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They/he. Writer of fiction, screenplays, plays, reviews, essays, and poetry. Chicago. https://linktr.ee/jshetina

[PSYCHO IV: THE BEGINNING]

In Psycho IV, Norman Bates seems to exist outside of space and time. Surely after the last movie, he couldn’t have been released from another incarceration. Yet here he is, skulking around a suburban kitchen, preparing for his own birthday celebration. It is ostensibly nighttime, but the director and cinematographer remain indecisive about this. At the beginning, it is pitch black outside. A few moments later, it appears to be dusk. Then, a few scenes later, it is night again. It’s hard to know whether this is a product of incompetence, forgetfulness, or conscious choice — and if so, what…


[PSYCHO III]

The first scene of Psycho III pays tribute to another Hitchcock classic.

Diana Scarwid, five years removed from her role in the delicious camp classic Mommie Dearest, plays a suicidal young nun named Maureen Coyle. When we meet her, she is weeping, declaring that “THERE IS NO GOD!” and, in a somewhat unexpected turn, asks the same God she’s just renounced for a sign of his existence. Apparently receiving no answer from him, we next see her standing on the ledge of a bell tower, invoking Kim Novak in Vertigo, and repeating her anguished cry: “There is no God!”

Horrified…


[PSYCHO II]

Film bros and critics of the slasher subgenre like to imagine the Psycho sequels as symbolic necrophilia against Hitchcock. It’s a strange critique, considering how many post-Sixties films owe a debt to Psycho. Its innovations inspired too many movies to name and most of them are miles worse than anything you can find in the sequels made after Hitchcock’s death. It’s a shame that some people can’t move past their aversion to these movies. What the Psycho sequels, particularly the first two, do well is engage with the rich mythos of Norman Bates.

Despite some gruesome deaths — it was…


[CARRIE]

Trust me, Carrie. You can trust me.

The sun shines down on a group of teenage girls in gym uniforms lobbing a volleyball ball back and forth. Laughing, shouting, goading.

The gym teacher calls out “Game point!”

The mood changes. As the group becomes more intense, we hone in on Carrie White (Sissy Spacek), a thin and freckle-faced girl who looks terrified. Hers is a terror familiar to those of us athletically challenged people who looked at gym class as a consistent arena for humiliation.

Inevitably, Carrie loses the game for her team. She casts her big eyes downward as…


[THE MALTESE FALCON]

Don’t be too sure I’m as crooked as I’m supposed to be.

FADE IN: A San Francisco private eye’s office. Day.

Sitting at his desk is the cool and brutal-looking Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart), rolling a cigarette and answering a knock at the door. His trusty secretary Effie Perrine (Lee Perrine) walks in. A woman is here to see Spade. “Customer?” he asks. Knowing his tastes, she flashes a cheeky grin and tells him “You’ll want to see her anyway, she’s a knockout.”

“Shoo her in,” Spade says with deadened nonchalance.

The woman in question (Mary Astor) identifies herself as…


[THE DEAD]

The festivities featured in The Dead are marked by performances. There are songs before dinner, speeches during dinner, poetic recitations, dances, and impromptu monologues, and all of them are made in the spirit of tradition and togetherness. These performances and recitations unlock memories, both beautiful and painful, which hang over the celebrants like mournful phantoms.

MR. GRACE: “You have taken what is to the left of me, you have taken what is to the right of me, you have taken what is behind me, you have taken what is before me, and, it is my greatest fear, you have taken…


[KLUTE]

Don’t feel bad about losing your virtue. I sort of knew you would. Everybody always does.

A character study in neo-noir drag: Donald Sutherland’s Klute is a small-town private detective from “Cabbage Patch, Pennsylvania” tasked with finding an old friend whose association with an acerbic and uncooperative call girl, Bree Daniel, might be the only lead in his disappearance. Bree, though almost proudly self-possessed, has had her nerves wracked by a series of breather phone calls and the suspicion she’s being followed. …


Fiction: “I said to my husband: I’m going to tell you how I got disinvited from my brunch group.”

Photo by Sérgio Alves Santos

I said to my husband: I’m going to tell you how I got disinvited from my brunch group.

We get together every Sunday and that has been the tradition for nearly four years. At this point, though, I really can’t remember how it started or how I even met all these women.

At this point, my husband gives me a look like Get on with it. So I get on with it.

Though we don’t all show up every week, we try our best. Oddly enough, I may be one of the more consistent members of the group.

Marie is…


[MILDRED PIERCE]

Personally, Veda’s convinced me that alligators have the right idea. They eat their young.

Along with Stella Dallas and Now, Voyager, Mildred Pierce is one of the north stars of the Hollywood “woman’s picture.”

It begins with a man’s death at the hands of an unseen gunman (or gunwoman), and after a slippery series of set-ups, the gorgeously tragic Mildred Pierce (Joan Crawford) is arrested for the murder. She spills her story to the interviewing officer.

Mildred tells how us that she is a recently divorced single mother trying to provide for her two daughters. Her younger daughter dies, leaving…

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