Brian De Palma Introduction - Essay

Introduction

Brian De Palma 1940–

American director and screenwriter.

De Palma's best-known films lie somewhere between the thriller and horror genres. The plots are often confusing and shrouded in mystery. Dreams and the supernatural are integral parts of many of De Palma's films, as are grisly, horrifying deaths and murders. Critics see De Palma as the most Hitchcockian of all current filmmakers.

De Palma's first films give little clue as to his future. Greetings and Hi, Mom! are youth-oriented films satirizing the beliefs and ideals of the older generation. When the films were first released, catch phrases such as "semi-underground" were used to describe them, contributing to their status as "cult" films.

Phantom of the Paradise is a pivotal film in De Palma's body of work. It contains much of the humorous satire of Greetings and Hi, Mom! More importantly, however, it includes many of the elements of thriller and horror films. A sense of uneasiness is created through the use of offbeat humor and special effects. These devices are repeated in De Palma's later films.

Carrie was De Palma's first great commercial success. The film combines terror, pathos, supernatural elements, and dark humor, and is suspenseful throughout. More than his earlier Sisters and Obsession, Carrie deals in what De Palma calls "surrealistic, erotic imagery." The Fury is so similar in theme to Carrie that many critics see it as a direct, albeit inferior, steal, and have viciously attacked De Palma for his lack of sustainable creativity.

Dressed to Kill is the most Hitchockian of De Palma's films. Its scenes of extreme violence and explicit sex have led some people to term the film pornographic. However, others see it as a modern-day extension of Hitchcock's films. De Palma himself refutes this, saying that "Dressed to Kill has more of a Buñuel feel to it."

Blow Out contains many of the same elements as his previous films. De Palma describes the work as a "detective thriller" about a film sound effects editor who witnesses a political assassination. Thus, despite his statements to the contrary, De Palma seems to be shaping a body of work which will likely continue to be compared with the films of Hitchcock. At the same time, however, many critics find the combinations of diverse elements in De Palma's films to be highly original and creative.