Projecting the Dark Side

October calls for the macabre and the psychotic.

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Around Town

It’s one of the world’s most famous films, but many don’t really know Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Sure, you remember the shower scene, the screeching violins and maybe even Anthony Perkins’s repeated pleas of “Mother.” But there’s a lot more to this masterpiece than gets remembered by YouTube clips and parodies.

For one, it’s a surprisingly funny film – darkly satiric and acerbically witty. It also features an innovative structure, with plot developments that would drive modern Hollywood crazy, and a coda that, while a little obvious, delves into Hitchcock’s psychological preoccupations.

If it’s been too long and you need a refresher, head to Circle Cinema in Tulsa on Oct. 6-7 for two special screenings of Psycho. Make sure you perk up beforehand with some caffeine; the screenings don’t start until 10 p.m. … because everything’s spookier at night.

At Home

Being the month of Halloween, there’s no shortage of scary films you could pick to enjoy at home. For something a little different, try the DVD of David Lowery’s A Ghost Story, one of the best films of the year, which came and went quietly from theaters this past summer. Get beyond the lack of scary scenes (it’s not a horror film) and the intentionally cheesy ghost design – yes, the ghost is of the classic bedsheet variety – and you’ll discover a heartbreaking, mind-bending film about love and loss.

Lowery, who directed last year’s surprisingly great Pete’s Dragon remake, goes back to his indie roots here with a quiet, unpretentious film that captures the grieving process in finely etched detail. After the death of her husband, played by Casey Affleck, a young widow (Rooney Mara) must make sense of her life in the aftermath. Meanwhile, Affleck’s ghost hangs around and is able to watch but not interfere in her life. Two-thirds of the way through, when you think the film has said everything, it changes in strange, affecting ways, becoming a deep mystery in the process.

In Theaters

Originally a playwright, the Anglo-Irish writer/director Martin McDonagh has established himself as one of the wittiest, most thoughtful filmmakers of the past decade. His first film, In Bruges, is a hilarious, jarring meditation on sin and guilt, while his second film, Seven Psychopaths, spun his natural talent for words out in several meta-fictional directions. After tackling Irish mobsters and Hollywood hangers-on, McDonagh turns his third film to that most mysterious region, Middle America.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri looks to be an even darker affair from a director unafraid to tackle human depravity. The great Frances McDormand plays a grieving mother seeking justice (and going to great extremes) for her murdered daughter. When police fail to act with enough zeal, she takes out the billboards alluded to in the film’s title and throws the small community into uproar. In McDonagh’s hands, this should veer away from melodrama and towards deliciously dark comedy.

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