Saturday, 12 May 2018

Iconic Horror Cinema + my introduction to the genre

I came across an old 2000AD "Chilling Winter Tales" special of mine from 1994. It contains a short article by an anonymous features writer under the by-line Roxilla. It was a run down of their favourite horror films. Now these weren't deep cuts by todays standards at all, Starts with King Kong and runs through, Bride of Frankenstein, Psycho, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Nightmare on Elm Street etc through to the 80s, providing some interesting detail about the production and special effects along the way. Entry level stuff for sure but to a 13-year-old-me it was quite important and my first introduction to The Haunting, Suspiria, Near Dark and others which remain firm favorites of mine. 

Actual cover of that 2000AD Winter Special
Now the reason why I'm posting this is that one thing that always stuck with me from the article was the last paragraph: "Its sad that since Near Dark there's not been a horror film released that has come up to the standard of the 13 classics covered here. On the law of averages, you'd expect at least two cracking horror films in a decade. Maybe the classics for the 90s have yet to be made. Here's hoping that's true." 

Now, that's a bit of an exaggeration, by then Braindead had been made and some of the choices seem a bit arbitrary in retrospect (The Shining is a glaring omission for example) no doubt due to the limitations of the format, intended audience (I'm assuming there's no body horror or weird sexy stuff because its for kids / teens so no Hellraiser, Cronenberg etc.), a set word count, etc, but it does raise a question, what were the iconic, ground-breaking, trend setting horrors of the last couple of decades? 

Personally, I'd say for the 1990s Ring and The Blair Witch Project. Ring opened the doors of Asian horror onto an unsuspecting world, Blair Witch wasn't the first Found Footage film but it was the one that broke the genre into the mainstream, doesn't quite hold up today on its own as a piece of cinema so maybe not but as a method and a sign of were horror films were at at the turn of the century its pretty important. 

For the 2000s - 28 Days Later for bringing the zompocalypse survival horror genre up to date with aplomb and doing something new with the zombies and Martyrs for being both viscerally disturbing and thoughtful. This decade, I could be wrong but I can't think of anything that has been able to land with the sort of impact of any of the above. There's been some good ones and some interesting ones but I'm struggling to think of anything that's going to spawn its own subgenre or anything like that. The only thing I can think of is Under The Skin for being the first to bring an abstract art-house sensibility to horror. Maybe Get Out? Horror has always had an element of social commentary (sometimes unconscious) but that is very much what the film is from the surface down, while still being an effective horror film in its own right. 

Or I dunno, maybe the 2-per-decade premise was just a conceit to give a loose structure to the article and doesn't hold up at all under examination. Still, it was a decent introduction to Horror films, and while it wouldn't be defining of my taste in horror gave me a decent grounding in the history of horror cinema on which I would build later. 

For reference the 13 films covered by the article are as follows: 
King Kong 
The Bride of Frankenstein 
I Walked with a Zombie (the only one on the list I've still never seen) 
Invasion of the Body Snatchers 
The Haunting Night of the Living Dead 
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 
The Evil Dead 
Nightmare on Elm Street 
Near Dark

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