Saturday, April 9, 2011

H is for Horror


"Zombies by their very nature are inconsistent," whines Steve Coogan's embarrassing creation Alan Partridge as he has a "pop at the undead" in the lobby of a travel motel.

But horror films are more about cringing in fear than laughing and they loom large through my childhood ever since I hid behind the sofa as the sight of makeshift monsters such as the cybermen in Dr Who.

We've been fascinated with horror ever since silent shorts created by film pioneers such as Georges Méliès in the late 1890s, the most notable being his 1896 Le Manoir du diable (aka "The House of the Devil"), followed by classics such as the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

And let's face it, who hasn't at some time or another stumbled around the living room with a contorted face mumbling: "The bells, the bells."

Universal Pictures made the horror film popular in the 1930s with films such as Dracula and Frankenstein and the rest is horror history.

Although I used to be a fan of horror films as a teenager my interest waned as it became clear a three hours fest of gratuitous gore can become very dull. Today I have little time for slasher movies such as Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street or anything involving Chucky, a diminutive doll with a seriously bad attitude.

To work for me horror movies need to have atmosphere, a smattering of subtlety and suspense. A plot that goes beyond a psycho with a large knife and bad teeth helps as well.

Here's 10 of the best in no particular order.

1 - The Curse of Frankenstein - It's hard to go wrong with Mary Shelley's classic plot and this 1957 film was groundbreaking in the development of the Hammer Horror brand and the careers of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.

2 - The Birds - this 1967 Alfred Hitchcock movie was pioneering for its time, foreshadowing later Hollywood epics.

3 - The Exorcist - the hair raising 1973 classic was banned from British TV for many years, although I'm not sure why. Perhaps children would want to emulate it my making their heads do a 360. Won 10 Academy Award nominations.

4 - Carrie - this 1976 film was one of the first screen adaptions of a Stephen King novel and an object lesson on how not to pick a prom date.

5 - Jaws - Steven Spielberg announced his arrival with a bloody splash and a grinding of sharp teeth in this 1975 blockbuster. Although not in the classic horror genre, the director's use of suspense make Jaws a classic.

6 - Alien - Executive Officer Kane (John Hurt) feels more than a little discomfort when he gets a tummy ache. The rest is movie history in a film that announced the arrival of Sigourney Weaver.

7 - The Shining - Another film based on a Stephen King novel, the Shining is a powerful psychological piece directed by Stanley Kubrick. Jack Nicholson stole the show and the line  "Here's Johnny!" was voted as the #68 movie quote by the American Film Institute (out of 100).

8 - Bram Stoker's Dracula - For me this 1992 film directed by Francis Ford Coppola has all the ingredients of a classic horror tale, fear in a bleak castle as well as love and passion and it's beautifully filmed.

9 - Arachnophobia - this comedy horror film might not make many people's top 10s but my fear of spiders ensures I'll end up clutching the side of the sofa whenever it comes on.

10 - The Blair Witch Project - the 1999 film pieced together pieces of amateur footage and was a surprise hit. I went to see it and, although I wasn't entirely convinced, I found it eerie and unusual enough to include in this list.

18 comments:

  1. Oh, the Exorcist! This film STILL scares me so much, I can't even bear to HEAR it from the next room!

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  2. Great list, David! I saw "The Birds" when I was quite young, and that still makes me shudder when I think about it. "The Shining" terrified me as well. All those spiders in "Arachnophobia"--YIKES! "Silence of the Lambs" is one I might add to the list.

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  3. I've seen exactly 2 of these movies. I can't tolerate most horror films, which used to drive my son bonkers as he wanted to watch them (but not alone). I even have a tough time with the spoofs. I didn't know the Exorcist was banned from UK TV!

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  4. I agree with Talli, The Exorcist still freaks me out. It seems like horror movies nowadays are all about torture, who can depict the most gruesome deaths, which is definitely not something I want to waste time and money on.

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  5. It`s so interesting to read the articles from your new project. For me, it`s a cultural immersion. I`m anticipating the continuation. I wonder what you`ll come up with for the letter X :)

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  6. I've seen the Exorcist, the Birds, Carrie, Jaws, the Shining, and the Blair Witch Project. The last one had some suspense, but none really scared me. I've always loved Psycho, even though I saw it young it was still spoiled because I knew what was going to happen since it's so mainstream in popular culture. Same with the Shining - I had already seen the Shinning!

    I love books and movies about real serial killers, those usually creep me out. Frailty is also one of my favorite horror movies, because it seems so real.

    - allison writes

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  7. Great post. And that list is pretty damn good. Especially Alien.

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  8. I think I've only seen 2 of those movies. I'm such a wimp!

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  9. The Birds. A classic. Horror is not a genre I really enjoy, but that Hitchcock film is one of the best.

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  10. Never got into zombies, nor horror. Haven't seen any of those movies. Maybe the Birds but nothing else.


    Gregg Metcalf
    Colossians 1:28-29

    Gospel-driven Disciples

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  11. interesting Talli. It's kind of disturbing but I didn't find it as scary as I feared it would be. Thanks Diasy, so true re Silence of the Lambs, although I'm not sure it's 100 pc horror. Funny Li. I know what you mean. Character building, tho. You are so right re contemporary horror movies, Tim. Wow Olga, haven;t thought of x - I feel a lot of people may do x ray. For sure Allison, I feel they were more scary when I was younger. Glad you liked it Olfield, would agree re Alien. Thanks for visiting B's Mom. For sure Jayne, Hitchcock is a genius. Thanks for the comment Gregg.

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  12. oh and do watch the vid folks, it will have you in stitches.

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  13. Excellent H post, David. Horror movies ain't what they used to be. That is, I can watch them now, because they are more funny than scary. Sigh.
    xoRobyn

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  14. Really great list to which I could very much relate. I also have a fear of spiders of any kind by the way. I get very scared by horror films but I am OK if I watch then when there is daylight. Well, usually anyway!

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  15. Thanks for visiting Trisha, you are tooo kind Robyn, you are right, they are not so scary now. Thanks Frog- yuck spiders.

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  16. First, you forgot to include the scariest movie known to man: Howard the Duck. God, I won't be able to sleep now, that movie seriously creeps me out. I think it's the eyes.

    Secondly, everytime I have my yearly 'ahem' physical I think about the Blair Witch Project because the first one I ever had that's what the physician chose to talk to me about. I'm not sure what that says about me.

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  17. Oh, I have seen all of those horror films.
    I've always been fascinated with that genre.
    Great list, good video as well.

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