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Hearts in Atlantis (2001) by Scott Hicks
This is a gentle, innocent film about the reflections of an aging man, who returns to his home town after the death of his best friend. Memories of life at age 11 floods back as it was a magical time that changed his life. Three 11 year old children share their lives. Carol and Bobby have a special affection for one another including sharing a kiss "by which all others will be measured". Bobby lives with his mother, a bitter, vain woman who looks for pleasures for herself without sharing much with her son. Into their lives comes a mysterious new boarder, who befriends the boy but generates distrust from the mother. As time passes, the man and boy share confidences and special powers are revealed. The man warns the boy to be on the lookout for the "lowmen", who were seeking him. The two share a summer's adventures and come to love one another before the inevitable happens.
Suspect Zero (2004) by E. Elias Merhige
FBI Agent Tom Mackelway finds himself caught in a cat-and-mouse game with a brutal serial killer, and all clues point to a renegade agent "gone native." Trained by the government to use his psychic abilities (remote viewing) to track and capture other serial killers, the renegade is killing other serial killers and claims to be in pursuit of the ultimate serial killer, a man he calls Suspect Zero. As Mackelway becomes increasingly obsessed with his suspect, he must decide what happens when pursuer and prey come face to face - and if rational justice or primal revenge will prevail.
Premonition (2007) by Mennan Yapo
Linda Hanson has a beautiful house, a loving husband and two adorable daughters. Her life is perfect, until the day she gets the devastating news that her husband Jim has died in a car accident. When she wakes up the next morning to find him alive and well, she assumes it as all a dream. Or was it? Suddenly, her perfect life is turned upside down as she begins a desperate scramble to save her family and uncover the truth.
The Gift (2000) by Sam Raimi
A struggling mother of two uses her powerful psychic gifts to support her family. The psychic is played by one of my favorite actresses, Cate Blanchett, who delivers a great performance, as always. A beautiful young woman turns up missing and Cate's services are reluctantly called upon by the police. With the help of a ghost and her psychic visions, she is lead to the gruesome murder scene on the property of man who has become her personal adversary. But are her assertions that the murderer is the town's rebel and wife beater (very well played by Keanu Reeves) or are there darker forces at work? This is a great ghost movie with strong actors, twists and a nice look at the life of a small town psychic.
6th Sense (1999) by M. Night Shyamalan
For the rare few that have not seen this, I don't want to ruin the great twists of this movie, but this flick illustrates the point I often make about how ghosts either don't know they are dead, or are stuck in this world because of an attachment to a horrible event in their life. Ghosts in this movie use a psychic boy to resolve issues that keep them haunting places and people. I found some scenes, like when one little girl pukes in the boys bedroom pretty darned scary. It did a good job of scaring you with subtleties like cold rooms, fleeting shadows of children moving around, and so on. Very well acted and produced!
Poltergeist (1982) by Tobe Hooper
The film is about a haunted suburban tract home in a development very much like the Arizona one in which Spielberg was raised. Spielberg also cowrote the screenplay, which taps into primal, childlike fears of monsters under the bed, monsters in the closet, sinister clown faces, and all manner of things that go bump in the night. At first, some of the odd happenings in the house are kind of funny and amusing, but they grow gradually creepier until the film climaxes in a terrifying special-effects extravaganza when 5-year-old Carole Anne is kidnapped by the spooks and held hostage in another dimension.
Ghost (1990) by Jerry Zucker
Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze are the passionate lovers whose romance is undone when the latter is murdered during a bungled hit arranged by a rival. The clever concept extends outward into comedy (Swayze's character communicates through a sassy medium played by Whoopi Goldberg, who won an Oscar for this role), horror (the afterlife is populated by hell-bound demons and the like), and romantic complications (a handsome suitor, played by Tony Goldwyn, comes on to Moore while Swayze's spirit is still hanging around). Ghost is a careful balancing act of strong commercial elements, but at heart it is a timeless Hollywood tearjerker that easily gets under one's skin.
Carrie (1976) by Brian De Palma
This terrifying adaptation of Stephen King's bestselling horror novel was directed by shock maestro Brian De Palma for maximum, no-holds-barred effect. Sissy Spacek stars as Carrie White, the beleaguered daughter of a religious kook and a social outcast tormented by her cruel, insensitive classmates. When her rage turns into telekinetic powers, however, school's out in every sense of the word. De Palma's horrific climax in a school gym lingers forever in the memory, though the film is also built upon Spacek's remarkable performance and Piper Laurie's outlandishly creepy one.
Powder (1995) by Victor Salva
For all its flaws, Powder is still worthwhile for attempting to be unique and well intentioned. Powder is a welcome step off the beaten path with sufficient strengths to balance its weaknesses. Fantasy and drama combine in the story of a teenager known as Powder for his snow-white skin. Powder is introduced into a tiny Texas community after spending his entire life in his grandparents' basement. He's a wise genius, but an outcast, alienated by those who misunderstand and fear him. When a schoolmaster (Mary Steenburgen) and science teacher (Jeff Goldblum) discover that Powder has a capacity for empathic insight and possesses the power to control electricity, the unusual boy becomes a tragic Christ-like figure -peaceful, prophetic, and perhaps too good to survive in the real world.
Phenomenon (1996) by Jon Turteltaub
Travolta plays a mechanic who sees a bright light in the sky one night and wakes up the next morning a genius, hungry for knowledge and so smart he figures out national defense secrets in his own living room (and gets in hot water for it). The more interesting drama, however, is not with the government but with the character's longtime neighbors and friends, who come to reject him for being different. Robert Duvall gives a stirring performance as a doctor who has known the hero all his life, and Kyra Sedgwick is very good as an ambivalent love interest.
The Fury (1978) by Brian De Palma
Brian De Palma's complicated horror story from 1978 never did come together correctly, but it still has pockets of real inspiration as only the director could conceive. Andrew Stevens and Amy Irving play teens with telekinetic powers that intelligence agencies want to harness, and Kirk Douglas stands between his kids and their nefarious exploiters. The film bogs down during Douglas's guilt-ridden, booze-fueled quest to find his son, but De Palma's elaborate, sometimes operatic violence and action sequences are genuinely mesmerizing.
Rose Red (2002) by Craig R. Baxley
On regular television, punctuated by frenetic commercials, the leisurely pace of the horror miniseries Rose Red probably felt grueling; but on its own terms, the effect is like settling into a long book full of detail -- a book not unlike those of Stephen King, who wrote the script. The story (about a researcher into the paranormal who takes a team of psychics into a haunted house) recycles themes that King has used before -- a telekinetic girl, a house with its own consciousness -- but for his fans, the familiarity is probably comfortable and even enjoyable.
Minority Report (2002) by Steven Spielberg
Spielberg's gritty vision was freely adapted from a story by Philip K. Dick, with its central premise of "Precrime" law enforcement, totally reliant on three isolated human "precogs" capable (due to drug-related mutation) of envisioning murders before they're committed. As Precrime's confident captain, Tom Cruise preempts these killings like a true action hero, only to run for his life when he is himself implicated in one of the precogs' visions. Inspired by the brainstorming of expert futurists, Spielberg packs this paranoid chase with potential conspirators (Max Von Sydow, Colin Farrell), domestic tragedy, and a heartbreaking precog pawn (Samantha Morton), while Cruise's performance gains depth and substance with each passing scene.
Scanners (1981) by David Cronenberg
David Cronenberg's 1981 horror film is a darkly paranoid story of a homeless man (Stephen Lack) mistakenly believed to be insane, when in fact he can't turn off the sound of other people's thoughts in his telepathic mind. Helped by a doctor (Patrick McGoohan) and enlisted in a program of "scanners" -- telepaths who also can will heads to explode -- he becomes involved in a battle against nefarious forces. A number of critics consider this to be Cronenberg's first great film, and indeed it has a serious vision of destiny that rivals some of the important German expressionist works from the silent cinema. Lack is very good as the odd hero, and McGoohan is effectively eccentric and chilly as the scientist who saves him from the street, only to thrust him into a terrible struggle.
The Dead Zone (1983) by David Cronenberg
The Dead Zone is based on a novel by Stephen King, directed by David Cronenberg. While it has great atmospheric eeriness and undeniably scary moments, The Dead Zone is at heart a sensitive and thoughtful portrayal of main character Johnny Smith's dilemma. Christopher Walken, king of the vaguely creepy, plays Smith, a man who awakens from a five-year coma with the very mixed blessing of second sight. At the mere touch of a hand, Smith is unwillingly launched into scenes of past and future terror. The Dead Zone wisely takes its time telling the story, and thus allows for some great performances.
Dreamscape (1984) by Joseph Ruben
Alex Gardner is a talented young psychic who's frittering his gifts away betting on the ponies. That is, until he's coerced by his old pal and mentor Dr. Paul Novotny into taking part in a dream research project in which his psychic abilities make him indispensable. The project concerns "dreamlinking," whereby talented individuals like Alex hook up via electrodes and project themselves into some troubled subject's nightmares, in which they not only observe but participate in the dream, hopefully effecting some remedy. Turns out Blair's real aim is to use the project to train dreamlink assassins, his star pupil being psycho Tommy Ray and his test case the President. Only Alex is there to stop them.
The Cell (2000) by Tarsem Singh
Catharine Deane is a psychotherapist who is part of a revolutionary new treatment which allows her mind to literally enter the mind of her patients. Her experience in this method takes an unexpected turn when an FBI agent comes to ask for a desperate favour. They had just tracked down a notorious serial killer, Carl Stargher, whose MO is to abduct women one at a time and place them in a secret area where they are kept for about 40 hours until they are slowly drowned. Unfortunately, the killer has fallen into an irreversible coma which means he cannot confess where he has taken his latest victim before she dies. Now, Catherine Deane must race against time to explore the twisted mind of the killer to get the information she needs, but Stargher's damaged personality poses dangers that threaten to overwhelm her.
Flatliners (1990) by Joel Schumacher
What if you could stop your heart to simulate a temporary death, and then be revived so you could describe your near-death experience to others? The mysteries of life -and the afterlife- compel five medical students to experiment with their own mortality, and what they discover has unsettling psychological implications. That's the intriguing premise of this neo-Gothic horror thriller. The movie borders on silliness at times, and the near-death recollection of memories results in some repetitious scenes, but the dynamic young cast takes it all quite seriously, which is what keeps this gaudy thriller on the edge.
The Butcher's Wife (1991) by Terry Hughes
Marina , a blonde Southern belle with a clairvoyant streak, sees signs - a shooting star with two tails, a snowglobe that washes up on the beach, a wedding band inside of a fish - telling her that her true love is about to come ashore. And soon enough, a boat lands on the beach in front of her home; only the guy inside is a stout butcher from New York City named Leo. Still, portents are portents, and the next thing you know she's married and running barefoot around a butcher's shop in Greenwich Village, where she inspires various residents with her predictions. Leo, however, is creeped out by his wife's abilities, and encourages her to see Alex, a psychiatrist who works across the street. To placate him, she does - and soon begins to suspect that she's misread her signs and married the wrong man.
Thoughtcrimes (2003) by Breck Eisner
Freya McAllister suddenly starts hearing voices in her head on the night of her High School Prom. From then on her future ends and she is diagnosed as a violent schizophrenic and committed to a mental hospital where she spends the next eight years of her life in mental madness. One night Dr Michael Welles arrives telling Freya that she isn't crazy but that her voices are the thoughts of everyone around her. He teaches her to turn her telepathic powers into a powerful gift. What he doesn't say is that he works for the National Security Agency.
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