recognizing the dozens of filmmakers from Christopher Nolan to Steven Soderbergh and Steven Spielberg who have been influenced by this movie.

But, is it scary? Absolutely. But, I need to explain a little. There are no demons or monsters in this movie nor are there disemboweled corpses or jump scares. There is a serial killer. Sort of. There are ghosts. Kind of. It is all hard to explain without spoiling the twist, but DON'T LOOK NOW is firmly in the realm of psychological horror. It is a beautifully shot mindf*ck of a film that draws you in, very slowly, to the lives of a couple who have lost their daughter. The opening scene is a suckerpunch (which is very much the inspiration for the opening of Lars Von Trier's ANTICHRIST) and sets the tone for the pain that John and Laura Baxter feel. Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie are phenomenal and as the movie progresses, you really feel how difficult their loss is. That makes it all the more believable when they befriend sisters, one of whom claims to be psychic, who happen to have a message from the dead daughter.

At the same time, there is a serial killer loose in Venice, a plot element that feels indirect for much of the film. But as you keep watching, a feeling of dread begins to build over the story and you start ot prepare yourself for something truly awful to happen. Even though the twist shocks you, all of the pieces that director Nicholas Roeg has sprinkled through the film all come together in the end. You will undoubtedly find yourself going back and seeing if all the clues were there the entire time, giving the movie great rewatchability. The greatest thing about DON'T LOOK NOW is that it is more than a horror movie and truly is a scary movie on multiple levels whether you look at it as a drama about grief, a thriller about a serial killer, or a supernatural story about premonitions of doom.

 'For me, the basic premise is that in life, nothing is what it seems. That's it, really. I felt for that idea so much I put the line into the actual script.' For the anoraks, it is in an exchange between Laura Baxter (Julie Christie) and her husband, John (Donald Sutherland). Laura: 'One of your children has posed a curious question: if the world is round, why is a frozen lake flat?' John: 'Nothing is what it seems.' - Nicholas Roeg

Scariest Part: DON'T LOOK NOW is absolutely a slowly paced movie and one that requires your attention to little details. Like MEMENTO, it employs flashforwards and flashbacks which all come together in the creepy as hell final scene. Most of the "scary parts" of the film are psyschological in nature until the guttural and intense twist at the end. I have included an embed of the final scene but I strongly encourge you not to watch the clip below if you want to keep the twist fresh for yourself since it works so much better within the context of the movie.

Best Lines: Inspector Longhi: "Age makes women grow to look more like each other. Don't you find that? Old men decay and each becomes quite distinct. Women seem to converge, eh?"

John Baxter: "Christine is dead. She is dead! Dead! Dead! Dead! Dead! Dead!"

Inspector Longhi: "The skill of police artists is to make the living appear dead."

Laura Baxter: "This one who's blind. She's the one that can see."

Gore and Nudity: While the ending scene is really the only bloody moment in the film, DON'T LOOK NOW is likely most remembered for the extended sex scene between Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland. For years, it was believed that the two actors actually had sex on screen which was refuted by Sutherland and Nicholas Roeg in later interviews. The sex scene almost got the film an X rating before some frames were cut. It also represents one of the first films to show oral sex. You can check out the full NSFW sex scene here.

Sequels, Spinoffs or Follow Ups: DON'T LOOK NOW is not exactly the type of film you turn into a franchise, but it's legacy can be felt in numerous movies and series. Ryan Murphy is a big fan of the film and cites it's infuence on his FX series American Horror Story. Lynne Ramsey said it inspired her film WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN and there are direct callbacks in the films CASINO ROYALE, IN BRUGES, SCHINDLER'S LIST and FLATLINERS.

I just thought that it was a beautifully shot, really adult look at real-life horror stories, and there was a great degree of sexuality in it that, as a young kid, when I saw it, I remember I was very startled by. It felt very brave to me, and I think it still holds up. Nick Roeg is a brilliant director. - Ryan Murphy (American Horror Story)

Scare-O-Meter Score: Of all the films being included in this series, DON'T LOOK NOW is probably the least scary of them all. There are virtually no jumpscares or moments of gore. There are, however, multiple scenes that seem to come out of nowhere to mess with your mind, jarring you from the otherwise quiet film. Like other great psychological horror films like ROSEMARY'S BABY and THE WICKER MAN, it is the build-up of anticipation and the feeling that something bad is going to happen that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Even if you don't buy into all the art house elements of the movie, I am willing to bet the final scene will get your skin crawling. (7/10) 

READ MORE:

My Favorite Scary Movie - THE EVIL DEAD (1981)

My Favorite Scary Movie - THE CHANGELING (1980)

My Favorite Scary Movie - JASON GOES TO HELL (1993)

My Favorite Scary Movie - THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974)

My Favorite Scary Movie - THE BABADOOK (2014)

My Favorite Scary Movie - DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)

Source: JoBlo.com

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