Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Still scary




Some aspects of the film - both in content and style - are quite dated, but that tanker truck...man, it's still scary as ever.

The menacing aura of the truck throughout the film has to do largely with it having that aura from the very first frame in which we see it. The subtlety and quiet understatement of the truck's appearance is disquieting; you know it forebodes ill. From there it gets worse and worse.

Spielberg introduces it slickly at the end of a five minute sequence of Dennis Weaver driving and listening to the radio. First he does this short leftwards pan towards Weaver's face in the mirror:






Then after a few other shots the next time we see the road ahead is via pan to the right (sort of reverse echo of the previous pan):





and there's the truck.

Then quickly it goes to this:







I'm not sure, but I think there is a technical term for that kind of shot, the name of which I forget. I'm pretty sure it's one in which they do something with the lens to close off the space between a foreground object and whatever is in front of the foreground object. It achieves a kind of super depth that makes whatever is in front of the foreground object appear looming and towering.


Irvin Kershner does it right here with Darth Vader:





I might be mistaken in thinking them the same. Anyways it's probably employed to the point of hack cliche in the horror genre, just like Hitchcock's infamous simultaneous zoom-in/zoom-out device for Vertigo (which of course Spielberg took to another level in Jaws - after which point it was basically open season on the device. LOL!)

1 comment:

Belfry Bat said...

From the description you give (I haven't watched the clips) this sounds like the combination move of dolly-out/zoom-in ... that's how my brother expressed it. It's a very Hitchcock move. What's going on is that the camera is getting further from the subject, so paralax of things around it is diminished; but because the magnification changes so as to keep the framing (which we're not used to happening in real life!) the subject itself becomes exaggerated. Or you can do it the other way around, so that the audience feels like the world is sinking away... as at 2:02 in this classic moment. Very disorienting, either way. Oh! I see "dolly zoom" brings up a lot of technique clips on youtube. There you go.