Terrifying nightmare of a ‘well-deserved’ vacation

A small town of white houses on a sunny island, where the only noise you hear is the waves of the sea and the children playing in the street. It could be the perfect summer to kick back…unless those merry little ones are killing all the adults. It seems that Narciso Ibáñez Serrador wasn’t so sure that the rich and powerful human being from the world really deserved a vacation.

The terrifying first minutes of Who can kill a child? (1976), plagued with images of torture and mistreatment of children in Auschwitz, the bombings in Vietnam, the Korean War… were a more than convincing explanation of why the girls and boys of that island had decided to take revenge. The film is just one of the warnings from the cinema that summer break can be interrupted by more than sunburn, mosquito bites or uncomfortable gastroenteritis.

Scene from ‘Total Calm’.

“No one can find us here”

The resplendent summer can be disfigured to the horror, until it becomes the blackest and most fateful time of the year… deserved rest can be the most terrifying nightmare. And that, even if you travel to the most remote corner of the planet, where no one can bother you. Or maybe that is exactly the problem. “No one can find us here”Ed (John Voight) told Lewis (Burt Reynolds) on his escape to the Cahulawassee River —the name was invented for the film—, in North Georgia, in the middle of nature.

“Night has fallen and there is nothing we can do about it.” And so it was. In Release (John Boorman, 1972) the four businessmen from Atlanta who had been out on a hike looking for natural scenery and a bit of canoeing adventure, were met by locals who suspected these outsiders were members of the power company planning to flood their valley. The mistrust and disdain that the newcomers showed towards the inhabitants of the area unleashed a real hell.

kill each other

The brutal rape of one of them—”I bet you can squeal like a pig. Let’s squeal. Squeal now”— and dueling banjosat the beginning of the story, between Drew (Ronny Cox) and a disabled boy from the town, played by an unknown Billy Redden, they are already indelible. By the way, Redden, who couldn’t really play the banjo, went on to work on three more movies —big fishof Tim Burton, among them- and a series and in all of them he played the role of banjo man.

08/23/2022 A moment from 'The talent of Mr. Ripley'
A moment from ‘The talent of Mr. Ripley’.

Of course, that story made you wonder the same thing that Marge Sherwood, Gwyneth Paltrow in The talent of Mr. Ripley (Anthony Minghella, 1999): “Why when men play do they always play to kill each other?”. The question came in a sinister summer in Italy, where the young woman and her boyfriend, Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law), ran into Tom Ripley (Matt Damon). A guy with too many talents, “telling lies, forging signatures, and impersonating just about anyone.”

high voltage at sea

Getting on a sailboat with your partner to spend a few placid days rocked by the waves of the sea is not the best idea either, especially if you have previously caught a hitchhiker and then invited him to get on the boat. And much less if you and the other guy decide to flaunt your manhood and to compete by the same woman. Roman Polanski, the undisputed master of restlessness, obsession and claustrophobia, kicked off his impeccable and dazzling career with this story, the knife on the water (1962)that communist Poland did not like at all.

The filmmaker took the film cans and left the country to live in France. In the US, meanwhile, he had been discovered as a very promising new young director. The movie, portrait of the class and power struggle between two menUnfortunately for Poland, it was nominated for an Oscar in the Foreign Language Film category and won the FIPRESCI International Critics Award in Venice.

08/23/2022 An image of Spielberg's 'The Devil on Wheels'
An image from Spielberg’s ‘The Devil on Wheels’.

John and Rae Ingram (Sam Neill and Nicole Kidman) made the same mistake and went sailing off shore. His meeting with Hughie Warriner (Billy Zane) was disturbing in a different way and physically more dangerous than that of the couple in Polanski’s film. Director Phillip Noyce loaded ‘Total Calm’ (1989), a thriller with a lot of suspense and a certain amount of anguish, with tension.

The worst nap on the beach

Overtaking a tanker truck on a deserted highway (the devil on wheelsSpielberg, 1971) or welcome your neighbors’ guest to your summer house when he shows up asking for some eggs for dinner (Funny GamesMichael Haneke, 1997 and 2007) are also not highly recommended ideas. However, despite the atrocious unease that these stories produce in you, it is likely that we will not feel real danger thinking about them before the holidays. Something that François Ozon does achieve with under the sand (2000).

It is very difficult, if you plan a summer at the beach, not to think again about the situation of Marie Drillon, very elegant and magnificent Charlotte Rampling. She and her husband, Jean, are happy on vacation in Les Landes. He has gone swimming and she is taking a nap on the sand and under the sun. When she wakes up, her husband is not there, he has disappeared forever. Unable to find him, she can’t even confirm that she is dead. Born from a real experience that the filmmaker lived in childhood, the film is a very hard exploration through the nooks and crannies of death and mourning.

Happy Holidays!

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