History Lessons: “Psychics” (Episode 3.3)

From last night’s episode of Eli Roth’s History of Horror, some insightful words about films dealing with psychic phenomena…


Joe Hill: We’re enticed by the idea that we could be so much more powerful if only we could read other people’s minds. But, in fact, not being able to shut out other people’s thoughts sounds pretty terrifying.


Mike Flanagan: Really, if you take The Shining and Doctor Sleep together, the cycle of addiction and recovery and alcoholism, that’s the story that’s being told. And that’s where Doctor Sleep doesn’t feel like a sequel to me. It feels like the conclusion of one long conversation.


Cate Blanchett: But I think that’s what I really love about “horror,” is that there’s no sentimentality, and so if you looked at that story [The Gift], you know, there’s another way we could have turned it and it could’ve been quite sentimental. But there’s something about Sam [Raimi’s] perspective on stuff and putting the notion of genre within that story, that allows you to kind of Trojan horse this really quite painful family drama without it ever veering off into sort of mawkish territory, which I think is great.


Joe Dante: You know, in the 70’s, everybody was being exploited for sinister purposes. I mean, it was the Nixon era: everybody was a little paranoid about the government. All those movies that basically said that you can’t trust the government, it’s up to something and it’s spying on you and they’re taking these young kids who have these abilities and making sure that they use them for ill.


Edgar Wright: There are things that are in The Fury that have been ripped off in every film about psychic powers, including superhero movies, ever since. It’s like the
Rick Baker effect of the throbbing veins in the head.


Eli Roth: With The Dead Zone, Cronenberg swapped the cold objectivity of Scanners for a much more intimate approach to psychic phenomena.


Geena Davis: You’re probably supposed to interpret [Beetlejuice] through Lydia’s perspective, and she is very much an outsider who comes to belong through very unusual means by having ghost parents who are better parents to her than her real parents.


Jeffrey Combs:  [The Frighteners] corkscrews into something that you’re not even prepared for, and that’s the genius of it. It’s a movie that you can’t quite categorize, because it’s many things. After setting you up thinking this is just gonna be some pleasant, safe little ride, it takes you down a rabbit hole of true horror. Isn’t that what a movie is supposed to do, is take you on an unexpected journey?


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