Michel Sargent, staff
Gaslight (1944) coined the term for the psychotic jewel thief husband manipulating his wife to believe she’s sick and insane trope.
A doctor tries to put her patient’s multiple personality pieces back together, revealing the psychological torture committed against Sybil (1976) in her extreme Christian upbringing of guilt trips, physical violence, and enemas with singing. Based on a real depressed person.
A suitcase-packing skill (and cleavage) sends a beauty pageant winner to state finals in this humorous behind-the-scenes fictionalized spectacle of prettiness, talent, and charm contests. For seven days the young ladies battle for the crown with pranks, passive-aggressive officials manipulate the outcome, and homoerotic food parties leave a Smile (1975) on your face.
Three Heathers (1988) and a “how very” Winona Ryder play mean tricks on the underprivileged until Christian Slater’s annoying Jack Nicholson impression attempts to change more than just the attitudes of the popular circle. “Fuck me gently with a chainsaw.”
From passive Milton to aggressive stomping of a malfunctioning printer, Office Space (1999) has all the behaviors, though the boss wins the passive-aggressive award in this Mike Judge reel.
Alfred tells the story of a widowed farmer who, with his maid’s help, hopes to initiate “a sex challenge” from a list of local ladies he assumes will “come like lamb to the slaughter.” I assumed the jealous maid would play dirty tricks to become The Farmer’s Wife (1928), but instead she just sat back and watched him make a fool of himself in this overlong Hitchcockian waste of time.
Baby Jane is a popular vaudeville performer and spoiled brat. Blanche is her infuriated sister. Forty years later the very successful actress Joan Crawford (Blanche) is supposedly crippled by Bette Davis (Jane) in a freak automobile accident so Jane psycho-terrorizes wheelchair bound Blanche while trying to revive her creepy Freudian vaudeville act. What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962).
This classic film noir from the POV of Mildred Pierce (1945) is played to perfection by Joan Crawford. Mildred seems to be a murderer as we unravel this mystery with flashbacks of her snobby daughter playing passive-aggressive tricks on single mom, who goes to length to please the impossible girl. In pops lazy faux-rich new husband who also covets the daughter.
Joan Crawford is the psychological torturer in the campy Mommie Dearest (1981), played to perfection by Faye Dunaway and based on a book by Crawford’s “very own” purchased daughter. Evidently Crawford went from playing mean passive-aggressive tricks on her two adopted kids, Christina and Christopher, to the infamous wire hanger scene.
The Screaming Skull (1958) is so scary the production company promised screen goers burial services to anyone who dies watching it. A newly-wedded widower and bride take up on the dead wife’s estate with the mentally-disturbed gardener who’s obsessed with the deceased wife. A human skull shows up and psychologically tortures the new wife, and either the gardener and/or the husband are doing it. Or are they? So scary.