Many people think that loving horror films is an unusual thing. “You’re a filmmaker. You should like art films and dramas,” is something I’ve heard a lot from many of my friends and the truth is that I do enjoy art films and dramas. Many people don’t know that among my all time favorite films is the Italian epic THE BEST OF YOUTH, WHAT THE (BLEEP) DO YOU KNOW?, BRINGING UP BABY, CINEMA PARIDISO, and PI, to name a few, but the truth is that even though I love those movies it is the following films that I can watch and re-watch a million times – NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968), ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968), THE EXORCIST (1973), THE STEPFORD WIVES (1975), FREAKS (1932), CARNIVAL OF SOULS (1962), and THE HAUNTING (1963), THE OLD DARK HOUSE (1932), and THE MIST (2007). If you’ve noticed, many of these films were made in the ’30s and ’60s. I have a love of early horror cinema and these films never get old to me.
Another thing that you’ll notice is that all of these films (with possibly the exception of THE OLD DARK HOUSE) are horror films that are about more than just cheap thrills and frights. These films are among the best films that reflect the human condition and even try to be comment on politics and society among other relevant ideas. These ideas can also be expressed in other genres but it’s truly the horror genre in which these ideas can be expressed in there most extreme conditions.
In the anthology 3 EXTREMES (2004) the segment “Dumplings” comments on the extreme search for eternal beauty, one of society’s greatest pre-occupations. In DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978) director George A. Romero comments on society’s per-occupation with consumerism through the zombie genre. CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1980) is a hard look at documentary filmmaking and just how far someone will go to fabricate the truth and its consequences (although be it in a most gruesome way). These are but a few of the examples of great horror films that strive to be more than just the some of its parts.
Now there are many horror films that are simply just great as entertainment value (just like in any other genre) such as ZOMBIE (ZOMBIE 2) (1979), CUBE (1997), THE DESCENT (2005), FRIGHT NIGHT (1985), AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981), HALLOWEEN (1978), THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977), FRONTIERE(S) (1997), BABY BLOOD (1990), and THE EVIL DEAD II (1987), to name a few, and these are films that many fans cherish.
I’ve loved horror films since I was a child. My mother is a huge fan of horror movies and books (especially Stephen King) and I grew up watching all the horror films of the ’70s and ’80s. Even though I love horror films from before the ’80s, my mother didn’t watch those type of films and I grew up watching what she watched which was a lot of Alfred Hitchcock, Stephen King based films (especially CUJO, CHRISTINE, CHILDREN OF THE CORN, and CAT’S EYE), and a lot of monster films (my mother didn’t really care for the human monsters such as serial killers so I didn’t watch those until I was much older). A this time I became a huge Godzilla fan and even though these films can hardly be called horror films they were films with monsters…lots of monsters and thus I devoured these films and everything like them. I still tend to like non-traditional monster films more than the basic horror and serial killer films. Some of my favorites are DEEP RISING (1998), JAWS (1975), ARACHNOPHOBIA (1990) THEM! (1954), PHASE IV (1974), TREMORS (1990), NIGHTBREED (1990), PITCH BLACK (2000), THEY (2002), and DAGON (2001), to name a few.
Keeping all this in mind, I love horror films from all over the world. This is not something that many people that love horror films can say. Going to film school has allowed me to broaden my horizons not only in mainstream genres (of which I never liked westerns until I studied them in college) but in the horror genre as well as many of my new favorites include foreign films from all over the globe. Some of these include the Russian film NIGHT WATCH (2004), KAIRO (Japanese 2001), A TALE OF TWO SISTERS (South Korea 2003), INSIDE (France 2007), HIGH TENSION (France 2003), ANATOMIE (Germany 2000), KWAIDAN (Japanese 1964), 28 DAYS LATER (UK 2002), GINGER SNAPS (Canada 2000), and A CHINESE GHOST STORY (Hong Kong 1987), to name a few.
Many of today’s best horror films are coming from over seas because there are fewer taboos in regards to horror there then here in the United States, so we get such controversial and unconventional films as MARTYRS (France/Canada 2008), [REC] (Spain 2008), THE ORPHANAGE (Mexico/Spain 2008), MOTHER OF TEARS: THE THIRD MOTHER (Italy 2008), PAN’S LABYRINTH (Spain/Mexico 2006), WOLF CREEK (Australia 2005), BLACK SHEEP (New Zealand 2006), NIGHT OF THE LIVING DORKS (Germany 2004), MACHINE GIRL (Japanese 2008), and AUDITION (South Korea/Japan 1999), to name a few.
Many of these films have been able to cross over continents and countries to be praised by audiences everywhere (a rare feat when you consider that most other genres are unable to do this – unless it is an art house film). No matter what country, horror films tend to have no problem translating from one language to the next and do both well subtitled and dubbed (unlike most other genres).
Having this many films to choose from it’s no wonder I love horror films. When the US is having a bad year at the box office I can always just watch the latest from France or Germany or Hong Kong and be satisfied.
Now, like I’ve said, the horror genre can go from one extreme to the next. They have horror films for the kids – THE MONSTER SQUAD (1987), MONSTERS VS. ALIENS (2009), and THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993) – they have them for teens – THE LOST BOYS (1987), CREEPSHOW (1982), and SHUTTER (2008) – and they have them for grown ups – REPULSION (1965), PSYCHO (1960), and THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991) – so there are films for every age group.
It’s amazing the variety of horror films that exist today in all the different subgenres (of which I will go into detail on some other day) but what’s even more amazing is the fact that horror films continue to find there audience despite the economic climate and despite what Hollywood thinks the typical horror fan will pay to see on the big screen (i.e. remakes, sequels, and PG-13 teen horror).
I go see them all. I try to go see every horror film at the box office no matter how obscure or how badly reviewed. I like horror films and I’ll go see them all if I can. Some of the more embarrassing ones that I’ve seen include PROM NIGHT (2008), A SOUND OF THUNDER (2005), THE UNINVITED (2009), PSYCHO (1998), SNAKES ON A PLANE (2006), ANACONDAS: THE HUNT FOR THE BLOOD ORCHID (2004), CHILD’S PLAY 3 (1991), THE GRAVEYARD SHIFT (1990), ONE MISSED CALL (2008), and PRIMEVAL (2007), to name a few, so I’ve seen a lot of turkeys on the big screen (many of which I knew were going to be bad before I saw them but I saw them anyways because I love the genre so much).
There is no denying that I love the horror genre and I support it on the whole (even though I believe that Americans haven’t made a descent horror in almost a decade with the exception of a handful). I could go on about the genre but I won’t since anything else I say will just make this article longer and I’m sure you’ve read enough from me.
Suffice it to say that there is more to this genre then meets the eye and if you look closely you’ll find that there are films within the genre that are for every type of person so those of you that dismiss it – stop and take a few moments to really look for that film that would be right for you and if you don’t think there is one for you then just ask me because I’ve probably seen them all.