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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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'The Descent': A horror-thriller for movie freaks

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Poster image for "The Descent."

Neil Marshall's "The Descent" is the most exhilarating and exciting psychological horror-thriller I've seen in years. I call it a "psychological horror-thriller" because I don't know quite how to fit it into a genre. It belongs somewhere between "Deliverance," "Alien" and "Jaws" -- the story of six women for whom a cave-diving expedition becomes a descent into the abyss. This poster expresses the sensibility of the movie brilliantly (click "Continue reading" for a look at the classic Surrealist image that inspired it).

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I've seen ads that promote "The Descent" as being "from the studio that brought you 'Saw' and 'Hostel'" -- but what makes it so powerful is that it's not another piece of literal-minded torture porn. It's a smart movie designed for people who love movies, and it's full of clever and effective, ingeniously integrated references to other memorable thrillers, concentrating on classics from the 1970s (like the titles mentioned above). "The Descent" is an adrenaline work-out for anybody, but especially thrilling for movie buffs.

WARNING: Do not look up this movie on IMDb or other movie sites. Some have spoilers right there on the main page!

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"Dali Skull" (1951), by Philippe Halsman

I love this image, and how it evokes sex and death. I've had a postcard of it on my fridge since the 1980s!

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