Friday, October 19, 2012

Night of Terror #19: Body Double

I was pretty horrified to discover that last year I went all October without writing up a single Brian De Palma movie. Not even Carrie! I don't know what I was thinking, but as always I blame illegal immigrants.

Anyway, I decided to cover probably his second-most Halloween-appropriate film Body Double. From the opening seconds of the movie, with its blood-oozing title sequence and cheesy vampire in a coffin, it's made clear that De Palma will be utilizing all kinds of horror movie grammar for his exploration of pet themes: Voyeurism, sex, murder, and movies.

The film follows Craig Wasson as a struggling actor (Wasson, in a sly in-joke by the filmmakers, is best known as comedian Bill Maher's personal body double) who gets roped into an unlikely murder scheme, and begins to worry that he's been duped into "playing the part" of witness to the perfect murder. The plot crystallizes into a blend of Rear Window, Vertigo, and 80s porno that only De Palma could have pulled off. Even before the plot really gets going there's a virtuosic sequence of Craig Wasson following a woman through a Los Angeles shopping mall that's suspenseful, sexy, and creepy.

I won't go further into the plot since I try to avoid spoilers, but I will say that Body Double isn't so much a horror movie as it is about horror movies - in part, anyway. And like lots of horror movies (good and bad), the Freudian imagery is spread thickly and heavily - it practically drips off of the movie like the blood in the title sequence. The famous "drill-kill" scene alone could probably fill a chapter about phallic imagery in horror movies. Freud once said that sometimes a killer drill is just a killer drill, but this isn't one of those times.

In conclusion I should single out Pino Donaggio's score, which shifts masterfully from cheesecake to terror and back again so many times it's easy to take it for granted. I love the way that in the first half of the movie the theme that plays every time Wasson spies on his sexy neighbor almost acts as a cheesecake version of the Jaws theme.

Also if you don't like this movie you don't like movies. Bye!

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