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    Monday, October 30, 2006

    Teresa Picnics at Hanging Rock

    I adore scary movies! As a writer, I don’t think I can afford to shut myself off from any human emotion, including horror. I love the first HALLOWEEN. I love the first NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT scared the bejeebers out of me and hey, I even enjoyed SAW! Instead of slasher pics, my true favorites are psychological thrillers like THE OTHERS and THE INNOCENTS. Which may be why I think PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK is the scariest movie ever made.

    This 1975 Australian film from Peter Weir (who would later go on to make GALLIPOLI, WITNESS, DEAD POET’S SOCIETY and MASTER AND COMMANDER) is a lyrical, brooding masterpiece set at Appleyard College (an all-girls school) in 1900. When a group from the college sets out to celebrate Valentine’s Day with a picnic jaunt to Hanging Rock--an ancient volcanic outcropping in Victoria--disaster ensues. While the other students are napping, four of the girls defy their teacher’s instructions and set off to explore the interior of the rock. The next thing we know, one teacher and three of the girls have vanished into thin air. Only one girl is found--hysterical and with no memory of what happened to the others. The disappearances send shockwaves of fear and suspicion through the community. The movie’s cinematography is exquisite and Weir captured the dreamy quality of the film by actually filming parts of it through a bridal veil. Although the students drift about in white dresses plainly chosen to symbolize their purity, the movie is rife with repressed sexuality. In their darkest hearts, the girls seem to have more in common with the chaotic wildness of the Australian outback than the rigid propriety of their society, which makes it easier to believe that they may have gone willingly to their mysterious fate. Without shedding a single drop of blood, this movie continues to haunt me years after I first saw it.