5. Arlington Road (1999)
We talked about neighbors. Indeed, there have been many films since “Rear Window” that deal with people watching their neighbors, their neighborhood, or getting suspected by their neighbors. “Arlington Road” is one of them; it plays more serious than some of De Palma’s thrillers, like, let’s say “Body Double,” but still has similarities to his movies, especially “Blow Out” since this movie deals with political terrorism. It’s not on that level, but is still a gripping mystery film with some social drama that would satisfy many paranoid thriller lovers.
The movie basically asks the question: “What would you do if your next door neighbors were radicals bent on political terrorism?” when Michael Faraday, a professor of history at George Washington University and an expert on American terrorism, starts to suspect his neighbors. Jeff Bridges and Tim Robbins are solid in the leading roles, but one can argue that the scariest scene in the film happens when Joan Cusack’s character realizes Hope Davis has been following her. In the end, “Arlington Road” is a multi-layered, impressive suspense.
4. Body Heat (1981)
Ned Racine is a rather incompetent lawyer with a small Florida office and is constantly changing female acquaintances. When he meets the married Matty Walker, he begins a passionate affair with her. After a few hot nights, they both decide to kill Matty’s wealthy husband, Edmund. Matty tells Ned that on the basis of a will, she would inherit half of the property, the other half going to Edmund’s sister’s daughter.
Okay, maybe it’s not too De Palma-ish when you think about it because the styles are different enough, but then this is also a thriller from the same era; it has a femme fatale, neo-noirs with similar worldviews, and both have a lot of Hitchcock influences. Tarantino once said De Palma is like Hitchcock’s censor-free version. Indeed, films like this exploit the possibilities of noir in an era without censorship. Also influenced from Billy Wilder’s “Double Indemnity,” the film is also notable for launching Kathleen Turner’s career, but watch out for an almost scene-stealing turn from Mickey Rourke in two scenes.
3. A Simple Favor (2018)
Did you watch “Passion” yet? If not, then please do because not many directors make movies like that anymore. Eroticism and campiness had been part of De Palma’s thrillers, and “A Simple Favor” is a kind of homage to such films. It had every element to be a cult film and it seems that recently it gained a lot of new fans. So, brace yourself for a possible sequel.
“A Simple Favor” is about the disappearance of a woman and how it puts other lead female characters in a suspicious and confused position. There’s no need to go into the plot details because what makes this film work so well is that Feig uses a very fine line between a mystery thriller and a slightly campy comedy. Creating the right tone and having that right balance is very hard. Just one mistake can be fatal enough but fortunately, Feig knows where to go over-the-top and when to stop, and that’s why “A Simple Favor” works great in both ways – it’s an original, interesting story on its own but it also works as a kind of parody of similar films as well. It’s as if simultaneously he takes the material both seriously and not seriously, which works great for the material. The wonderful aesthetics, costumes, color use, and great performances by Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively also help. Lively, in fact, is almost iconic in this.
2. L’Amant Double (2017)
Chloé, a former model, suffers from abdominal pain and depression. She then consults the psychotherapist Paul, with whom she falls in love. Months later, the couple moves in together. Chloé soon realizes that Paul has kept part of his identity a secret from her. He has an identical twin brother named Louis, who also works as a psychologist. Chloé is then presented to Louis anonymously as a patient and begins a passionate affair with him, but his personality is different enough.
A kinky, trashy French thriller where David Cronenberg meets with Brian De Palma. You’ll keep remembering “Dead Ringers” and “Sisters.” Francois Ozon is one of the most interesting European filmmakers today, and what makes him interesting is that he keeps making movies back-to-back. He’s very prolific but also surprisingly versatile. While his signatures are often obvious, he also loves to pay homage and explore different genres. Ozon has done thrillers before, with “Swimming Pool” having a lot of Hitchcock influences, but seems “L’Amant Double” is the one where he leans more to De Palma than Hitchcock.
1. Elle (2016)
The producer of this film, Ben Saïd, is actually working on the new De Palma project, a Weinstein-influenced horror/thriller film. No surprise as there are some similarities between De Palma’s thrillers with Dutch auteur Paul Verhoeven’s stuff. They sure enjoy their psychosexual templates and they both had films that were lambasted by critics on release, but celebrated by cinephiles in retrospect.
“Elle”opens with a brutal sexual assault witnessed by a house cat and filmed with pitiless detachment, but Verhoeven is not interested in cheap thrills; and the violence is never for the sake of violence. This film cannot be understood without the presence of Isabelle Huppert in a role that many actresses rejected, but the legendary actress mixes fragility and strength, in the style of the protagonists of De Palma’s best thrillers. She is a deliberately ambiguous character, with whom the viewer has very difficult empathy despite suffering a violation in the first minute of the footage. It’s hard to describe “Elle” without giving spoilers, and spoilers are not necessarily the plot details but what is expected for you, because the character and set-up of events are so unpredictable and so fascinating that it’s beyond words. It’s also the second Isabelle Huppert film on the list. One would wish her to collaborate with De Palma on something.