Monday Movie: Wait Until Dark
Every Monday, we’ll recommend a movie. It could be a classic, an overlooked recent treasure, an unfairly maligned personal favorite or whatever the hell we feel like.
This Halloween season, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to movies one wouldn’t necessarily categorize as horror but that make extensive use of the tropes and mechanics of the horror genre. Having recently re-watched Adam Wingard’s You’re Next, I was reminded of another tale of an unlikely heroine fighting back against a home invasion, Terence Young’s Wait Until Dark. Young is probably best known as the director of three of the earliest James Bond movies. Here, he trades globe-trotting decadence and spectacle for a stage adaptation that takes place almost entirely within one apartment. The results are no less grand. Audrey Hepburn plays Susy, a blind woman who has, through unfortunate happenstance, come into possession of a doll filled with narcotics. A group of criminals, led by the sadistic Roat (Alan Arkin, delightfully slimy), con their way into her home and attempt to find their product. As Susy slowly but methodically figures out their true nature, an increasingly frustrated and desperate Roat turns more and more violent. By simultaneously putting us in the headspace of a blind woman and letting us see more danger than she can sense, Young creates a dramatic tension that maintains its own momentum. The finale, an all-time classic sequence, levels the playing field by plunging the whole apartment into darkness. It’s at this moment that Young cranks up the horror elements. There are jump scares and unseen threats lurking in the shadows. And, more than a decade before John Carpenter’s Halloween, Roat becomes a proto-Mike Myers, the relentless stalker who is almost supernaturally unkillable. With economical, clockwork precision and a masterfully suspenseful tone, Wait Until Dark earns its reputation as one of the very best non-horror horror movies.