Written by: Daniel McDonald
As a contributing writer for our (hopefully), wickedly entertaining and informative ‘All things Horror’ rest stop on your own personal Highway to Hell, things are, never less than fascinating. Learning the observations and opinions (agreed with or not) of intensely dedicated fans of just about every terrifying color of our genre’s Rainbow, from Misty Grey, to Inferno Green, Velvety Blue, Hatchet Murder Red, Jack o Lantern Orange, bruise-ish Purple Bullet Silver to Sunday Black. these sometimes awfully great/sometimes just awful products presented… something to fulfill (or should I say satisfy) the wants, needs and (most frequently) desires of our unique, quite often misunderstood collective fan base.
The fact that even the superior efforts from visionary screen writers and especially directors are still viewed with a qualifying ‘less than’ eye (except for a very selective few, whose award recognition is so rare that it actually becomes newsworthy – the utter disbelief in the media that THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS had taken ALL of the Top prizes spoke volumes). Even more evidence of the prejudicial ways that fright films are treated is in the 1973 Devil vs Gangster debacle.
I’ll never forget the uproar over critical attention and award worthiness regarding a shocking, terrifying, technically brilliant and challenging on every level, classic piece of Horror cinema, William Friedkin’s THE EXORCIST and its competition, a quaint, well-constructed, period piece gangster comedy that seriously (in my humble opinion) coasted to glory on the shoulders of its two stars, and a completely unacceptable groundswell from old Hollywood – anything but that Devil movie, George Roy Hill’s period piece comedy, THE STING.
Things became very intense when at that year’s Golden Globe Awards, the two films did not compete in several categories. Both THE STING and THE EXORCIST did very well in their respective genre divisions. This only ramped up an ‘antiquated’ (again in my humble opinion) prejudice from religious groups, a Hollywood system that was breathing its last breaths and the mature, sometimes shocking tone that Friedkin, author William Peter Blatty and a creative team (tech and cast) working in top form, unleashed upon an unsuspecting world.
Less than halfway through the ceremony, it was clear that the stalemate had worked. One moment I will NEVER forget, I was sitting in my living room utterly defeated that Freidkin had lost the Best Director award, I honestly felt, if you put all of the topicality and religious issues aside, you had a visionary masterpiece that retains its cinematic power and ability to terrify to this very moment, or a charming little ‘caper’ film with two (at the time) Superstars with massive fanbase power.
The final sucker punch was the moment when Elizabeth Taylor read the nominees for Best Picture, and after opening the envelope, smiled as she said, “and the winner is…oh I’m so glad THE STING!” Yeppers a final f*** you to a now classic, iconic piece of Art. The sad thing is, I can barely remember THE STING at all… don’t mess with the Devil…
This got me thinking, that even as a completely addicted ‘try to experience all that I possibly can’ genre fan, there are, in my mind different types of prejudices, favorites that can’t really be justified or explained as a fan or more importantly as a ‘horror Cinema observer’ (gotta get rid of the inherently negative feelings attached to critic). So, I’ve decided to take the risk of public ridicule for not always being able to say, “W H Y ” certain films rang my personal bell…not AT ALL a top or bottom list…just a Daniel list. Sort of a GEMS vs COSTUME JEWELRY list, they’re not all brilliant, some not even worth your time, but for one reason or another they got my attention and began my life long affair with Horror Cinema.
Since my love affair with Horror Cinema began in 1963 watching the wonderful Lon Chaney Jr as the vulnerable utterly melancholy Larry Talbot in George Waggner’s masterpiece THE WOLFMAN from my mamma’s lap – I’ll only give you a few examples of “I don’t quite know why they either worked for or against my passion” for Horror Cinema.
I have to start things off with (of course) THE WOLFMAN, which even though it scared me, it also got this 6 year old boy to feel honest empathy for Larry Talbot’s plight. Also, the beginnings of an eye for FX makeup, cinematography, set design and art direction. I was so lucky my mom got me up at 12 so we could watch it together.
Another lucky break came when my babysitter in the TRAILER PARK took me to see my first in-house scary movie – Alfred Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS. I was so frightened, but blown away by the bird FX. Unfortunately, when it lost the FX Oscar to CLEOPATRA I gave it away that I had seen it by sneaking – I got punished, babysitter got fired.
My favorite Christopher Lee film DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE 1(68.
Didn’t see PSYCHO until the ‘70s but damn it was worth the wait. I became obsessed with one in a line of HOUSE OF… films. This one was THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED, a girls’ boarding school murder mystery with some fantastic murder sequences. Lili Palmer starred and the fact that up and coming British teen heartthrob John Moulder Brown was featured didn’t hurt.
A decade of some truly epic horror to be sure. THE EXORCIST. THE OMEN, JAWS, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, ALIEN, THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES, HALLOWEEN and in my humble opinion the just as good in every way, but created 4 years EARLIER – BLACK CHRISTMAS, PHANTASM, THE BROOD, RABID, HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS, GOD TOLD ME TO. 1973 introduced me to a stunning, visual stylist who, in only his first few films became the director whose films I watched repeatedly: SISTERS, PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE,CARRIE, THE FURY, OBSESSION. I’m speaking of Brian De Palma – oh if only he’d give some of that amazing cinematic eye to a project worthy (sorry, not PASSION) of his meticulous vision.
THE SHINING, JOHN CARPENTER’S THE THING, THE HUNGER, RAZORBACK, PET SEMATARY, MOTEL HELL, SILVER BULLET, ALLIGATOR, MANIAC COP, THE BURNING, FUNHOUSE, THE HITCHER, THE STUFF, PUPPET MASTER, FRIDAY THE 13th, PRINCE OF DARKNESS, NEAR DARK, BASKET CASE, THE FOG, AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, PUMPKINHEAD, WOLFEN – a healthy and diverse ‘poopoo platter’ of something for everyone’s taste (God I hope I spelled that correctly….).
TREMORS, BRAM STOKERS DRACULA, ARACHNOPHOBIA, CANDYMAN, DEAD OR ALIVE, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECY, AUDITION, THE SIXTH SENSE, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS COPYCAT, MIMIC, EVENT HORIZON, SCREAM, IT PROPHECY, NIGHTWING, THE RING, HENRY- PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER, MOSQUITO, BAD MOON, DEAD ALIVE, THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS, LEVIATHIN, TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE, NIGHTBREED, TWO EVIL EYES, FLATLINERS, BEYOND DARKNESS, MISERY, JACOB’S LADDER some outrageously diverse director on that list!
THE NEW MILLENNIUM
MARTYRS, GINGER SNAPS, THE STRANGERS, THE OTHERS, 28 DAYS/WEEKS LATER, WOLF’S CREEK,THE HOST, THE DEVIL.’S BACKBONE, THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, THE DESCENT, DRAG ME TO HELL, IT FOLLOWS, THE BABADOOK, LIGHTS OUT, HUSH, DONT BREATHE, OUIJA 2: ORIGIN OF EVIL, WITHIN, INCARNATE, THE VOID, CURVE, INTRUDERS, MORGAN, SOUTHBOUND, ROAD GAMES, CELL, THE MONSTER, DEMON, THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE, THE DEVIL’S CANDY and so much in store.
While working on this piece it became so obvious from the mid to late ‘80s on the proliferation of sequels and remakes are slowly (sort of neck and neck with the Franchise game) taking over La La Land – it has become so damned expen$ive to get a film done (and PROPERLY marketed) everyone wants a ‘sure thing’ which means do what made money before, but do it bigger and louder – no concerns that it be better or different than before.
I can proudly state that I’ve seen almost everyone of these feat…. well maybe not quite ‘proudly’, but I have had the pleasure (or sometimes the task) of digging through the cinematic pirate’s chest. And while it’s true there is quite a bit of fairly worthless Costume Jewelry out there… there is also some wonderful cinematic gem stones that, because of no Promotional assistance, lack of studio support, or even shitty luck ” we don’t realize it exists!” it’s worth your time to dig around and find some ‘fang-equipped gems and enjoy them… I. J. S.