If there’s one thing that will always be scary, it’s people. Old monster movies might lose their impact over the years as their special effects begin to age, and non-believers will never find much fear in the paranormal. But people? Just look at the news today. As long as there are people on this Earth, there will be danger. Cape Fear, directed by J. Lee Thompson, is 54 years old. And it’s as scary today as it’s ever been.
Small-town lawyer Sam Bowden (Gregory Peck) is living a happy life with his family. But 8 years after he testified that Max Cady (Robert Mitchum) attacked a woman and had him put in jail for the crime, the unstable and sadistic Cady is released. What follows is a terrifying and tense tale of revenge and mental torture as Cady stalks the Bowden’s and makes their lives a living hell. As Sam is pushed to his limit, he must put his entire family’s lives at stake in a deadly trap that creates one of the most suspenseful and shocking climaxes in the history of the genre.
Robert Mitchum steals the show here with one of his finest and most unforgettable performances as the psychopathic Max Cady, a role later performed by Robert De Niro in Martin Scorsese’s superb remake in 1991 – although it’s debatable whether the timeless original ever needed an update. Gregory Peck is excellent too, and support from Martin Balsam and Polly Bergen only adds to the immense talent on show here. But it’s the spine-tinglingly demonic performance from Mitchum that makes this a true classic.
Cape Fear comes from a time when you didn’t need over-the-top violence, jump scares and flesh-eating monsters to make a horror film. This is a suspenseful and shocking classic from the era of Hitchcock, when you could make an audience scream with silence and tension alone. It harks back to a bygone era and, in 2016, stands head and shoulders above any contemporary horror movies from the last few years.
An unforgettable and timeless classic of the genre, Cape Fear has lost none of its shock power.