Scare Fare: Shade Rupe

Who: Shade Rupe, author, publicist and horror fiend.
What: Five of his favorite horror movies.
Where: Handling publicity for Synapse Films from his Manhattan apartment.
Latest Projects: Dark Stars Rising: Conversations from the Outer Realms.

Shade Rupe in the sunlight, taking a break
from his regularly sheltered horror intake.
(Photo credit: M.F. Dinan.)

1. THE DEVILS (1971) — “A film so fierce in its unrelenting power that more than forty years after its initial theatrical release Warner Bros remains undeterred in its decision to keep the fullest-length version of the film from North American eyes. Only screened twice in its so-called ‘director’s cut,’ overseen by director Ken Russell and his editor Mike Bradsell, and only in the UK, The Devils is a frame-by-frame witness to cinematic near-perfection. Russell’s soul-branding imagining of the possessive goings-on at a white-bricked nunnery gives birth to the sexual frustrations of a lonely hunchbacked nun bow-tied with the father of an impregnated purple-lipsticked teenage daughter and the political machinations of a church that a forsaken and doomed priest himself tries to protect. Oliver Reed is at his most beautiful as the cold-hearted Father Grandier who finds the ability to love, yet too late to save his soul. A fiery conflagration of power, sex, hysteria and the ravages of the Plague cinch The Devils as one of the greatest visual depictions of the eternity of Earthbound Hells.”

2. THE OMEN (1976) — “Almost goes without saying. The hand-drawn lettering with the strange three sixes in the large O lured me to this film quite early. It was one of the first videotapes I owned back when they were $50 a pop. From the suicide of the nanny at Damien’s birthday party to Billie Whitelaw’s extraordinarily sinister Mrs. Blaylock to Jerry Goldsmith’s truly iconic score this is a true horror film, and one that doesn’t rely on teenagers, alternative music or cheap cats-in-the-cupboards to freak you out. The dog, the circling tricycle, Mrs. Blaylock visiting Lee Remick at the hospital, the chorus of repetitive hellish screams…totally, completely freaky. The Omen wins. Sanguis bibimus. Corpus edimus.”

3. ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968) — “Quite easily one of the more terrifying movies ever, yet most of the film takes place in daylight or fully lit rooms, with conventional, and comedic, characters and situations being the norm. A true genius and master of the film form, Roman Polanski’s svelte handling of Ira Levin’s novel slowly and completely envelops us along with Rosemary in the futile plight of herself and her child. Sidney Blackmer’s kindly demonism contrasted with the clown-like New Yawkerisms of the completely brilliant Ruth Gordon conjure an uncommonly pleasant atmosphere of the general paranoia that arises from invasive “good neighbors”. A chilling denouement of the crescendoing Krzysztof Komeda score and a chorus of elderly worshippers of Our Dark Lord have even us wishing the best of health for the newly born Antichrist.”

Poster for They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
Unexpected horror in a drama.

4. THEY SHOOT HORSES, DON’T THEY? (1969) — “While technically not a horror film, watching spectators throw pennies at a pregnant Bonnie Bedelia struggling to sing “The Best Things in Life are Free” is much more horrifying that any supernatural spectre in a hockey or William Shatner mask. Jane Fonda’s desperate yet already fully disillusioned Gloria runs up against the massive self-denial/self-protection of Susannah York’s Alice, a woman so unable to understand her reality that she completely falls apart in a horrifying, soul-chilling shower scene that makes the viewer want to puke out their own wretched emotional innards in self-disgust. Red Buttons’ spill during the roundabout matched with Jane Fonda’s revulsed expression conjures feelings we just wish horror movies would give us. Combined with Gig Young’s turn as the carnival-barker-life announcer of the terrible festivities, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? is a panoramic masterpiece in the squirm-inducing bleak reality of personal destruction. Yowza yowza yowza!”

5. THE TENANT (1976) — “Roman Polanski, long a master of the creepfest, designed this number along with fellow Pole Roland Topor’s book-length storyline and the bizarrely frumpy Isabella Adjani, her lips plumper than ever and her bohemian style a gateway for Trelkovsky to discover his true self, that of former suicidal tenant Simone Schull. The constant badgering of everyone around him to indulge in the pleasure that Simone gave herself, combined with his inability to assert himself with either Adjani or his coworkers, or even neighbors, shows a man ready to take on a new identity because he just doesn’t have one of his own. Obviously searching for such self-affrontery Polanski’s main character even visits the former tenant in the hospital, finding her a veritable sausage made of bandages. Shelley Winters’ concierge and Melvyn Douglas’ Monsieur Zy act as further tampers of Trelkovsky’s personality, a man so overwrought that his escape is also his doom. Creepy beyond belief with mesmerizing terrors behind every armoire, stair step and even across the way in the public loo, The Tenant is a knockout of goosebump-raising delights.”

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