Monthly Archives: December 2014

Review of Saturday Night: The James Franco SNL Documentary



“So I’ve got this idea…” interjects a writer in the Monday morning pitch session to Lorne Michaels from a scene in Saturday Night, the James Franco directed-documentary that details the anxious, frenetic, and arduous process of the week leading up to the final live airing of an episode of Saturday Night Live. While the nearly two-hour long documentary indulges in all the behind-the-scenes pleasures sure to satisfy die-hard SNL fans hoping for a glimpse into exactly how the iconic show operates on a day-to-day basis, the dynamics between the cast, and the integration of the host into the show, Saturday Night also examines a creative process between the cast and crew that has allowed the show to evolve into perhaps the premiere comedy institution throughout the decades.

With John Malkovich hosting the episode in question, the documentary opens behind the host’s back and follows his entrance to the main stage. For any dedicated viewer, it’s an disorienting but compelling experience that simulates the host’s point-of-view, especially as the exclamatory “Live form New York, it’s Saturday Night!” is heard as a distant echo through the walls. The structure then jumps back to the previous Monday and follows the agonizing, adrenaline-fueled writing days shared between the cast and writers as they prepare for the Wednesday table read. Some of the writers appear almost overwhelmed by panic, others energized by it, some of the veterans almost annoyed by it, but it becomes quickly clear that the camaraderie of the experience is as fundamental to the cast’s chemistry as the material over which they are funneling their energies within this difficult timeframe.

Immediately, an evident sense of fraternity becomes apparent amongst the writers. At somewhere between three and four in the morning, Mulaney, Hader, and Jorma Taccone are still stationed before their laptops with a beautiful New York skyline limned by a descending moon in the office window behind them. And yet, the three are exchanging ideas, laughs, and impressions as rapid-fire and enthusiastic as a bunch of twelve-year-olds cracking up in a tree house. Other writers almost seem ready to collapse with exhaustion; others (in a scene with Kristen Wiig) are vigorously attempting to calculate whether the farting sound produced by an electronic keyboard “outstays its welcome”.

Next, after intermittent naps between dawn and lunch, the writers send in their preliminary sketch scripts to the producers, who then sort through nearly fifty sketch ideas for the Wednesday table read. Here, the writers present the material to the host and producers for initial review. The performers sit around a large conference table and act out the sketches—some on the last legs of their caffeinated fumes from the night before.

And yet, as soon as they begin reading the scripts, the cast comes to life as effortless as ever. Bill Hader, Fred Armisen, Kristen Wiig, Sudekeis, and the like imbuing their idiosyncratic characters with such an astounding level of natural perfection that they risk intimidating those who have recently joined the ranks or need more time to fully prepare. After one sketch between Samberg and Malkovich absolutely electrifies the room, poor Casey Wilson’s not completely yet realized impression of a Liza Minnelli sketch leaves the room bored or cringing. It’s a brutal scene, but yet another fascinating glimpse into how mercifully the cast of this show must be constantly ready to produce the best they have to offer without any chance for artificial acting. More than anything else, a spirit of inevitable competition also becomes discernible amongst those involved. Will Arnett analogizes something similar to cheerleading try-outs, and the metaphor doesn’t seem far off.

After the Wednesday table read, a printed sheet informs the cast whose sketches have been made the cut, in what again feels very analogous to high school students hoping to be selected for the lead role of the school play. And yet, there is no time for heartbreak or regret, as the cast is already quickly on their way to blocking out scenes or rapidly editing each sketch to milk out every single second for the maximum amount of laughter.

In between this round-the-clock rehearsal and preparations for the show, James Franco—serving as director—interrupts with interviews from producers and certain cast members. The most interesting are undoubtedly from producer Steve Higgins and creator/exec producer Lorne Michaels, who shed light on their realizations about the demands of the job from a creative standpoint, as well as how they’re able to cope when the show fails worse than they had expected, to which both more or less reply that next week show’s is already just a few days away.

By actual Saturday, there’s a palpable sense of tension to ensure that there are no small mistakes that may lead to catastrophe. Costumes, set-dressing, final sketch cuts, and constant fine combing over certain dialogue soon consumes every minute of the cast and crew’s lives. In one of Bill Hader’s funniest sketches, he and Fred Armisen are figuring out the best version of screaming out their incoherent Italian dialogue down to the last minute, determining when exactly would be the funniest time to be interrupting one another’s nonsensical Italian language. It’s an incredibly impressive demonstration of how meticulous these performers, even the most naturally gifted, remain under joyful duress to ensure that their output exemplifies the absolute best of their capabilities, for as Lorne Michaels reiterates to Franco: “You’re only as good as your last show”.

And by the actual live airing, we’ve returned to Malkovich’s disorienting entrance to the main stage. At this point, the charge of the audience and knowledge of the live broadcast seems to have revitalized the cast and crew back to their manic Monday enthusiasm. The show carries on successfully, and seemingly without a hitch (despite Hader’s complaint backstage that he and Armisen missed a cue [which no one else, including a head writer, seems to have noticed]). More interestingly, there are other interesting behind-the-scene glimpses like a woman specifically designated to make sure that the host’s path is cleared in between set-ups, as they are frantically whisked from sketch to sketch.

After the show, the doc cuts to black before a final return to the next Monday morning, where Lorne Michaels introduces the next host, before another writer pipes in with the familiar “So I’ve go this idea” line. The cycle continues, and another week of sleepless nights, fruitless perfectionism, and the childlike joy of performing for the laughter of millions begins anew. While Saturday Night is certainly worth seeking out for even the most casual SNL fan as an intimate backstage glance into the machinations that allow for a new show every week, the doc also offers a thought-provoking introspection into how the creative process of these performers has distilled itself into a very unique style of performance art through the decades.

The cast and crew must negotiate between impossible deadlines, a constant demand for innovative, yet broad comedy, and still deliver a quality show that demonstrates professional production values and the natural ease of its gifted performers. By the arrival of the next Monday morning, the doc illustrates how fluid the creative process must remain, and that no matter how successful or abysmal the previous production may have ultimately proved, that the show must go on, and that they truly are only as good as their last show. Nonetheless, if the long and popular history of SNL has proven anything, it’s that their last show—no matter whether it was filled with constant laughter or an assortment of misfires—is populated by skilled creators who are determined to perform with everything they have to offer…live on television…every Saturday night.

TV Review: Black Mirror, Season 1


As a very dark descendent to shows like The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, the arrival of Black Mirror—an hour-long television series anthology hailing from Britain—delivers three of the most compelling and disturbing episodes to address similar issues of human nature through the prism of the sci-fi genre. While other shows have admirably attempted to replicate the memorable twists and horrors of the most famous Rod Serling episodes, Black Mirror distinguishes itself from such imitators by creating incredibly thought-provoking scenarios that demand the viewer engage with morally ambiguous questions, where no resolution lies without serious consequences, and exceptional writing that further separates the material from its sci-fi siblings.


The first episode “The National Anthem” announces very loudly exactly how this show will differentiate itself from its predecessors (and most of the current television landscape) with a premise that involves the Prime Minister receiving a call from terrorists demanding that in order for the princess to be released, he need answer only one demand…

A demand that involves him and a pig—intimately—on live television.

While most shows would immediately crumble upon such an ostensibly crude premise, by either winking at the audience or failing to adequately construct a wall of realistic approach around such an absurdity, this is where Black Mirror delivers in spades. As the series successfully steers in exactly the opposite direction: by maintaining a tone as deadly serious as possible. Every conceivable question, short-cut, or excuse as to how the Prime Minister may wiggle his way out of the horrific situation is addressed and then dismantled—and not through plodding, expository scenes—but rapid-fire dialogue amidst the myriad sociological levels detailed in the story: newsrooms, the government, the bars of everyday citizens…

As a result, the episode intensifies with an unyielding sense of urgency and anxiety. Where so many shows would narratively deflate, or undermine such attempts maintaining a serious tone, Black Mirror refuses to let the viewer off the hook until the end of the hour run-time. And even then, the episode is not finished. In true Twilight Zone fashion, the consequences of the Prime Minister’s choice deliver an ambiguous resolution: one that appears to have succeeded on the surface but has irreparably damaged his interior psychology—and most especially, his wife’s. While some have argued that this episode is not indicative of the show’s overall agenda, this episode actually better exemplifies the extreme nature of the plotting created by the writers and remains an episode that—for better or worse—evokes discussion and cannot be forgotten. Moreover, “The National Anthem” addresses our modern attitudes toward certain omnipresent technology (specifically social media/texting) through a very extreme, though altogether believable, depiction of current technological consequences.


            “Fifteen Million Merits”—episode two of the trio—establishes a more allegorical, futuristic setting than any of the other episodes to discuss a multitude of similar modern-day issues: fame, social media, human connection, and how modern technology has disrupted the most human elements in each. The episode opens with Bing (Daniel Kaluuya) awakening within a small, prison-like cell of four walls that are also video monitors. Day-to-day life in this futuristic setting is presented in similar, suffocating technological parameters: every single decision is made by tapping a wall-sized monitor, exercising on a bike before another monitor which earns one “merits” to purchase whatever they made need, and constant sexual advertisements that intrude through these omnipresent monitors from which citizens cannot escape without being penalized (even placing your hands over your eyes causes the video to freeze until the eyes are freed).

Although the weakest of the three episodes, the production values are incredible. Every single detail of this world of literally inescapable electronics is specifically realized and believably presented. While the writing remains much, much, much smarter than most television would ever have the ambitions to approach, it also addresses its themes and larger ideals more on-the-nose and less subtly than the others (with Bing’s histrionic speech yelling/spelling out these themes above in an apoplectic monologue serving as perhaps the most indicative example).

Moreover, the episode discusses such a multitude of issues: from skewering the hollowness of fame, of the virtual competition of social media, of society’s shaming the obsese, of the unavoidable presence of contemporary technology, of the loss of human connection from technology—not to mention the various echoes of 1984, Fahrenheit 451, and similar bleak, dystopian settings—that the more successful aspects of the episode are marred by these less successful executions. Nonetheless, the episode still delivers some very thought-provoking ideas and remains compelling in its continual unfolding of consequences and futuristic setting that undeniably mirrors our modern-day era.


Finally, the last episode—“The Entire History of You”—offers the best episode of the season and similarly works as a stand-alone scenario that presents a very disturbing portrait of delving into specific scientific advancements. The episode revolves around a future where a technological device allows users to record and replay their memories; and more specifically, the premise revolves a husband who begins to suspect his wife is having an affair after replaying his memories of a dinner party over and over.

The episode succeeds so well in its execution by conjuring a futuristic setting that is not altogether too removed from our own—despite the existence of such a revolutionary technology. Additionally, the plot is not weighed down by tedious explanation and constant overanalyzing over how such a device would filter into the lives of ordinary citizens; but instead, the story plunges into a premise that would not be out of place in a contemporary soap drama centered on themes of mistrust in marriage, while the technology merrily serves as the catalyst of the plot.

Furthermore, as seen in the best of hard sci-fi, “The Entire History of You” uses the feasibility of the technology to illume profound issues of human nature. The episode delves into issues of trust, memory, and time, through a very well-plotted and deceitfully simple premise of a man who believes his wife might be in love with another man. Like the other episodes, the writing allows for a constant escalation of stakes and sense of urgency that—accompanied with the incredible acting between Toby Kebbel and Jodie Whittaker—generates a compelling vision of the ramifications produced by such a technological consequence. And also like the other two, the episode concludes on a very ambiguous note—one that satisfies the reality of such a scenario but also devastates the viewer with the emotional aftermath of abiding by such authentic storytelling—and should be applauded for doing so.

In all three episodes, Black Mirror develops a haunting and thought-provoking tapestry of the consequences that arise from our current forays into technology and ambitions beyond the horizon. As a result, the series stands up to its namesake—reflecting a genuine, creative depiction of how such viable futures may be realized by both the best and worst qualities of human nature. Similarly, such an anthology format allows for numerous issues to be explored: from fame, to an overwhelming technological presence, to the loss of human values in the face of each, and the redistribution of humanity’s connection spurred by such oversight. As a result, the first season concludes as an unforgettable collection of original sci-fi: one that shatters former boundaries found in the television medium and ascends to rank alongside one of the best offerings in the genre.

The Apartment Trilogy by Roman Polanski



“I’m sorry to bother you, I was told about an apartment.”

So Roman Polanski asks in the opening line of The Tenant, in what feels like a not-so-subtle wink at an audience preparing to watch the last in his trilogy of horror films known as his unofficial “Apartment Trilogy”—a trinity of horror films linked by their shared setting of an apartment as the feature setting for the horrors of the premise to unfold. As different as the three films remain in scope and story, the trio that consists of Repulsion, Rosemary’s Baby, and The Tenant each use the confined apartment setting as a vehicle to explore larger allegories of the horrors at hand, with each film also depicting a main character battling the possibilities of mental illness and a supernatural terror threatening the safety of their sanity. In doing so, Polanski’s trilogy successfully manages to push the parameters of the horror genre while also exploring larger thematic issues of gender, identity, and mental illness.


Released in 1965, Repulsion marks the first of the trilogy and remains a tour-de-force character-study into the troubled psychology of a young woman named Carol (a doe-eyed Catherine Deneuve). The paradoxical Carol works as a manicurist in a beauty parlor (despite constantly biting her own nails) who is left alone in her sister’s apartment after she leaves with her boyfriend for a vacation. With amazingly wide-eyes, a demure voice, and constantly uncomfortable body-language, Deneuve portrays a woman in a constant battle to reciprocate the basic human emotions provided through social interactions—especially with men. For reasons that will become clear by the ending, Carol has been traumatized by a rough relationship with men since childhood and the experience has left her a shattered shell of a human being—a woman barely capable of holding conversation and driven to near mental collapse by the smallest imperfections.

Early in the film, her sister’s boyfriend has left his toothbrush within Carol’s space, and she lashes out at the violation. This seemingly small intrusion of boundaries marks the beginning of Carol’s trouble with those (again, especially men) trespassing her private space (most especially within the bathroom [the most private possible room]) that will only worsen within this very confined setting of a small Belgian apartment.

While many filmmakers often believe a larger space intimates a more powerful scope, Polanski uses every possible cinematic technique to demonstrate how unbelievably horrifying a simple apartment can transform itself into the most hellish domain imaginable when filtered through the warped psychology of young Carol. Polanski uses the power of repetitive sounds to maximum distortion and discomfort: the incessant ticking of the clock, the torturous dripping of water, the creaks and groans of wooden floors to methodically construct a tortuous glimpse into the everyday life of this traumatized woman. These sounds so representative of mundane life—the ticking clock, the knock at the door, of passersby on the city streets below—no longer reflect the harmless consequence of suburban life, but the chaotic and disorienting noise heard by a woman suspicious of these formerly benign objects that have now transformed into totems representing the terror of her haunted mind.

Polanski further amplifies this heightened, unnerving reality through the use of innovative visuals and cinematography: shadows, unwarranted reflections, uncomfortable close-ups, and optical illusions are all employed to create an even more literal deconstruction of the classical comforts of the home. Whether it be through the jump-scare of the sudden reflection in her dressing mirror, or the visual illusion of decreasing the dimensions of the room to heighten Carol’s accelerating mental suffocation, Polanski repeatedly demonstrates how even the most conventional objects and spaces can suddenly serve as the most horrifying representations of abject terror.


Besides these cinematic tools used to usher the audience into her horrifying psychology, the film also repeatedly depicts Carol’s crumbling mindset through an assortment of symbolic imagery. Cracked surfaces serve as the most obvious example and are seen multiple times both within the apartment and Carol’s very limited outer world. On a sidewalk, a deep fissure spider-webbing upon the pavement causes Carol to completely still—her eyes magnetized to the crack as though hypnotized. As days go by, she continually hallucinates more cracks spreading across the apartment—fracturing upon the walls in tandem with her increasing neuroses—the apartment now acting as a material manifestation of her warped mental state.

Wall hands

Later, as her hallucinations grow more intense and vivid (a man molesting her becomes repeated multiple times), male hands literally emerge from the wall to claw and grasp her. In credit to the relentless atmosphere of dread, this striking visual becomes a perfect metaphor for how terrifying Carol’s world has come to reflect her poisoned inner-psychology. Even within what should be her most private and secure space—her apartment—Carol’s mind conjures up an unyielding demonstration of her interior psychology and how the traumatizing horrors of her subconscious have transformed into her tangible reality.

Lastly, Carol’s character demonstrates the painful reality of a woman battling this constant war of a collapsing psyche against the horrors of her past. Opening with a close-up of her big brown eye, constantly gazing about the space and studying those around her, Carol’s neuroses become quickly apparent: she constantly bites her nails, brushes her hair, speaks meekly…Her appearance and cleanliness moves past the point of concern and into obsession. As a woman who works in a beauty shop—an establishment literally made to emphasize beauty—Carol can no longer function in society while struggling so drastically with her own mind.

From the ceaseless hounding from men, to enduring the sounds of her sister having sex through the thin apartment walls, to living across from a convent of ostensibly “pure” nuns in the neighboring courtyard, to the endless badgering from men who refuse to accept “No”—Carol finally breaks. The apartment landlord arrives to collect the rent and Carol allows him into the apartment from which she has lived in seclusion and squalor. The landlord makes a number of references to her nightgown, which escalates into an attempted rape, only for Carol to stop the attack by killing him.


When Carol’s sister finally arrives home, she and her boyfriend find both the dead body of the landlord, along with Carol—though she remains in an apparently catatonic state. The other tenants filter into the crammed space suddenly concerned for her well-being. While Carol’s ultimate fate remains ambiguous, her last actions are shown to be combing her hair, ironing a dress (the camera takes careful note of the iron’s unplugged cord) and finally in bed—she begins floating toward the ceiling in hallucinatory freedom. One could certainly make the argument that this represents Carol’s attempt at suicide—as woman overwhelmed with repulsion for the world around her—and needing to leave this world behind her so she can finally escape from the relentless deluge of her traumas.

And while this final fate may remain ambiguous, the last shot certainly shines some light toward what may be the initial catalyst that contributed toward Carol’s utter mental breakdown. After being carried away from the apartment, the camera pans across the room until finding an old family portrait from Carol’s youth. Mirroring the opening close-up of Carol’s eye, the camera zooms uncomfortably close upon the eye of a much younger Carol—her gaze filled with repulsion and directed toward what appears to her father seated directly beside her.

This final shot leaves a haunting, disturbing final impression upon the viewer to fill in the blanks about Carol’s family life and why she has been so psychologically damaged by men. Moreover, the fact that this specific explanation does not appear until the final shot addresses how universally understood this overall psychological struggle can be related upon women at large. As a result, Polanski demonstrates how profoundly the devices of the horror genre can be used to address these larger thematic issues, and even more impressively, uses an atmosphere of persistent dread to transport the viewer into such a troubled psychological mind.


The middle installment—Rosemary’s Baby—would prove to not only be the best of the trilogy, nor just one of the best horror movies ever made, but one of the greatest entries into the film canon at large. The premise revolves around a woman named Rosemary Woodhouse, and her husband, Guy, who have just moved into the Bramford—an older New York apartment building. And immediately, the apartment reeks of ominous details: the previous owner went senile, an enormous wooden secretary has been strangely positioned in front of a closet door, legends of witchcraft are reported to have occurred at the same address, an unnerving chant echoes through the walls…

But worst of all, they meet the Castevets: an elderly couple named Roman and Minnie that live down the hall and make excessive efforts to ingratiate themselves into the lives of the new tenants. Soon after, another series of suspicious events start to surface: a young woman living with the Castevets commits suicide just after meeting Rosemary, Guy’s career skyrockets after a secret conversation with Roman, Minnie insists on Rosemary wearing a “good luck” charm of a mysterious herb within a pendant, and finally—Rosemary suddenly finds herself pregnant. The pregnancy arriving, of course, after a horrifying nightmare in which she is raped by the devil.


Immediately upon hearing the news, Roman and Minnie seize upon the situation to become an unavoidable fixture in the couple’s life: referring Rosemary to an exclusive doctor, delivering daily supplements of their specific herb, and essentially isolating Rosemary from any other contact with outsiders beyond the apartment. As weeks go by, Rosemary pieces together the horrific evidence directly related to her pregnancy—and correctly suspects that she is now pregnant with the son of the devil.

While much of Repulsion’s power relies on Polanski’s deft manipulations of cinematic techniques to highlight the extreme psychosis of the protagonist, Rosemary’s Baby works so successfully through an approach of complete contrast in presenting the narrative as objective, removed, and stylistically distanced as possible. While there are two dream sequences and a rapidly edited climax following Rosemary’s attempt to escape her captors, Polanski shoots the vast majority of the scenes without the aid of the stylistic flourishes that made Repulsion so distinct. Whereas the weight of dread in the former film became constructed through such a singular glimpse into this particular female’s point-of-view, the dread of Rosemary’s Baby emerges through a command of unwavering reality.

Indeed, what has allowed for the film’s reputation and unique nature compared to most horror films relies in the slow descent into the horror of the premise—rather than through shock, jump-scares, and moments that may veer too far from reality as to break the barriers of verisimilitude. Ruth Gordon’s portrayal of Minnie Castavet serves as perhaps the best example of how this particular portrayal of a monster can remain so disturbing. Rather than a performance that hinges on leering, creepy machinations, Gordon’s casting presents an affable, grandmother-like figure whose ostensibly good-natured demeanor diminishes any doubts toward obvious malevolent intentions that she may harbor.

Furthermore, the narrative’s greatest strength comes from repeating this effect throughout almost every turn of the plot. The actions of those surrounding Rosemary—from her husband, to the Castavets, to the tenants—all present themselves with an outward appearance of those with the best intentions for Rosemary.

Consequentially, a frustrating urge arises within the audience—an insuppressible cry to reach out and help Rosemary as those around her cast doubts upon her sanity. Nonetheless, Polanski never releases the audience from this plea to help the pregnant protagonist. Instead, he raises the stakes at every possible point: as Rosemary is manipulated by the malicious forces around her, as Rosemary complains of a horrific pain in her stomach and prohibited from seeing any other doctors, as she grows abnormally thin and pale despite her pregnancy…Polanski refuses to release his suffocating grip upon the viewer, demanding their anxiety to rise in equally uncomfortable parallel with Rosemary’s.


In effect, Polanski positions the audience directly within Rosemary’s psychology, much as he did with Carol in Repulsion, though through incredibly different methods. While Polanski frames the claustrophobia of the apartment in Repulsion as a means of discomfort, the apartment in Rosemary’s Baby is used for exactly the opposite effect—to comfort. The tenants of the Bramford apartment building suffocate Rosemary with their unending help and insistence that she need not leave the apartment. When Rosemary escapes their clutches and tries to find another doctor for a second opinion, the tension rises to an almost unbearable weight of dread. She has finally fled the imprisonment of her own home, and every second grows fraught with the fear that she will again be caught and returned back to her apartment for good.


And of course, this is exactly what happens. After delivering the baby, Rosemary sneaks into the Castevets’ apartment, only to find that her baby remains alive and under the care of the cult composed of the apartment tenants. While her initial reaction is one of absolute horror and shock, the film ends on a semi-ambiguous note as Rosemary cradles her child (conceived by Satan) and seems at a sudden peace. As the camera pans out for end credits to roll, over a wide shot of the expansive apartment complexes that mirror the opening, Rosemary’s fate appears sealed. Rather than fight the oppressive rule of her captors, she appears to have finally surrendered—content to be a prisoner of the apartment if it means being with her baby—consequences be damned.


The last in the trilogy—The Tenant—explores yet another intensely psychological character study, though this time with a man taking center stage. That man is Trelkovsky, as played by Polanski himself, serving as both director and star. As with Rosemary’s Baby, The Tenant opens with a similar, ominous foreshadowing with the owner introducing the new apartment and explains that the previous tenant—a woman named Simone—committed suicide (with Trelkovsky noting “I’ll never understand suicide”). Though Trelkovsky seems suspicious of the incredible austerity of those surrounding the apartment, and the circumstances of the previous tenants death, he accepts the terms and agrees to move into the apartment.

Yet very quickly, these suspicions that start out as simple inconveniences become realized as the true horrors. The neighboring tenants’ dislike for noise grows into an outright contempt, and Trelkovsky’s own identity slowly dissolves into one that he no longer recognizes. As the neighbors begin subtly pushing Trelkvosky into living a life not unlike Simone—the previous tenant—Trelkvosky recognizes that he is slowly transforming into the identity of the woman who previously tenanted the apartment.


Watching the film with ideas of its own historical context in mind—coming after the Manson murders of Polanski’s wife, Sharon Tate—and with Polanski starring as Trelkvosky, one can’t help but watch the narrative without projecting certain ideas about Polanski’s own individual troubles of his personal life upon his fictional one. While The Tenant negotiates between these various themes—identity, paranoia, privacy—and there are certainly some memorable moments that mirror the best in Polanski’s career, the levels of dread and are not as strong as the former two of the trilogy. While they don’t necessarily need to be compared, as they are very different films with very different ambitions, The Tenant stands as a very different film, not only within the Apartment trilogy but Polanski’s overall filmography.

Still, The Tenant wrestles with these ideas in an ever-compelling manner. The escalating sense of terror remains, though not as singularly focused, and the final shot before Trelkovsky stares out the window in a full embrace of his changed identity into Simone—with all the other apartment tenants clapping and urging him on—remains one of the most gorgeously haunting moments in all of Polanski’s work.

Through each film, Polanski illumines dark corners of human neurosis and psychological trauma as few horror films have ever so successfully managed. Whether through the resurrection of past traumas in Repulsion, the spiraling paranoia of Rosemary’s sanity for herself and her baby in Rosemary’s Baby, or the crumbling sense of disillusionment within The Tenant, Polanski’s apartment trilogy uses the power of the horror genre to profound effect as comparative allegories of the true horrors of human psychology. In doing so—and by isolating the characters within the most confined and pocketed corners of an apartment landscape—Polanski demonstrates that the most terrifying ideas are often not the fictitious and supernatural, but that the most horrifying of all evils are those that can be found within the darkest corners of the human mind.