… of the Horror. The Glorious, Glorious Horror.

A recent writing project has re-sparked my once-thought-dead interest in cinema. Specifically, a genre I’ve always held a great respect for, but haven’t ever had the time to dive into properly – Horror. As a teen I cut my teeth on the Nightmare on Elm St films. Freddy was the man. I watched him grow from being the almost silent killer in the first film – brutal and vengeful – to the fun loving, playful, anti-hero who’d take delight in exploiting his victim’s fears. It’s a well known genre trait that horror teens are always going to be fodder for the killer. What I love about A Nightmare on Elm St is how the archetypal teens brought their archetypal teen fears along for the ride, and how Freddy was able to use their fears against them, turning their deaths into imaginative, almost surreal, over the top set pieces. Compared to the shuffling menace of Jason Voorhees and his machete from the Friday the Thirteenth movies, Freddy had charisma and style. The only thing I ever found interesting about the Friday the Thirteenth movies was the lengths they’d go to dredge up [1] another excuse to bring Jason back [2].

While at the time I’d often browse the horror section of the video store shelves, the means to indulge my thirst – living at home with conservative parents – wasn’t always available. So, I made do with what I had. My second generation VHS dubs of the Nightmare films (1, 3, 4 and 5 at the time [3]) that I’d pull out of a cupboard whenever Ma and Pa were out. Even today the same covers stare back at me at the video stores. The cases may be thinner, and need to adjust the tracking gone, but for some reason, after all this time, a switch has flicked in brain, drawing me back and making me want to dive into that world of madness and Michael Berrymen [4].

A lot has changed over the years, and I’ve realised recently how much content I have to catch up on. I’ve watched from a distance as the Slasher movie crazy of the 80s turned in to the homogenised ‘Scary Movie’ teen-pop-horror from the 90s – Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Urban Legend to name but a few. They in turn gave way to rise of ‘Torture Porn’ in the naughties – in particular the Saw and Hostel franchises. Now, we’re faced with the glut of needless remakes, where it seems Hollywood has all of a sudden run out of original ways to off teenagers –  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, and more recently Friday the Thirteenth and A Nightmare on Elm St reboots. It’s as if someone decided that all these old concepts needed was a fresh coat of CG paint to appeal to a new audience, where is it was often their cheap 70s and 80s aesthetics that gave them their charm [5].

And all of this is just from the US. I’ve been scouring recommendations on IMDB and devouring Wikipedia articles, trying to build a list of essential foreign films to check out. I’m ashamed to admit that, after years of being fascinated by the work of Dario Argento [6], I’ve only recently sat down and actually watched Susperia, and I am now completely enamored. One of the most visually stunning films, horror or otherwise, that I have ever seen. I’ve also finally taken the time to sit down and watch Michael Haneke’s Funny Games [7], which was an interesting ride, and a film I’d not heard much about apart from some chatter on Facebook, A Siberian Film, which I think I might have to talk about in greater depth in on another day. Arguably, neither of these films fit neatly into the ‘Horror’ genre, but I still feel they warrant discussion on the same level.

Where this is all going, I’m not entirely sure. What I do know is that I am interested in trying to start a bit of a dialogue with horror fans, in an interest to try and see as much as I can. First port of call; below is a list of films I’ve had on my radar to watch for some time, that I’m hoping to check out as soon as I’m able. From there, I guess we’ll see. If you have any suggestions or feedback, please feel free to leave them in the comments.

My list to watch:

  1. Videodrome: My Cronenberg knowledge is shamefully lacking. Apart from The Fly, eXistenZ and the rather warped Naked Lunch, I’ve not had chance to see much else. I’ll be starting at Videodrome and working from there.
  2. Dawn of the Dead (1978): Confession #1: I rate Zach Synder’s 2004 remake of Dawn very highly, and I’m a big fan of Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, but I wouldn’t call myself a big Zombie fan. While I realise many purists disregard the above two films completely (“Zombies don’t run!”), I think they’re both great films in their own right. Confession #2: the only Romero Zombie film I’ve seen is Land of the Dead, which had a few good moments [8], but was ultimately pretty flawed. I’ll be starting at Dawn and working back/forward from there. Plus it was Buy 2 get 1 Free at JB today, so I’ve got it on Bluray.
  3. More Argento: ‘Nuff said. Starting with the rest of the Three Mothers Trilogy and devouring anything I can get my hands on.
  4. I Spit on Your Grave / The Last House on the Left / The Hills Have Eyes (Originals):  I’m throwing these all together in that they’re often mentioned in the same breath. Known mostly for their brutality, and all of a similar era. Plus I think it’d be interesting to look at Wes Craven’s early work compared to what he’s doing now.
  5. Martyrs / Inside: The French Contingent. I’ve read great reviews about both films, and it sounds like the European horror resurgence is still alive and kicking. Having said that, I also check out Haute Tension recently, and despite it’s amazing style (it’s dripping with atmosphere, and it might contain the best use Muse’s New Born in a film ever), I couldn’t buy into its twist, so it left me very, very unimpressed. I’ll been keen to see what else the French have come up with.

Apart from this, I’ll  be revisiting some of my old favourites, including The Evil Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, to see how they’ve aged. And also cause they’re awesome.

Feedback is welcome. What have I missed? What should I avoid? What are your favourites, dear readers?

[1] In at least one case, literally.

[2] And yes, I know this was also a flaw in the Nightmare films. Somehow, to me at least, Freddy made it more interesting.

[3] We don’t really talk about A Nightmare on Elm St 2: Freddy’s Revenge; a movie that seems to want to talk more about the fear of repressed homosexuality in teens than it does actual horror. Although, to some audiences, I’m sure there’s a lot of cross over.

[4] One of the most iconic covers I remember from the VHS horror movie years was for The Hills Have Eyes; Michael Berryman’s slightly twisted face staring out, into your soul, still kinda haunts me today.

[5] I’m convince that, if cinemas could get their hands on decent prints of some of the old classics, there would be an audience that would pay to see them screened again. Stop wasting money on remaking films no one is asking to see re-made, and start reminding people of how Horror should be done.

[6] And I don’t just mean his daughter! *boom* *tish*

[7] I will admit, I did take the lazy route and watch the US remake, which I am told is shot for shot. The main reason being I was trying to eat my dinner at the same time, and didn’t want to have to bother with subtitles and miss any dialogue. If anyone thinks I’ve gone the wrong path here, please let me know in the comments and I will check out the original.

[8] See [6].


Author: Mark Ampersand

Budding writer, connoisseur of fine popular culture and Batman fan.

7 thoughts on “… of the Horror. The Glorious, Glorious Horror.”

  1. I wonder if this hunger for horror is catching? I have always loved horror films but recently i have found myself devouring them to the point of buying films (at full price) i have never heard of from Jb Hifi to fulfil my need for horror.

    I am on a bit of a monster movie bender (soo hard to find good ones). May i suggest The Mist.

    1. Hmm… that is interesting. Maybe it’s something in the water?

      I heard great things about The Mist. King + Darabont? Sold! Thanks for the recommendation.

      Did you see any of the Walking Dead TV show? It was awesome for the first like, four episodes, but really fell apart towards the end. Hopefully they’ll pick up in season 2.

  2. No i haven’t seen the walking Dead. Have you seen Dead Set? Zombies and Big Brother (tv show) in a mini series. Whodathunk?

    I would also love any horror recommendations. But i cant handle incestual hillbilly horror. So the whole the Hills Have Eyes and Texas Chain saw Massacre oeuvre is out.

    I have somehow missed Argento completely!

    Just saw the The Crazies. The new one with Radha Mitchell and Timothy Olyphant. Pretty good.

    1. I heard about Dead Set, but haven’t had chance to see it. Walking Dead is amazing to start with. Still worth checking out though.

      Karen, I have a feeling you’d love Suspiria. You should try and see it ASAP. It’s such a beautiful film.

      Have you seen the original Texas Chainsaw? It’s worth seeing. The remake was trash. They tried to explain far too much, and it just ruined the mystery. I’ve not seen the Crazies… but I thought it was an incestuous hillbilly horror!

      As far as others to check out, I’m really keen on checking out the French films I mentioned. As for Monster stuff, I’m a bit stuck. Do you mean like Pumpkinhead and the like? (Gotta love Lance Henriksen)

  3. The Crazies is Zombies. Kind of.

    Will definitely check out Suspira and Walking Dead. I have been meaning to check out Cronos from del Toro as well.

    Have not seen Pumpkin head. But i do have a soft spot for Lance Henriksen.

    I really want to watch A Cabin in the woods written by Joss Whedon but it seems to have been in post production forever.

    1. Cabin is in post production? I had no idea they’d even shot it! Remember reading about it ages ago, but kinda thought it’d died in the water.

      I can’t believe I missed del Toro on my list! Absolutely need to check out more of his stuff.

  4. Cabin is finished but apparently it’s in release date hell as the company that owns it went onto liquidation. Sigh.

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