The 10 Creepiest David Lynch Moments

As a tremendous admirer of David Lynch and his artistry, I thought this was a brilliant idea for a post by the writers of Zen College Life (www.zencollegelife.com). I personally feel that he is one of only a select handful of American filmmakers who you can classify as a true “auteur.” Katina Solomon was kind enough to send this my way and after reading it, I felt I must publish it here on The Lantern to help spread the Gospel of Lynch. Some amazing and haunting scenes are listed here…give it a look! — P.E.

When your name becomes an adjective, you know you’ve made it. Case in point: the word “Lynchian” now means, essentially, a movie characterized by stark images, eerie moods, arresting sound design, and often graphic and twisted depictions of the human form. In other words, it’s like watching the most beautiful nightmare you’ve ever had, torn between wanting it to end and wanting to see if it gets weirder. David Lynch. He’s a masterful, remarkably assured filmmaker who’s proven himself to be one of the American greats, yet even by his own special standards, the scenes below are full-on creepy. They’re dark and ominous, and they share a common fear of the unusual and unknown. Many of them are marked by the sudden appearance of something unsettling that’s made all the more so for the way it just kind of shows up in the middle of a scene that’s already surreal. Don’t know what we mean? Throw some headphones on and get comfy, then. Time for a trip down Lynch’s rabbit hole.

10. Every Single Moment in Eraserhead

Lynch’s first film remains his most disturbing. Shot on a shoestring budget in the 1970s, the film is a gross, often revolting work that revolves around a deformed creature with no limbs and a monstrous face. Placing a heavy emphasis on emotional states over linear narratives, the film is a blast of bizarre visions and creepy encounters that Lynch may never top (not that he should.) Even for Lynch die-hards, this is a tough one.

9. The Televised Rabbits in Inland Empire

Significant portions of Inland Empire involve a faux-sitcom set featuring a three-member family with human bodies and rabbit heads. The images come from “Rabbits,” a series of video shorts Lynch made in 2002. On paper, the set-up sounds like a cheesy kids comedy, but in Lynch’s hands, it becomes so weird and menacing and uncomfortable that you don’t know what to do.

To view the scene, please click here.

8. The Shooting at Room 47 in Inland Empire

Totally nonlinear and endlessly challenging, Inland Empire offers some of Lynch’s most upsetting imagery (which is saying something). The movie’s basically a series of scenes that only loosely form a plot, and the action comes to a head when Nikki (Laura Dern) confronts the evil Phantom and shoots him, only to see his face turn into a grotesque version of her own. Seriously, this will mess you up…

To view the scene, please click here.

7. Club Silencio in Mulholland Drive

Only Lynch could make such a moving and beautiful scene so rattling. The final moments of Mulholland Drive exist almost outside of time and reality, playing with the fabric of dreams and death just like the rest of the film. We get our heroines back, briefly, freed from suicide and sex games and everything else that’s plagued every version of them, and we also get a stirring song that raises the nature of seeing versus believing.

6. The Mythical Origin Story in The Elephant Man

Probably the most accessible film Lynch made until 1999’s The Straight Story, The Elephant Man was nominated for a host of Oscars and earned praise for its cast. The opening of the film, though, is vintage Lynch, blending sight and sound into a weird metaphorical origin story that sees a woman trampled (and maybe more) by a herd of elephants. Even in a film as straightforward as this one, the “Lynchian” vibe is inescapable.

To view the clip, please click here.

5. The Figure Behind the Diner in Mulholland Drive

Originally written as a TV pilot before being retooled and partially reshot, Mulholland Drive is a haunting Mobius strip of a movie that slides back and forth between dreams and reality in ways specifically designed to leave viewers unsure of what’s happening. The creepiest moment is one that feels totally unrelated to the surrounding story, too. Set at a diner called Winkies, the scene deals with a man confronting a nightmare that turns out to be real. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve seen the movie, or what your theories are about this scene’s meaning: it will still scare you. Here’s part one; the conclusion is below.

4. The Chat with the Mystery Man in Lost Highway

It sounds misleading to merely refer to Lost Highway as unsettling, as if the rest of Lynch’s c.v. was a lighthearted romp through Candyland, but there are some really spooky moments here that almost defy description. (David Foster Wallace memorably profiled Lynch during the film’s production for Premiere magazine.) The plot is almost too Lynchian to try and sum up, but it starts out dealing with a man (Bill Pullman) who finds himself haunted and stalked by a pale old Mystery Man (Robert Blake). After a brief vision of the Mystery Man, our hero meets him at a party and has a supremely eerie conversation with him that seems to break the rules of space and time.

3. Frank Booth’s Dry-Humping Fit in Blue Velvet

Blue Velvet was Lynch’s art-house redemption after the bloated mess of Dune, and he didn’t mess around: the film’s loaded with the symbolism and sexual themes that are prevalent in much of Lynch’s work. Chief among these is a wild man, Frank Booth (played with insane lust by Dennis Hopper), who gets off by dry-humping Isabella Rossellini while huffing from a gas mask. Even for a movie that kicks off with a guy finding a severed ear, this is a rocky scene.

2. The Appearance of the Navigator in Dune

Lynch’s version of Frank Herbert’s sci-classic is, well, not without its flaws. Lynch spoke out against the film, saying that producers had kept him from having final cut and implementing his own personal vision. Still, the film remains a stark and often ugly work of modern art, and it’s packed with the physical grotesqueries for which Lynch is often known. Easily the most unnerving is the giant navigator that at once is phallic and vaginal, a mutant in a glass case who can fold space and time and who has paid a bodily price for being submerged in the magical spice that gives him his powers. It’s impossible not to see him and feel a chill.

1. Agent Cooper’s Dream in Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks was the kind of daring, what-is-going-on type of TV show that now exists on cable. But in 1990, you could actually get a network to take a chance on a murder mystery that chucked the whodunit plot in favor of weird characters, dream sequences, and pie. Agent Cooper’s dream at the end of the second episode (after the two-hour TV-movie pilot) became an instant pop culture sensation thanks to its style, execution, and indescribable oddity. It’s vintage Lynch, and it set the stage for the rest of the show’s iconic run.

By Katina Solomon
(Zen College Life website)

8 Thoughts on 8 David Lynch Films

Artisphere in Washington DC is celebrating the magnificent works of film auteur David Lynch by screening his works every Wednesday of this month. In honor of this well-deserved tribute, the film writers of the DC-based online entertainment magazine Brightest Young Things (myself included) have chosen to write a few personal thoughts on a film of their choosing — by Sir Lynch.

I personally had to go with Blue Velvet, for many reasons. My commentary on this 1986 masterpiece is below. If you are not acquainted with the film staff at BYT, they have some pretty great writers who know their movies. If you’d like to read some thoughts on such works as Wild at Heart, The Straight Story, Mullholland Drive, Dune (yes, Dune), Lost Highway, Inland Empire — and the mega cult classic Eraserhead, then click on the BYT Loves Lynch article. The BYT film writers include Alan Z., William A., Zach G., Logan D., Erin H., and BYT editor Svetlana L.

Here are my initial thoughts on Mr. Lynch’s Blue Velvet:

It all starts – with an ear. A severed human ear, decomposing in a lush green field. The camera slowly zooms in to the canal as the sound amplifies and the busy ants swarm around the flesh. Thus begins David Lynch’s masterpiece Blue Velvet, a modern-day film noir with elements of surrealism thrown in for good measure. As we get a closer look inside that rotting ear, we are invited in to Lynch’s world of a dark and violent underbelly lurking just beneath the surface of a seemingly peaceful suburban logging town.

Blue Velvet is certainly not for everyone — a polarizing film, if there ever was one (you may recall Siskel and Ebert’s famous argument over the film’s merits). Regardless, it garnered Lynch his 2nd Academy Award nomination for ‘Best Director,’ on the heels of Woody Allen calling it the single best movie of 1986. Since its theatrical release – through VHS, laserdiscs, DVD’s and now Blu-Ray — the film has reached legendary cult status, playing on many a midnight movie screen.

College student Jeffrey Beaumont (played by Lynch fave Kyle Maclachlan) returns to his hometown of Lumberton to see to his ailing father when he stumbles across the detached ear. He takes the ear to the police, but his own voyeuristic tendencies take over and Jeffrey proceeds to begin his own investigation, with the help of the police detective’s daughter, Sandy (Laura Dern). The ear draws him deeper into his hometown’s sordid underworld, where he meets the captivating torch singer Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini), whose son and husband have been kidnapped in return for sexual favors by the sadistic Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper, at the top of his game in a career-resurrecting role). Jeffrey becomes further involved, running into a cast of sleazy characters, trying his best to save the helpless Dorothy – and later, himself.

Lynch had the idea for this film in the early 1970’s – before his first feature film Eraserhead (another cult classic) was released. After his marvelous work on The Elephant Man (1980) and the failure that was Dune (1984), he was given complete artistic freedom and final cut privileges with Blue Velvet, culminating in a truly personal work. His casting choices here are right on the mark. Rossellini no longer had to cling on to those Lancome advertisements – she is finally given the opportunity to test her acting chops in a meaty role. With all that her character must endure at the hands of Frank, it is a truly courageous performance – and opened up a whole new career for Ms. Rossellini. Dean Stockwell plays Ben, a drug dealer and one of Frank’s accomplices. His lip-synched performance to Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams” is both chilling and somewhat comical and makes for one of the film’s highlights. Laura Dern turns in a solid performance as the high school girl who is a perfect paradox for Dorothy and all that she represents. Maclachlan holds the film together quite – he is strong when he needs to be (remember that tremendous backslap to Dorothy in a moment of pleasure and rage) and completely naïve and vulnerable when at the mercy of Frank. The film also delivers one of cinema’s greatest villains of all-time in Frank Booth, played deliciously by Mr. Hopper. This guy is one scary sociopath. Between his palpable Oedipal issues, vulgar mouth, peculiar sexual proclivities, and that oxygen mask (which Hopper later said was Amyl nitrite) – Frank Booth remains one of film’s most iconic characters. On top of the stellar performances, Angelo Badalamenti’s score is a true stand-out, creating that film noir atmosphere while also helping to create a haunting mood.

The film isn’t all that’s polarizing though – Lynch himself is one of film’s most divisive figures. You either love him or can’t watch his stuff. There are many directors who I greatly admire, but there are a small handful that I would call true auteurs – David Lynch is surely one of those very few. Perhaps it is because of his background and work in the visual arts, but Lynch is the only director who comes to mind where you can take a snapshot from any moment in one of his films – and it comes off as a true work of art. His attention to color, to place, to character, and to the human psyche is truly unique. So unique that many dub his style to be “Lynchian.” He changed television with his phenomenal opus, Twin Peaks and has continued to perplex and dazzle his audience with one daring work after another. But it is Blue Velvet that, to date, is his seminal work.

Peter Eramo Reviews: “My Dog Tulip”

I have always preferred animals to people. Perhaps growing up with dogs as a child and having my own dogs since then have helped to perpetuate this feeling. There is something to be said for having a long, miserable day at work and coming home to a furry, four-legged friend wagging its tail, wanting nothing more than to shower you with wet, sloppy kisses and having its tummy rubbed. This is unconditional love…an ideal picture that comes to mind when I think of the old adage, “man’s best friend.” Some of my most favorite moments of the day are at night when I am curled up on the couch with my pug, Lily, watching a movie together, or the night’s ballgame. These are quiet moments, but, snuggled up against one another, the connection is always there and never taken for granted.

So it goes without saying that I was very much looking forward to seeing Paul and Sandra Fierlinger’s delightfully heartfelt and at times, profound animated film, My Dog Tulip. The film is based on the acclaimed 1956 memoir by the British writer, J.R. Ackerley and chronicles the old bachelor’s real-life 15-year relationship with his German shepherd, Tulip (named Queenie in the book). The film begins with a witty quote from the author — “Unable to love each other, the English turn naturally to dogs” — and manages to maintain this clever wit throughout the film.

In short, My Dog Tulip tells the story of a very unlikely friendship between a cloistered human and his devoted animal. Ackerley was already in his 50’s when Tulip entered his life. He worked as a writer for the BBC and, somewhat a loner, never really had much in the way of friends. He certainly never had his own dog before. That is, until he took the 18-month old German shepherd from a family that couldn’t really handle her and kept her locked up for most of the day. In doing so, he obviously takes on much more than he ever expected.

The film is narrated by Christopher Plummer (as Ackerley) and chronicles much of their life together. From their long walks together and trips to various vets (one voiced by Isabella Rossellini), to a tug-of-war battle of wits with Ackerley’s meddling sister (Lynn Redgrave, in her last role) over Tulip’s affection to trying to find a mate for Tulip — it is all accompanied by what Ackerley’s most innermost thoughts are concerning his kindred spirit, and done so with such candor, insight and good humor. Plummer does an exceptional job narrating the story — and really, who couldn’t sit and listen to that wonderful voice for 83 minutes?

I must say that I feel we have all been spoiled with the “newer” animated films that have come out the last few years in that they take full advantage of all that technology has to offer. Most of these computer-generated films look quite impressive and dazzle the eye with its uncanny resemblance to real-life images. It was enormously refreshing to see the handmade animation used for My Dog Tulip. About 60,000 drawings went into the making of this film — though no paper or plastic was used. Taking 3 years to make, the Fierlingers used computers for their drawings and, unlike studio cartoons, the result is a more antiquated looking quality to the art. The drawing itself though is wondrous to watch — at times funny and at others, really delving into the psychological images of what our narrator is thinking.

Of course, dog lovers will enjoy and appreciate this film more so than others. I wouldn’t recommend the movie to anyone who doesn’t love our little canine friends as they might simply be bored and not “get” the whole “dog thing.” For those who love dogs, but are afraid to see any movie about animals fearing that it might be too sad, I would say (without using any spoilers here) to fear not. The film never borders on the tragic and does not touch on morose subject matter. However, the film is not for children. Not only is most of the humor on a more “intellectual level” than most animated films, but there are also a number of images illustrated and feelings expressed that may not be suitable for children.  What the film does is show (very well) the inseparable bond between Ackerley and Tulip — a closeness that he never thought he’d ever experience in his life. Tulip provides this for him, and seeing that warms the heart. In speaking of his ever-faithful dog, Ackerley tells us, “She offered me what I had never found in my life with humans: constant, single-hearted, incorruptible, uncritical devotion, which it is in the nature of dogs to offer.” A sincere and thoughtful remark — and a charming, funny and intelligent little film.

Rating:     
Directors: Paul and Sandra Fierlinger
Year:         2010

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