Why I’m sticking to the golden oldies of horror this Halloween
With Halloween week now upon us, I’ll be settling down to a good old-fashioned horror movie with some friends and far too many sweets intended for the kids planning to trick or treat. Note that ‘old-fashioned’ is the operative word here. As a horror movie enthusiast it’s only the originals that I find are good enough to watch multiple times and that have stayed with me after I have switched the DVD player off.
My obsession with horror movies began when my mother said I couldn’t watch them. It was classic child psychology and a lesson I’ve learnt for my (possible) future children is never to say you can’t have something because it will only make them a) want it more and b) find a way to get it.
Working my way through the local video store, I saw everything I was able to get my hands on without having a parent or guardian present. Although many have been remade in the past 20 years, horror movies of the twentieth century will never be replaced because of the scare factor, psychological distress and the ability to get the adrenaline going.
The Exorcist has always been a classic but many argue that it’s not so scary now that special effects have come into play and story lines have become more savage and gory. However, I do not agree. The scenes in the roof where the demonic spirit takes over Regan’s body are some of the scariest I’ve ever seen. While the simplicity of the effects have undoubtedly inspired films like the Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity.
Demonic films such as Carrie, Poltergeist and The Omen trilogy have a way of creating so much fear simply from the look on someone’s face or total silence and as they age, the old-fashioned camera quality only makes it more terrifying.
Two legendary men who defined my childhood love of horror movies, which has remained with me into adulthood, are Alfred Hitchcock and Stephen King. Hitchcock made some average movies and not all of the adaptations of King’s novels can be considered to be great but their creativity is second to none. They focused on simple concepts which were turned into some of the most spine-chilling movies of the last 60 years.
From Hitchcock, The Birds has failed to be remade to a level that even comes close to the original. The ending is ambiguous and shrouds the ironic twist in mystery – I can’t give anymore away – however it leaves you with a particularly ill-feeling towards birds. The recent remake of Psycho did no justice to the original either. If you have not seen it, do yourself a favour and watch Hitchcock’s version as part of your horror film education.
Moving onto King, film adaptations of the writer’s stories have led to some of the greatest pieces of horror ever put on celluloid. No one has been able to make such a frightful film about clowns since 1990’s It. Pet Sematary 1 and 2 have made it almost impossible for me to do simple actions such as putting my ankles over the gap between the bed and the floor, even 20 years on. The Shining, The Children of the Corn, Misery and Tommy Knockers were equally able to tap into every part of the viewer’s deepest fears.
In the 1980s and 90s dolls became a great subject for horror and though the Child’s Play Chucky series has become more of a comedy than frightening in recent times, the first ones have every ingredient for a classic scary film. Dolly Dearest also captured this vibe, with porcelain dolls exploring an original concept that was always rather creepy to begin with.
The problem I often have with modern day horror movies is the tendency to follow the tired idea of demonic possession and general ghosts in a house. The Saw trilogy was the one exception that I would say that broke this trend of the tired storyline. Saying this, in the later movies it became more gore-porn than playing with your mind in the way that only a brilliant film can.
When A Stranger Calls was another example of this, the first 20 minutes of the 1979 original was remade in 2006 into an 87 minute long feature. The former received mixed reviews for slowing down after one of the scariest scenes in the history of horror movies. Rather than the remake improving on this downside, the director chose to make a girl run around a house to escape a killer for an hour and a half, not exactly something that stays with you like the brilliant movies of the past did.
For me, there will be no storyline that can compare to Nightmare on Elm Street, which took the idea that the villain feeds off your fear to a level that lasted long after the lights turned out at night. Paranormal Activity was good at making the simple things work, but its storyline was far from anything new. So until horror movies go back to their roots and create stories worth telling, focusing on psychological games, I’ll be sticking to the golden oldies this Halloween and many more to come.Tagged in: Alfred Hitchcock, Carrie, halloween, horror films, It, Nightmare on Elm Street, Paranormal activity, stephen king, The Birds, the exorcist
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