This is a guest post by my husband, Will Klein, a.k.a. oslowe.
October is coming, and fast. As long time readers might recall (and especially them of you who followed me over from Livejournal), with October comes the Trailers to horror movies. One of the great things about movie trailers is that they can be good, bad , and totally awesome– often without revealing the actual merits (beyond budget) of the movies they are selling.
Well, don’t worry, I’ll be chronicling them again next month–hopefully not missing a week or so like I did last year.
But I bring this up because of a terrific post over at my pal Miss Twist’s blog about “movies” and “film”, and the whole “art” of the medium.
I wanted to bring it up in regards to Horror Films.
People who know me well–or at cocktail parties where the subject comes up–tend to be aware of my disgruntled reaction every Halloween when a number of “Best of” and “top ten” type lists about horror movies appear, and for some reason Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining always ends up on them.
I do not think it is a terribly scary movie. A well made movie, most definitely. A “film” even–quite probably. But it’s constant inclusion on these lists has long been a real aggravator for me.
And now, thanks to Miss Twist, I think I get it.
There is a kneejerk ghettoization of Horror Movies–because so many of them are Cheap, Sleazy and without any Redeeming Values–and it is, mostly, deserved. But then, name me a genre of movies where most of the examples AREN’T less than art?
My beloved Western genre–tons, and I mean literal tons of sub-par pre 40’s oaters were produced. Most of the Tex Ritter, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers movies–frankly, if you’ve seen two of them you’ve seen the formula.
Dozens–if not more–of craptastic cash-in shoot ’em up Spag Westerns that had “Django” or “Sartana” in the title had none of the artistic merit of Leone or Corbucci or Solima’s features.
There are Great adventure and action movies and films–and a lot of crap. Science Fiction is littered with the corpses of stinkers, both low budget and high.
And most movie lovers can probably name a movie or two–even a film or two–in just about any genre–including Romantic Comedies *shudder*.
But horror gets short shrift, because of the aforementioned ghetto “video nasty” vibe that most people have about them.
But there definitely are horror films out there. And not just Kubrick’s.
If I were to make a top ten list of horror “Films”, I don’t even know if The Shining would end up on it.
Bernard Rose’s Candyman would–to be sure. Adapted from a Clive Barker short story from the ground up, it is an elegant, haunting, scary ghost story. It is also a film that explores the reaches of storytelling, of myth-making, and of white flight, urban paranoia, and the racial divide of Chicago- that is a lot of heady shit for a movie that most people (especially those who didn’t see the damn thing) remember solely as “that Tony Todd is all sexy ghost-romance thing.”
I would argue in favor of Neil Jordan and Angela Carter’s The Company Of Wolves being a film–a flawed one, yes, but a visually gorgeous, elegiac look at (again) the powers of storytelling, dreams and nightmares, and just how scary sexual awakening can be for most young people. Oh yeah, and it has some awesome werewolf transformations (sorry, Courtney).
Robert Wise’s adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s novel “The Haunting Of Hill House” (an utterly terrifying piece of literature) is pretty damn amazing too. Who would have thunk that the director of West Side Story and The Sound of Music, and the future director of Star Trek: The Motion Picture had as wonderfully atmospheric and spooky a story as The Haunting in him? Pitch perfect casting, smart use of Jackson’s original prose (actually bettered in the opening and closing voiceover of Nelson Gidding’s screenplay), an incredible sound design attached to smart editing and great simple special effects used well–this is a damn fine “film,” and one of the best horror movies ever made.
Anthony Shaffer and Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man is an undeniable work of art–a great, great film in almost every way possible. Dread inducing existential horror, amazing performances, fantastic location shooting… it’s just great.
Should Tod Browning’s Dracula make the list? I don’t think so- the first twenty minutes are spellbinding, but after that it becomes a stage bound potboiler.
Does The Bride of Frankenstein even count as horror, or is it science-fiction and comedy wrapped in some horror trimmings?
What about Polanski’s adaptation of Rosemary’s Baby, or Lucky McKee’s May?
Kaneto Shindo’s incredible Kuroneko still haunts me (more-so than his more well-known Onibaba, arguably the first two J-Horror films)–and what about Ringu? Is it “just” a Great horror movie, or is it a horror film?
Is it even possible for Takeshi Miike to make a film? If so, it might be Audition, or does it just resonate for a few scenes–is the overall movie as good as the high points?
I think arguments could be made to include Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, though is it great because of it’s flaws or despite them?
A lot of time older movies end up on “top ten” lists because they are “classics,” and while I have tons of respect for classics (especially in that they influence what comes after) I don’t think anything deserves inclusion on an actual non-sop “Best EVER” list just because they were first, or are old.
What horror movies do you think transcend the genre to become more than just movies, to become art–to become “films”?