Alfred Hitchcock isn’t just “The Master of Suspense,” he’s one of the trail-blazing and more influential filmmakers who was active in the twentieth century (if not the most influential). Hitch was immortalized in last year’s cinematic memoir Hitchcock, but his impact carries on in the present and can be observed through the stylistic choices, themes and stories explored by many a working director today.
The ‘Hitchock style’ has been reflected throughout numerous films released this century, including select works produced by such auteurs as David Fincher (Panic Room), Woody Allen (Match Point) and, of course, Brian De Palma (Femme Fatale). Similarly, over that same period of time, there have been several movies released which feel like Hitchcock films – only “re-imagined” and repackaged for modern audiences.
In honor of National Hitchcock Day, we’re counting down five such recent films (re: those released since the year 2000) that were heavily inspired or influenced by the director’s work.
The What Lies Beneath script co-written by Clark Gregg (who plays Agent Coulson in The Avengers) and two-time Oscar-winner Sarah Kernochan (9 1/2 Weeks) revisits the murder-mystery plot of Hitchcock’s Rear Window by combining it with a may-or-may-not-be supernatural angle. Moreover, the protagonist is a blonde heroine (Michelle Pfieffer) – the same archetype that appeared throughout Hitch’s films – and her husband (Harrison Ford) is even named Norman, as a reference to Norman Bates from Psycho.
Director Robert Zemeckis took everything a step further, by emulating Hitchcock’s visual style through suspenseful editing and carefully-composed shot selection (drawing from Alan Silvestri’s score, which is mean to harken back to Bernard Herrmann’s compositions for many Hitchcock pictures). That’s not to say anyone would mistake What Lies Beneath for a Hitchcock production, but his figurative prints are all over that exploration of married life’s dark side.
Hitchcock’s 1938 film The Lady Vanishes (based on Ethel Lina White’s novel “The Wheel Spins”) is a mystery novel-turned film involving a shady collection of people aboard a moving train. Nowadays, though, planes are the preferred means of transportation across vast distances, which makes Flightplan an appropriate contemporary re-imagining of that premise.
That’s not to say the script from Peter A. Dowling and Billy Ray (The Hunger Games) is a pure knock-off, but there are definite parallels between Lady Vanishes and this thriller about a mother (Jodie Foster) whose daughter mysteriously vanishes mid-flight. Some of the similarities were accidental, as the main character was originally written to be a man (with Sean Penn eyed to play the role) and not a woman, a la Hitch’s comical-thriller. Nonetheless, director Robert Schwentke (RED) very much constructs the film as the sort of sinister guessing game that the “Master of Suspense” would’ve liked to play.
Director D.J. Caruso’s Disturbia is often referred to as being “Rear Window starring Shia LaBeouf,” and with good reason. Christopher Landon (Paranormal Activity 2-4) wrote the story and script in the 1990s, but it was put on hold after Rear Window was remade in 1998 (starring the late Christopher Reeve). Even after the delay, the right holders to Cornell Woolrich’s story “It Had to be Murder” (the basis for Rear Window) sued the studios and people behind Caruso’s film.
That lawsuit ultimately failed because Disturbia does go far enough in refashioning Rear Window as a mystery-thriller involving a housebound young man (LaBeouf) in the suburbs, who suspects his neighbor is a killer. Nonetheless, when you break the story down to its basic components, it kinda feels like someone played Mad Libs with the setup for Hitchcock’s famous single-setting tale of voyeurism and murder – and turned the results into a script featuring teenagers.
One year after Disturbia hit theaters, director D.J. Caruso and actor Shia LaBeouf reunited for Eagle Eye. The lucrative action-thriller is about as incredulous and preposterous as they come, but the similarities between its core plot and character elements and Hitchcock’s North by Northwest are readily apparent (once you look past certain logic-defying story points that I will not spoil here).
Both films, for example, follow an amiable and unsuspecting main character (LaBeouf), who must run for his life after becoming involved in an elaborate scheme involving mistaken identities, criminal forces, federal agents and a woman (Michelle Monaghan) who may or may not be more than she appears. Caruso doesn’t stage the set pieces or action with the sophistication and wit of North by Northwest, but he does travel a similar route towards producing high-tension storytelling.
Korean filmmaker Park Chan-Wook’s American debut Stoker is currently playing in theaters (read our review), but it’s one of the more direct takeoffs from Hitchcock’s cinema released this century. Indeed, screenwriter Wenworth Miller (star of the TV series Prison Break) has openly and proudly admitted that Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt was the “jumping off point” for his script.
Stoker, like Shadow of a Doubt, revolves around a young woman (Mia Wasikowska) who discovers that her mysterious Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) may not be the gentleman he presents himself as. The films different significantly in other regards, in terms of story developments and artistic style. However, there’s no question that Chan-Wook’s first Holllywood picture can be considered a direct descendent of the Hitchcock school for movie-making.
Bad Education: Pedro Almodóvar’s edgy 2004 mystery drama/thriller unquestionably pays homage to Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Furthermore, the director’s 2009 film Broken Embraces is a reflection on himself as a filmmaker, similar to Hitch’s 1958 masterpiece.
Phone Booth: Believe it or not, screenwriter Larry Cohen pitched this project to Hitchcock back in the 1960s. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to “crack” the story until a few decades later (after the director had passed away).
Buried: Director Rodrigo Cortés works political and social themes into a terse single-location thriller in a manner that reflects the Hitchcock influence (not to mention, its Vertigo-esque poster graphics).
House at the End of the Street: Without spoiling anything, let’s just say this Jennifer Lawrence thriller borrows a handful of useful tricks from Psycho.
Feel free to discuss other films inspired by Hitchcock (be they recent or not), in the comments section of this article.