10 Modern-Day Movies Inspired By (Or Rip-Offs Of) Alfred Hitchcock
By Becky Bain
Alfred Hitchcock finally earns a spot center frame with two biopics this year – HBO's The Girl last month, and the big-screen Hitchcock, out Nov. 23. It’s curious it took this long for Hollywood to give the Master of Suspense a proper theatrical tribute, though you could argue they’ve been doing just that for years. More than a few movies owe the director, whether through loving homage… or blatant hijacking of Hitch’s iconic cinematic style.
High Anxiety (1977)
A year after the release of Hitchcock’s final film, Family Plot, came this Mel Brooks parody in which the director plays a man wrongly accused of murder, a common trope of many Hitch films. The Psycho shower scene, an inconvenient case of vertigo, and a brutal bird attack (complete with droppings) all get skewered in this funny flick. Hitch considered the movie a compliment, and sent Brooks a bottle of wine in appreciation.
The Halloween series (1978 – 2002)
Norman Bates in Psycho inspired a seemingly never-ending line of slasher movies with knife-wielding villains, the first being boogeyman Michael Myers in Halloween. Besides its main baddie, the film has an even closer tie to Psycho – its star, Jamie Lee Curtis, is daughter to Janet Leigh, the doomed blonde from Hitchcock’s classic. (Leigh would eventually provide a cameo in 1998’s Halloween H20.)
Dressed to Kill (1980)
Really, you could pick any Brian DePalma film and put it on this list – Blow Out, Body Double and Obsession were all inspired by Hitchcock films, but perhaps none more overtly than Dressed to Kill. DePalma’s ode to Psycho thriller has shower scenes, murderous men in women’s clothes, and the main character being killed almost immediately. It even ends with the villain in an insane asylum while a doctor explains it all to the audience.
Throw Momma from the Train (1987)
Danny DeVito went the comedic route in his retelling of Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train, in which two strangers conspire to commit murders for one another. Hitchcock’s original film plays a defining role in this comedy, as the meek Owen (DeVito) hatches his plan to kill the ex-wife of his writing professor (Billy Crystal) in exchange for offing his overbearing mother (a hilarious Anne Ramsey) after watching Strangers on a Train on TV.
Gus Van Sant’s shot-for-shot remake was a pointless exercise, unless the point was to prove that you can’t become a master filmmaker just by copying one. Van Sant added a few needless flourishes, like Anne Heche’s nudity in the shower scene (Janet Leigh’s nudity was implied), as well as Norman Bates (played by the entirely miscast Vince Vaughn) masturbating while peering at his prey through his peephole. That’s one way to update Hitch’s most noteworthy flick for modern times.
What Lies Beneath (2000)
As Robert Zemeckis’ icy cool blonde, Michelle Pfeiffer suspects her next door neighbor of killing his wife and believes her house is haunted. Zemeckis hoped to film a movie the British director would have made himself. Despite elements of Rear Window-level suspense in this thriller, Roger Ebert accurately noted that Hitchcock would never have told a story involving the supernatural, preferring to focus on the dark side of the human psyche.
Bad Education (2004)
As with DePalma, almost all of Pedro Almodovar’s films can be considered Hitchcockian. But his psychological murder mystery Bed Education channels the horror master best, with its use of doubles, mistaken identities and plotted revenge. Almodovar was even inspired by Hitch’s routine walk-ons in his films, and cast himself as a pool cleaner in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo.
This Shia LaBeouf-starring film has the basic plot of Rear Window, but tweaked for teens. Instead of being holed up with a broken leg, LaBeouf is under house arrest when he discovers what may be his next door neighbor in the middle of a murder. Entertaining enough, it lacks the clever use of POV as well as the suspense of its muse. Note to teens: just watch Rear Window.
Buried tells the story of a man (a spectacular Ryan Reynolds) trapped in a box buried underground, and we stay with him the whole time – in real time – as he attempts to get out. The claustrophobic film echoes Hitchcock experiments like Rear Window and Lifeboat (one limited location) and Rope (also told in real time). With its twists and nearly unbearable suspense and dread, the story feels like one Hitch would have made if he were around today.
Birdemic: Shock And Terror (2010)
Amateur filmmaker James Nguyen’s tribute to The Birds had a budget of only $10,000 and took four years to produce, and it shows – the film has become a cult phenomenon for its astounding excuse for special effects and sad attempts at natural dialogue and acting. Nguyen’s horrible horror flick has one thing in common with Hitchcock’s classic: Tippi Hedren – the actress appears on a television screen in archival footage, getting her third-billing in the credits.