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Terror often disrupts movies within movies

Wednesday - 7/25/2012, 7:44am  ET

AP Movie Critic

LOS ANGELES (AP) - There's something about the dark and quiet of a movie theater that allows us to make ourselves vulnerable. We enter into an implicit pact, giving over to the images, letting ourselves laugh at something silly or cry at something poignant, all in the cloistered company of strangers. That's why when something unexpected interrupts that experience, it's that much more startling, like being awakened suddenly from a vivid dream.

Long before the massacre during a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Colorado, movies themselves have depicted the jarring sensation that occurs when the intrusion of reality disrupts the sanctity of sitting in a theater. Quite often these scenes are violent, but sometimes they're funny, clever or just plain weird.

Perhaps because filmmakers feel so passionately about the moviegoing experience, they also enjoy shaking it up from an artistic perspective. Here's a look at several key examples:

_"Inglourious Basterds" (2009): The climax of Quentin Tarantino's revisionist World War II saga takes place at a Paris movie theater, where a packed house enthusiastically takes in the gala premiere of a Nazi propaganda film. The cunning Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent), a young Jewish woman seeking revenge for the killing of her family, has laid out a carefully detailed plan (with some help from Brad Pitt's crew) to destroy the place and everyone in it _ including Adolph Hitler. The result is a seriously over-the-top explosion _ even for a Tarantino movie _ of flames, gunfire and screaming, teeming masses. People scramble over seats and scamper up the aisles as the building burns down all around them. It's terrifying but also thrilling and important: a moment of major victory.

_ "God Bless America" (2011): In Bobcat Goldthwait's pitch-black comedy, a middle-aged man who recently learned he's dying of a brain tumor and his perky teenage sidekick go on a multi-state killing spree, taking out the horrible people they believe are responsible for the deterioration of society. Among their targets are a bunch of obnoxious kids sitting behind them in a movie theater, talking on their phones and just being loud and rude in general. The two killers stand up, turn around, pull out their guns and shoot them right there. One guy gets it while taking cell-phone video of the attack.

_ "Scream 2" (1997): The slasher sequel opens at a raucous showing of "Stab," with many people in the audience wearing their own Ghostface masks and wielding fake knives. Jada Pinkett is squirming and enjoying herself and doesn't realize that the person sitting next to her isn't her boyfriend (who was stabbed in the men's room) but rather the killer in a mask, who's just stabbed her. In the chaos of the crowd acting out the film and the violence on the screen itself, it's hard to tell what's real, so the killer is able to hack away at her some more. Finally she drags herself onto the stage, stumbling, sobbing and bloodied, before collapsing. But, as in the Colorado shooting, many in the audience are confused and initially think this is a publicity stunt.

_ "Targets" (1968): Peter Bogdanovich's directorial debut, which Roger Corman produced, was inspired by the University of Texas tower sniper: It's a thriller about a disturbed Vietnam veteran who kills his wife and others before going on a shooting rampage. The carnage continues when he flees to a drive-in theater in the San Fernando Valley with police on his tail. The killer hides behind the screen and picks off unsuspecting people as they sit in their cars; once the patrons begin to realize what's happening, panic ensues. An aging horror star making an appearance at the theater _ played by Boris Karloff himself _ confronts the shooter, which finally results in his arrest. "Targets" suffered from some unfortunate timing, having been released just after the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. The tagline in the trailer: "What turns an all-American boy into an all-American killer?"

_ "The Blob" (1958): Featuring an early Steve McQueen performance, this classic B-horror movie includes a famous scene in which the red, gooey creature chases people out of a movie theater. They go running and screaming in terror with the blob still coming after them, oozing through the theater's front doors, growing larger all the time. Cops with rifles try to restore order, but it's in vain. On the marquee, you can see that the blob has inflicted itself upon a midnight showing of a Bela Lugosi movie, sending frightened moviegoers fleeing into the night.

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