Why Horror? Why Not?

house-of-wax 

I’ve always loved horror movies, maybe because I don’t scare easily, or maybe I don’t scare because I grew up watching horror. Movies that were still new at the time, like Halloween, Alien or Friday the 13th, had to wait some years until we got a VCR, so I was raised on less gory but no less frightening “oldies.” The Universal monsters were the first hook, and the earliest time I remember asking (and being allowed) to stay up late to watch a scary movie airing in the wee hours was Night of the Living Dead (1968). The beloved TV classic movie host in my area, Elwy Yost, introduced me to The Thing (1951) and Cat People (1942), to name just a couple vivid memories. I wish I still had the free cardboard 3D glasses that were handed out at the corner store for a special TV broadcast of House of Wax (1953). Nosferatu (1922) and Phantom of the Opera (1925) were gateways to silent film. 

nosferatu

Art has always provided a safe and vicarious way to experience and work through things that disturb and scare us most–predators, death, war, isolation, disease, unexplained events and motives. At its best, horror is a meaningful, cathartic and artful genre that pushes ideas and big issues to extremes, and, when it succeeds in its effort to create a tense mix of the relevant and the unreal, it can be cinema at its most visually inventive, involving and memorable. 

thething

As a soft and squishy people who no longer have to flee from dinosaurs and sabretooth tigers, watching a movie monster is one of the only ways left to get our survival instincts triggered and exercised. It takes a lot of writing and filmmaking creativity to create creatures that get into your head and live there, ones that are familiar even to people who have never seen the movie they came from, monsters that embody the specific fears of their eras and adapt to scare us in new ways, whether they come from ancient tombs, a doctor’s table, outer space or right next door. 

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I love a good “final girl” because she’s an ordinary woman with no preparation or superpowers, who finds herself in a nightmare but overwhelms her opponents and survives thanks to bravery and resourcefulness she didn’t know she had. Chances are slim that you’ll ever be chased by a masked slasher, but life can sometimes feel that relentless and chaotic, and when it does you can draw a lot of strength from tough heroines like Susy, Sydney, Erin or Laurie.* On the final girl subject, last Halloween I wrote about one of my all-time favourite films, Scream

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A good movie scare helps you see real-life scares as smaller and more manageable. In most cases horror movies are just fun, and I get a kick out of seeing great actors bring their A game to roles where they wear strange makeup, pretend to see things that aren’t there and fight cheesy monsters. I admire that kind of commitment. 

This stroll down memory lane and brief rumination on my favourite things about the genre is to introduce this: starting today, fellow horror fan and blog friend Mike’s Take on the Movies and I are celebrating Halloween by picking movies on a different theme each night through the 31st. We chose a nice mix of all time favourites, new-to-us, cheesy and/or underrated films in 9 categories that include Vincent Price, Hammer Films, and post-2000 horror. Hope you join us to see what all the themes are, and hope you have as much fun reading as we will watching! Mike shares his scary movie memories tonight at his blog.. 

*characters from Wait Until Dark, Scream, You’re Next and Halloween, if you’re unfamiliar

Here are the 9 themes: Vincent Price: The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971),  Kaiju: Rodan (1956), Hammer Horror: The Devil Rides Out (1968), Comedy Horror: Tremors (1990), Post-2000: Cloverfield (2008), Ghosts & Haunted Houses: The Uninvited (1944), 50s Sci Fi monsters The Monolith Monsters (1957), Unviersal: Tower of London (1939), A Personal Favourite: Fright Night (1985).

gif: http://vintagegal.tumblr.com/post/127906102317/night-of-the-living-dead-1968-dir-george-a

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11 thoughts on “Why Horror? Why Not?”

  1. Well put about having to go through oldies before the ones that were playing under the dreaded R as they had to wait. Hurrah for the Elwy comment. We discovered plenty of classics in all genres through him. Pretty sure I first saw the Mad Magician during those 3-D TV specials.

    1. Right, all those were R and no go until after the mid-80s. Elwy taught us so much and also the Buffalo stations had great stuff on overnight. My parents always used to joke that I learned to read by age 3 so I could understand the TV Guide.

        1. YES! I remember Goldie and that makes me think of the time Homer Simpson pledged an obscene amount just to hurry up the end of the movie and got a pledge collector visit from Barney and Sesame St.

  2. Excellent post.One of these days (when my memory is clicking along in a better form). I’ll need to run some reminiscing of my own on my site. I do recall seeing plenty of old horror flicks and remember Night of the Living Dead being shown on TV with a disclaimer during the news reports so people didn’t freak out…

    1. Yes you should, it’s fun to look back and try to recall where it started. I know I saw so many but these are the clearest, I must have been crazy to want to see Living Dead that young but loved it 🙂 Thanks!

  3. What a fun idea! Can’t wait to see what you two post. I grew up watching horror and sci-fi every Saturday afternoon, first with ‘Seymour Presents’, then later with ‘Disasterpiece Theater’ and ‘Movie Macabre’. I saw lots of classics and lots of junk, but both were equally fun.

    1. That’s great, hopefully you’ll enjoy it. Loved searching for and finding these movies back in ye olde TV days, when you were equally grateful for the junk and the classics. Those shows and hosts made the movies a real event!

  4. I’ll admit that I’m the kind of person who can see a modern horror movie and go to bed with the lights on but I love classic horror, that is, classic psychological horror. That’s why I love it that TCM always shows some great classic horror films in October.

    Tam

    1. October might be my favourite month on TCM, they always have some gems and lots of Hammer movies that I haven’t seen yet. I think of all the genre, my horror “comfort food” are the Universal monster movies and anything that looks like them. Can’t beat an old dark house either. thanks

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