Review Index


The horror genre, like any other, is host to a number of ideas perceived by many to be Gospel.  If you're unsure what I'm talking about, read some of the following headings.  Most of you, I'm sure, have heard, read or possibly even mouthed one or more of the following oft-repeated quotes--and maybe you've even bought into 'em.  Well, here's a second opinion!

They just don't make good horror movies anymore.
     It might seem that way at times, but we have to remember Theodore Sturgeon's famous observation about sci fi, which can applied to any genre: 90 percent of everything is crap.  The fact is, "they" have turned out at least three solid horror movies in the last few months, PANIC ROOM, FRAILTY and INSOMNIA, all of which were, furthermore, made in the U.S.A., thus debunking another bad idea clung to in certain circles: that there are no good American horror movies!  Speaking of which:

The Best horror movies are old/new, from     America/Italy/Brazil/Spain/Italy/Russia/France/Japan/China/Korea.
     Any Best or Worst film list is suspect in my view unless it takes into account the diversity of world cinema.  ALL the above countries have produced superb films, classic (read: old) and otherwise. 

The "Quiet" approach to horror is far superior to the "Loud" approach (or vice versa).
     From its earliest days, the horror community has been split between "quiet" terror, which tends to be psychologically based, and its opposite approach, which favors graphic, in-your-face scares.  Personally, I think the entire debate is nonsense.  Horror movies are like any other kind: some are good and many are bad.  This week I just reviewed two very different movies: Frank Perry's subtle and subdued LADYBUG, LADYBUG and Andrzej Zulawski's frenzied and outrageous DIABEL.  Which of 'em did I "like" best?  Actually, I liked 'em equally.  Both do what all good horror films must: transgress, unsettle and fascinate in equal measure.  So what if their makers use different approaches?

Modern horror films err in showing too much; the classic moviemakers knew it was our imagination wherein the true horror lies.
     I can't tell you how often I've encountered a variation of that ridiculous proclamation, and it drives me nuts every time.  For one thing, it's blatantly false: Georges Franjau's 1959 classic EYES WITHOUT A FACE has, in its infamous face-lifting scene, one of the most gruesome sights in any horror film.  For another thing, the statement is, frankly, total horseshit.  If we have to rely on our imagination to visualize a movie's horrors, then why bother seeing it at all?  If a film's "true horror" is solely in your mind, then its makers ain't doing their job.  

The original versions of FRANKENSTEIN and DRACULA are the greatest horror movies of all time.
     Personally, I believe the adulation these movies have received over the years is due more to the performances of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, respectively--after watching these guys, it's impossible to visualize anyone else in the roles of Frankenstein's Monster or Count Dracula.  As for the movies themselves, well, it's surprising how few horror fans have actually seen them.  I recently watched 'em both for the first time since the first grade, and was deeply underwhelmed.  In their place I'd recommend viewing THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, in which Karloff and director James Whale ironed out the kinks of the first film, or DRACULA director Todd Browning's FREAKS, one of the truly great horror movies of all time.

THE EXORCIST is the greatest horror movie of all time
     Laugh all you like, but I actually prefer John Boorman's EXORCIST 2: THE HERETIC to the original.  Boorman, the maker of great films like DELIVERANCE and EXCALIBUR, created an extremely ambitious film that remains unique in its vast, epic approach, something you don't see in too many horror movies.  Yes, THE HERETIC has quite a few clunky bits (like whenever its star Richard Burton is onscreen), but then so does the original.  Let's face it, William Friedkin's EXORCIST has some absolutely fantastic "freakout" sequences, but the dramatic business in between has always fallen flat with me.

The SCREAM trilogy rejuvenated the horror genre.
If you buy into that one, then (to borrow a quote from MURDER CAN BE FUN'S Jonnie Marr) you're probably still bummed that Santa didn't come last year.  If anything, those airheaded flicks took the genre several steps back, with all the obnoxious (and apparently never-ending) teenybopper slashers that have followed. 
     To be fair, some fine films like Antonia Baird's RAVENOUS were greenlit as a result of the horror boom reaped by the success of SCREAM, but then again, they inevitably got stymied at the box office by Hollywood's boneheaded insistence on marketing them to the pubescent SCREAM crowd.

THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT rejuvenated the horror genre.
     Take a look at the horror landscape in the wake of this monster success and tell me how much it's been influenced by BWP.  If anything, it rejuvenated the horror parody genre, with offshoots like THE BLAIR BITCH PROJECT, THE BARE WENCH PROJECT, THE BLAIR THUMB PROJECT and one of the more memorable gags from SCARY MOVIE, to name but a few.

John Carpenter's THE THING (1982) is a gory and unnecessary remake of an all-time classic.
How many times have you heard this, or some variation on it?  The fact is Carpenter's is one of the finest horror/sci fi flicks of the past 20 years, boasting groundbreaking special effects that are still impressive today.  Furthermore, the film is authentically scary.
     About the original Thing, all I'll say is try sitting through this ridiculous melange of commie paranoia and guy-in-a-suit horror and then tell me which film is the true classic! 
     While on the subject of underrated remakes, let's go to:  

Paul Schrader's Cat People (1982) is a gory and unnecessary remake of an all-time classic.
I'll admit Schrader's film is flawed (mostly in its clumsy attempts at replicating the original CAT PEOPLE), but it's also a vibrant, erotic and perverse flick with truly stunning visuals.  Critics were freaked out by the sado-masochistic love story at its center (which was apparently not dissimilar to the offscreen affair between Schrader and star Nastassja Kinski), but it actually harks back to the blood-soaked romances of novels like Hanns Heinz Ewers' VAMPIRE (1928) and Guy Endore's WEREWOLF OF PARIS (1933), both of which appeared long before the 1942 version of CP.
     As for the Val Lewton production of CAT PEOPLE, I'll concede it has a few impressive sequences, but I found it pretty stale overall, like most of Lewton's films.  This is NOT to say I'm partial to remakes, mind you (I MUCH prefer the original HAUNTING to that imbecilic Spielberg-produced 1999 remake!), just good films, which John Carpenter's THE THING and Paul Schrader's CAT PEOPLE most certainly are--so there!!

"I have seen the future of horror and its name is Clive Barker."

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is THE cult movie of all time!
I'll write more on this topic in an upcoming essay, but for now I'll just say this big studio midnight movie mainstay is an overrated and derivative bumfart most notable for squeezing out smaller, more deserving cult films that could have benefited from its notoriety.  

Friday the Thirteenth was cool--it's only the sequels that suck.
No, they ALL suck!

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