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The 15 Most Influential Horror Contributors and Contributions

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The 15 Most Influential Horror Contributors and Contributions

August 30, 2013
By Matt Molgaard - Staff Writer

EC Comics The Vault of Horror Cover

Horror has its roots. Sometimes we find ourselves wrapped up in the intricacies of the contemporary painting and we forget what landed us in that beautiful image to begin with. It’s time to recognize 15 of the most influential figures and contributions to the horror genre.

Lovecraft: H.P Lovecraft’s work influenced too many to count. His stories have been told time and again on screen and traveled great lengths to bring gothic horror to the mainstream. A number of stellar filmmakers have adapted his work though Stuart Gordon is likely best known for his adaptations. Among the quality Lovecraft transfers are Dagon, Re-Animator, From Beyond, Cool Air, The Dunwich Horror, The Call of Cthulhu, Lurking Fear, Castle Freak, Necronomicon: Book of Dead and The Unnameable, to name just a few.  

Edgar Allan Poe: Before Lovecraft astonished fans, Edgar Allan Poe was making waves of his own. The man crafted numerous stories that still influence filmmakers today. While a bit of an unpredictable chap, his work spoke for itself, and continues to do so. House of Usher, The Raven, Pit and the Pendulum, The Black Cat, Masque of the Red Death and Buried Alive are a few very recognizable pieces that all made it to film.

John Carpenter: John Carpenter just about single-handedly created interest in the slasher subgenre. Sure there were a few films of similar nature to predate Halloween, but Halloween really was the catalyst of all things slashers. Without Michael Myers we probably wouldn’t have Jason Voorhees, or Freddy Krueger, or Harry Warden, or even more contemporary ultraviolent menaces like Chromeskull, The Collector or Victor Crowley. John Carpenter opened up a floodgate, and filmmakers are still inspired by his work today. Oh wait... did I mention he crafted what some consider to be the greatest horror film on the market, The Thing? Yeah, he did that too!

Stephen King Quote

Stephen King: Stephen King is, for my money, the one true Master of Horror. I’m not certain anyone has influenced the genre quite like this man. He already boasts a heftier résumé than Lovecraft, and he’s fast approaching the accolades of Poe. But keep this in mind: he’s still alive and incredibly active! There’s no telling how many more novels King will release in the next decade or so, furthermore it’s impossible to imagine how many more of his stories will have been transferred to film. Stephen King inspires filmmakers, authors and fans like no one I’ve ever seen before. Today he’s a legend, 100 years after his death, he’ll be an even greater legend.

Vincent Price Jamie Lee Curtis: I won’t attempt to tell you that Jamie Lee Curtis was the first Scream Queen in Hollywood history. There were a great number of women to take on similar monikers long before Curtis, for example Jamie’s own mother, Janet Leigh, or Joan Crawford, Fay Wray, Hazel Court and Elsa Lanchester. They were hip Scream Queens before the term was thrown about with reckless abandon. However, Jamie Lee Curtis established herself as the definitive Scream Queen with her work in the Halloween franchise, The Fog, Terror Train and Prom Night. She became the ideal Scream Queen, and she’s still influencing young ladies to follow in her footsteps today.

Alfred Hitchcock: Alfred Hitchcock was a fickle man who just so happened to be a true visionary. His determination to get every single scene as close to perfect and believable is a quality we don’t see all too much these days. Psycho is arguably one of the most influential pictures of all time, but Mr. Hitchcock wasn’t a one trick pony. The Birds, Rear Window, Dial M for Murder, North by Northwest and Vertigo are all riveting films, and some of the camera techniques Hitchcock used some 50-60 years ago are still mimicked by today’s talent.

Vincent Price: Price was one of the few performers so dedicated to one specific genre of film that he encouraged other character actors to turn their complete attention to the world of the macabre. Prolific doesn’t even begin to describe Price, who starred in nearly 200 films, including Edward Scissorhands, Journey Into Fear, Madhouse, Theatre of Blood, The Abominable Dr. Phibes (and its sequel Dr. Phibes Rises Again), Scream and Scream Again, The Masque of the Red Death, The Last Man on Earth, The Raven, Tales of Terror, Pit and the Pendulum, House on Haunted Hill and The Fly. That right there isn’t just influential, it’s legendary!

Christopher Lee: Much like Vincent Price, Christopher Lee has always had an issue straying from the genre. Perhaps known best for some of his Hammer work, the man has seen and done it all. The tall brooding gent is a perfect fit for the genre and he’s proven so by appearing in such films as The Curse of Frankenstein, Horror of Dracula, Corridors of Blood, The Mummy, The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll, The Hands of Orlac, Horror Castle, Crypt of the Vampire, The Gorgon, Dr. Terror's House of Horrors, The Face of Fu Manchu, Dracula: Prince of Darkness, Rasputin: The Mad Monk, Scream and Scream Again, Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, Horror Express and The Wicker Man. Go ahead, try and tell me a guy who works that hard hasn’t inspired countless individuals!

Jaws Poster half

Jaws: You think you know influential films... you’d better know Jaws. What exactly did Jaws influence? Cautious swimmers, all over the globe. This mortifying tale of a massive man-eating great white shark terrified audiences. It quite literally left beaches near barren. Viewers took on a sudden hesitancy to enter the waters, and with good reason: Jaws was a startlingly believable story. To this day no shark film has rivaled Jaws, although we’ve probably seen 100 attempts made.

Scream: Scream revived a subgenre believed to be dead, buried and long decayed. By the time the 1980s were winding down no one cared much for slashers. Jason Voorhees had run his course, as had Michael Myers, Chucky and the likes. There just wasn’t much in the way of fresh material being made and audiences caught on quickly. Then in 1996 everything changed. A new, inventive slasher by the name of Scream hit theaters, and while it debuted slowly, word of mouth spread like wildfire and the film went on to earn major success. Studios took notice, and suddenly films like I Know What You Did Last Summer, Urban Legend, Valentine and Cry Wolf were popping up left and right. When a single film can spawn that much renewed interest, it definitely deserves the title of influential.

Rod Serling: Rod Serling was the owner of a beautiful mind capable of bringing horror and science fiction together as though they were long lost siblings. Serling made his name known with the amazing Twilight Zone (still the greatest television show to ever air), but what made the man even more special and particularly influential was his life away from Hollywood. Serling saw combat in World War II, served as a paratrooper and even enjoyed a successful military boxing stint. And still he walked away, hungry to use his brain to entertain the world. Rod Serling was a man’s man who stands as one of the most influential human beings to ever walk the earth, let alone set foot in Hollywood.

Bob Clark: Bob Clark may not be a household name, but he helped to create one. Clark shot the film Black Christmas back in the mid-1970s and a hungry young talent named John Carpenter saw the film, was completely blown away and decided he too had to make a frightening slasher film. That film would of course become Halloween, which we more than likely wouldn’t have today if not for Bob Clark. And to Clark’s credit, not only was Black Christmas one of the finest pictures shot, it also encouraged a slew of other filmmakers to advance on the business.

Universal Monsters: Would we see as much of Dracula, The Wolfman, The Mummy or Frankenstein’s Monster without Universal showing the gall to feed consumers these horrifying creations some 70-plus years ago? I highly doubt it. Universal created what would become the prototypical design of most monsters we see today. Zombies are popular, but aren’t zombies an indirect nod to the undead Frankenstein Monster? We see loads of monsters consuming blood, which it certainly seems as though Dracula might have influences. And The Wolfman? Well come on, how many variations of man transformed to monster have we seen over the years? I think The Wolfman had quite a bit to do with it. We owe a lot to Universal and their wild monster lineup.

Scooby Doo: Scooby Doo is a unique little beast of a show. There were horror themed cartoons that predate this one (I still love the Legend of Sleepy Hollow original one-off), but none that caught on quite so well. The show debuted back in 1969 and it produced very legit enjoyment. New, yet somehow strangely classic monsters, morals, dumb luck and cheesy jokes, it all worked so well. And today, 44 years after initially arriving Scoody Doo continues to keep audiences young and old glued to the seat. At this point we’ve seen numerous incarnations of the show, four live action films, tons of merchandise and believe it or not, more than 15 animated films as well. You don’t stick around that long if you’re not influential, and you don’t spawn plenty of other similar themed ideas either.

EC Comics: EC Comics changed lives. EC pumped out a number of different style magazines and comics, but those aimed at the dark side of fiction did particularly well. And as many industry heads will tell you today, inspired them to pursue storytelling. Not only did EC get the mental juices flowing for many youngsters, it was also one of the earlier formats to feature horror anthologies and thus inspire works like Tales from the Crypt and Tales from the Darkside. Amazingly, reprints of these gorgeous books surface regularly, and they’re every bit as inspiring today as the day they first hit stands.



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