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There is not one single answer to "Why We like Horror Movies", "why are horror villains scary" or even "rules for survival in a horror movie". There are also thousands of Horror Freaks out there with something to say on the matter. For that reason we have the BHM article bank, to give BHM readers a platform to get thoughts and wisdom out there for the masses.
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A horror article can take many forms, from a direct treatment of why we like horror movies to a tale about an element of horror that gets you going. Have one to share? Your time has come!
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Herman Stein passed away on March 15, 2007. To many his passing went unnoticed, and even if you were randomly perusing the NY Times obituaries and saw his name the impact he had on horror of this century may have been largely missed. To me, however, the loss of Herman Stein started thought about music in horror movies and what a crucial role it plays.
After starting his music career as a jazz composer in the 1940s Herman Stein went on to create the atmospheric melodies that defined the creature-feature era of modern horror. Although Stein composed the score for many movies prior, creating the melodic environment for Creature from the Black Lagoon, 1954, brought him to the consciousness of many horror aficionados. Following Creature was Revenge of the Creature, 1955, Sci-Fi classic This Island Earth, 1955, Tarantula , 1955, The Creature Walks Among Us, 1956, Francis in the Haunted House, 1956 and The Thing that Couldn’t Die, 1958 Along with television episodes of Lost in Space and dozens of other scores running the gamut from Abbot and Costello to spaghetti westerns.
In every case Herbert Stein succeeded in creating music that draws an audience into the story and action on the screen.
Where would horror be without those that create the auditory atmosphere that pulls us all in? Who can forget the orchestral build-up as that fin breaks the ocean surface and progresses toward an unsuspecting swimmer in Jaws? How about the Sh-Sh-Sh-Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha that precedes the appearance and murderous activities of Jason Voorhees (or, as appropriate, his mother) in Friday the 13th?
When we horror fans describe the horror movies that really “get” us we usually discuss the story, the setting, the surprise-factors, the gore…but what about the music? Would Michael Myers leaping from behind a couch toward poor Laurie Strode have nearly the impact without the shrill high-volume music invading our ears as he strikes with a knife?
In the early days of cinema music was no more than a piano playing in the background as the action takes place on the screen. In fact, our forefather’s movie theaters actually had a live pianist playing while the silent movie flickered above in glorious black and white. Even then the film-makers recognized the importance of music and sound as an element capable of drawing in even the most resistant of movie-goers. Scores were written with dramatic peaks during particularly dramatic moments. I believe that even a modern horror movie as tense and dramatic as The Descent would have trouble holding a horror freak’s attention in dead silence.
The passing of Herman Stein is a loss to those of us who enjoy the creature-feature era of horror and watching that fish-lipped dinosaur stealing away the lovely fiancé of our esteemed hero. It is also an opportunity for horror fans to notice the impact that music and score have on our horror movie experience.
Maybe, in the future while I am describing setting, gore, acting and believability of the horror movies I watch, I will also be sure and notice the profound impact the music has on the entire experience. Of course, maybe I won’t mention it…but we all know it is there.
Remember radio rentals? If you are of a certain age and live in the UK you will. Radio rentals, at the time of the home video explosion used to produce a catalog of all the videos they stocked, and they had their own classification system with x being mild horror and xx being extreme horror.
Films that made a deep impression on me include 'Ghost Story' and 'Phantasm'. There was however one film that upon seeing the movie trailer on TV, excited me beyond comprehension and that film was 'The Evil Dead' - to this day I can still remember the UK cinema trailer (unreleased on any of the DVD formats) with Shelley singing 'We're gonna get you', the camera rushing through the house and the barn with those scary demon noises.
My parents were kind of liberal and allowed me to watch such films but one film my mother wouldn't let me see was 'Last House on the Left' and at the time I couldn't figure our why! For my tenth birthday my mother hired out 'The Evil Dead' on VHS video and the film was everything I hoped it would be - a total gore and fright fest.
Other films such as 'Halloween', 'Happy Birthday to Me', 'Friday The 13th', 'Cannibal Holocaust', 'The Exorcist' and 'The Hills Have Eyes' helped perpetuate my growing love for the genre.
With the Video nasties bill in 1984 a lot of films disappeared for a long time and from that moment on, in my opinion, the horror genre went into a spiraling decline.
I still love horror but it is hard for me to find modern horror movies that have that early 80's fear factor or horror films that push the boundaries.
I got some feedback from Kevin Stecko, CEO of 80sTees.com for some thoughts on Jason and the horror franchise from the perspective of a merchandiser.
BHM: What do you think of Jason?
Stecko: There are some characters from 80's movies that make a quick appearance and then disappear into the shadows of obscurity – ie. Kenny Hampson from Terror Train. On the other hand, Jason Voorhees hasn't left the nightmares of school children for nearly 30 years. I remember being in elementary school and kids dressed up as Jason. I doubt they were even allowed to watch the movies at such a young age, but that's how well known the character is. Whether that's because of creative marketing, continuously successful sequels or simply the use of the hockey mask, the fact remains that the Friday the 13th franchise is doing something right. Jason's mask has become so much of a cultural icon that it's recognized far beyond the realm of horror movie fans.
BHM: How is merchandising playing a part in all this?
Stecko: Mainstream aside, Friday the 13th has come to take on its own cultish following, which keeps throwing big dollars at box offices, video stores and merchandising outlets. You can find T-shirts, hats, cardboard cutouts, lunchboxes, posters, figurines, costumes, books, video games, and anything else you can think of dedicated to Jason. Fans that are infatuated with the movie go nuts over the merchandise wave that precedes and follows the release of a next chapter.
BHM: What are you seeing in terms of merchandise sales now?
Stecko: Here at 80sTees.com, we've noticed a pretty sharp spike in sales of our Friday the 13th merchandise as the release gets closer. People seem to be really excited about this newest installment and they want Friday the 13th T-shirts more so now than ever. Even people who don't really like horror movies in general seem to be drawn to Jason – I wonder if the same would be true if he wore a different sport accessory other than the mask. For some reason I don't think a murderer wearing a bicycle helmet or a psychopath in swim goggles would have the same effect.
I too am a victim of Jason merchandising and am in proud possession of two Friday the 13th T-shirts. I don’t have a hat though… but I think that one would look good on the head of a horror freak farmer while he’s plowing the fields on a John Deere. Hmmm.
Jason will continue to be one of the most popular horror icons of all time, and the recent remake will bring him into the hearts and nightmares of a new generation of horror freaks. Who else can slash panty-clad lovelies with a machete and still get invited to all the best parties? Yes, it’s true…
The 10 Pound Horror Film is the world's first fan-funded horror film. Could this mark the long awaited return to good horror filmmaking in Britain?
Throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s, Hammer Studios led the way with a uniquely British style of horror film. However, with a few notable exceptions, British horror has stumbled in the wilderness for nearly three decades. Films have not been made in the same numbers nor so recognizably British.
Now two British filmmakers - Tom Atkinson and Luke Dormehl - hope to reverse that trend. They have started a new project called The 10 Pound Horror Film. The idea is that members of the public contribute £10 ($15 approximately) to fund an independent British horror film. In return, they get behind-the-scenes photos and videos, forums, and a personalized frame of the film. So far, this approach has won support from horror icons such as John Landis, Kane Hodder, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.
This is the first ever fan-based horror film, and was worth taking a look at. Plenty of information can be already be found on the company's website (address at the end of this article) but I wanted to know more about the directors taking on this challenge. I contacted Tom Atkinson to find out more.
Q. What do you think of the state of British horror films at the moment?
Some good films have come out of the UK in recent years that have used definitive British settings and characters, but there is a trend towards trendy Americanized formats that leave little to the imagination. I think there is a gap in the market for challenging original horror films that take the audience on an unpredictable journey into their own fears.
Q. You say you would like to bring back British horror. Why do you think it disappeared and what qualities are you hoping to return to?
There is little challenge in most modern horror films. Hammer pushed the boundaries of acceptable cinema at the time with flair and wit managing, despite low budgets, to produce some very innovative films that still stand up today. There is no need to underestimate the horror audience, as given the right film they do appreciate subtlety and complexity, just look at Ridley Scott's Alien for example.
Q. Why choose the 10 Pound method of funding? Do you think that funding groups such as the British Film Institute and UK Film Council do not take the horror genre seriously enough?
I think Horror in the UK is bracketed as genre film, which I know receives a targeted allocation of production funding but it strikes me a odd that British Rom Coms and Period films which are just as easily bracketed as genre pieces are championed over and above all other formats we produce in the UK when this country has such a rich heritage in horror. I am not, however opposed to working with such funding bodies at all, and in fact am producing Hairy Hands, a Horror Short for South West Screen which draws upon this rich heritage and mythology I think is so valuable to British Horror. They have proved extremely supportive and I believe such institutions play a vital role in supporting the UK's film industry.
The decision to produce The 10 Pound Horror Film was made to reconnect the audience with the filmmaking process in a truly modern web- based production outside of such limiting labels. I want The 10 Pound Horror Film to be accessible and inclusive as no other film has ever been, drawing talent and inspiration from its members to produce a film for the audience by the audience.
Q. What level of support have you received from the public?
The support so far has been tremendous and we have members from all over the world who are drawn to British Horror by this country's legacy of films. We have all sorts of talented people joining us daily to make this project happen and I am overjoyed to see such a response over the web. People really are accepting of the production's aims and we want to hear from anyone out there who wants to work in filmmaking and has some specific skills to offer us. So far we have composers, artists, writers and fans who all have something to contribute to the film. That's what it is all about!
Q. You said that you wanted your film to be a socially relevant horror, picking apart the psyche of the 21st century. This suggests that the film will be dealing with real people and issues, and probably isn't your run-of-the-mill zombie/vampire/ghost flick? Do you think enough filmmakers are taking this approach?
I think the zombie film has been incredibly relevant as a social critique in the past with the ground breaking Romero films, which held up a mirror to humanity and questioned our own monstrosity. These days, though, Zombie films are experiencing a fantastic amount of mainstream interest and this means they are a bit overused and lose their impact. They become, as you describe it, run of the mill. All horror is socially relevant but I think the interesting route to take in the 21st century is to look at the environment we have built around us and what we have turned into, more clearly examining the threat from within as opposed to the threat from without.
Q. You received good reviews for Roy and The Pantomime. What made you want to change direction and move to horror?
I admire filmmakers such as Werner Herzog who have transcended brackets and genre labeling. I believe that there is an intrinsic link between the kind of observation and critique necessary to produce insightful documentaries and the cutting social vision that makes for remarkable horror. I don't think the two genres are mutually exclusive at all.
Tom Atkinson answered the above questions on July 22, 2009
Initial interest in this project has been huge, and the teaser trailer has had over 74,000 hits on youtube. However, the youtube video blogs 01 & 02 will be more interesting to the average BHM freak and worth taking a look at.
Due to the project being fairly new, I cannot give details yet on the plot or release date. However, this gives an opportunity to get involved in the film's early stages. If there are any writers, actors or musicians that want to get involved then Atkinson and Dormehl would be happy to hear from you.
I can't say for sure how this project will eventually pan out, but their love of the genre is more than apparent, and personally, anything that could kick-start British horror is definitely getting my support.
Visit the site at http://www.the10poundhorrorfilm.com
Visit video blog 01 at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yg2pPnypYa8
Visit video blog 02 at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSCnb7u9QGs
Over the next week, I will bring you the newest and the brightest from Sitges. I look forward to reporting back about the leading edge of horror. Come with me each day as I interview filmmakers, actors, and producers. This festival promises to be filled with thrills and chills.
Ben and Jerry's has sponsored the Most Delicious & Surprising Film which gives the best scare to this international audience. Go to www.stigesfilmfestival.com/premiobe-jerrys for all the details.
Keep your eyes and browsers pointed to this spot as updates roll in.
When we first moved in nothing really happened, but as I grew older things started to become worse. One year my mum was having Australia's biggest morning tea and one of our friend's mothers was joining us. She knew nothing about the house and what mum and I had been seeing. She sat down and everyone was talking but she said nothing whatsoever. After a couple minutes, she stood up and started to walk around the house, paying special attention to my little brother's room. After about an hour she sat down and said 'this house has a 17 year old boy living in it.'
Not long after this mum and I started to feel the presence of someone and it grew stronger and stronger. In front of and behind every mirror in the house there are nail marks on the wall, some short and some long. Mum tried to scrub them off and painted over them but after a couple days they reappeared. Mum would keep trying to get rid of them but we both gave up because they kept coming back. they look like some one is trying to get out. We have also both seen the shadow of a young man standing over us watching us while we sleep. Other nights he is white and we can see through him.
If you read this you may be thinking what a load of bull, but it is all true.
Zombieland-A Pro-Americana Film
Written by: Daniel Garrett
In the medium of film, we are entertained and wowed by compelling stories that resonate with our thoughts and beliefs. Beneath the surface of these entertaining dramas, films often contain an underlying theme or message. In the film, Zombieland, this message resounds in its depiction of the nemesis of the film—the actual zombies, and how the survivors respond and regard them. In essence, the zombies represent aspects of equality and unbridled freedom, important elements within the American belief system. In addition, the film sheds light on the human spirit, and how the less powerful are treated in society--with contempt and unfettered cruelty.
In Zombieland, the malady that brings about the plague of zombies is biologically based and is acquired by being bitten, the first case being caused by “a bite of a contaminated burger at a Gas-N-Gulp.” (Zombieland 2009) The nature of the contagion demonstrates that no one is safe from harm, regardless of wealth or power. This is further evidenced in the beginning sequence of the film, which shows the President of the United States’ caravan completely destroyed by the zombies. This shows that essentially, all zombies are created equal and are seen as such by the survivors. The act of becoming a zombie acts as an equalizer, a value strived for in Americana.
It is this equality that permits the zombie to act with complete freedom, without restrictions of morality. This concept is represented by the nature of the zombie itself, in its singular focus of feasting upon human flesh. Zombies in the film are able to roam wherever they wish, and are able to eat whenever they want without a fear of reprisal for their actions. A poignant example of this is encapsulated in a scene where the survivors are driving down a highway and spot one of the zombies delighting in the consumption of an unlucky victim, even going so far as to suck down strips of flesh in an exaggerated fashion. This very freedom, while reviled by the survivors in the film, is desired by them and is actually achieved in various examples of property destruction and wanton cruelty. This freedom is also a catalyst for their eventual treatment of those affected by the disease, and how the less fortunate are treated.
The film itself also exposes some of the perverse pleasure that we take in treating the zombie cruelly, and also demonstrates how the human spirit would react in the face of devastation and complete and total freedom. Since zombies are perceived as unfeeling, there is a justification to treat them as sub-human. Since zombies are perceived as vicious, we are also justified at matching that viciousness. Countless examples of gratuitous violence are perpetrated upon the zombies—one comical example is how the character Tallahassee uses a pair of gardening shears to decapitate one. This idea can be expanded to represent how Americans, when faced with those less fortunate, feel justified in cruel acts for those who they feel “deserve” their station. To deprive those less fortunate of freedom and equality, like the survivors in the film, represent a sense of hypocrisy in freedom.
On the surface, Zombieland represents some of the darker aspects of how survivors would react in a post-apocalyptic world while facing a hoard of vicious zombies, and how we treat them—with disgust and perverse pleasure in the wanton violence towards one another. There is a deeper meaning to this film, based in the core values of freedom that Americans hold dear, and it is the very freedom that the zombies have that Americans strive for. In other words, while we are disgusted and reviled by their deeds enough to justify torture, there is also a sense of envy toward these creatures and their freedom which is ultimately desired and fought for.
A scholarly look at Zombieland, printed with the writers permission
Fleischer, Ruben. Zombieland. Columbia Pictures, 2009.
The most famous examples include Psycho (1960), Peeping Tom (1960), The Last House on the Left (1972), The Wicker Man (1973), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and When a Stranger Calls (1979).
Although there were still supernatural-based horror films during this time, I believe the '80ss highlighted an advantage in better technical effects which could elevate the story to a supernatural level and provide a fresh perspective to the genre. As opposed to the psychological, it became popular to visit harm on the physiological during this period.
The superior use of horror affecting the body can be seen in films such as An American Werewolf in London (1981) and The Thing (1982), both proving to be major milestones in special effects, and bringing a much more visceral experience to the genre. David Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986) honed this idea through the blending of science-fiction and horror, which is fitting, as the story involves the blending of human and insect DNA.
The Evil Dead (1981) subjects its protagonist, Bruce Campbell, to countless injuries, boarding on a cartoon-like quality. Re-animator (1985) continues the disruption of the body by ending its life, only to bring it back via a special reagent. However, the body does not even have to be a complete entity for this to occur. In a classic scene, you can observe a decapitated head brought back to life, attempting oral sex on a woman.
The '80s also created two of the most recognizable icons in horror; Jason Vorhees and Freddy Kruger. This theme continues as both characters signify quite a leap from the ‘real’. Whilst one monster invades the dreams of teenagers and inflicts pain through the mantra of ‘what happens in the mind, happens to the body’, the other quite literally invades teenagers bodies with a variety of sharp instruments.
In both the A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th franchises, the body is attacked, maimed, destroyed and violated. And these are not even the victims. Freddy is a charred, burnt demon whilst Jason is also hideously disfigured.
Perhaps the clearest example of pain on the body in the '80s was through Clive Barker’s Hellraiser (1987). The whole premise of the film and its subsequent sequels is indeed based on the attainment of pure pleasure and pain through physical mutilation.
The '80s paved the way for a new type of horror; the affect on the body and its effect on the human condition.
Created by: Rich Robinson and Tim Allison
Written by: Rich Robinson
Illustrated by: Tim Allison
Colored by: Nate Brown
Lettered by: Neil Moore
“Within the past 48 hours, local police have been baffled by several grisly and mysterious murders which have occurred in the town of Juniper Falls. Three women, all reported to be at some stage of pregnancy, have been brutally murdered in what appears to be a “cult-like fashion.” The extreme nature and relative frequency of these killings has the small town on alert, casting a long and dark shadow over the coming summer months.”
Juniper Falls Tribune
Detective Jack Keaton was a happily married man with a beautiful daughter and a perfect life… Until his job led him on a search for a disturbed man prowling the playgrounds for innocent children. The case consumed Keaton as the number of children missing steadily increased. As Keaton was sure that he was close to solving the case, his own daughter was abducted. Soon afterwards, the murders stopped just as abruptly as they had begun. The killer was never found, and Keaton’s perfect life was shattered into a nightmarish shadow of itself.
For ten long years, Keaton has been haunted by visits from his deceased daughter, reminding him that the nameless murderer is still out there and about to kill again. His hunger grows, and his appetite is never satisfied. He is a new breed, a new kind of murderer. He is the Dark Man.
Without warning a package is left on the doorsteps of Jack Keaton’s run down home. The contents of the package lead him to a place where the murder of his daughter exposes the true horror that lies beyond her disappearance.
This place is the town of Juniper Falls.
For fourteen-year-old Ben Elliot, life couldn’t be more boring. Forced to spend the entire summer in a cast due to a broken ankle, Ben entertains himself by spying on his neighbors. When a stranger moves in next door, Ben and his friend Taylor become insatiably curious. Neither one recalls seeing a moving van in their neighborhood and their imaginations get the best of them. Who is this new addition to the neighborhood, and where did he come from?
Taylor confides in Ben that a strange drifter passing through the town confronted him. Unbeknownst to them, the drifter is Detective Jack Keaton searching for his daughter’s murderer, the Dark Man. Convinced that it’s their civil duty to protect the families in their community, they soon discover that this new neighbor has a secret. One that makes Ben believe his neighbor might be a superhero; a vigilante sent to put a stop to the town’s murders. Through their off beat detective work, Ben and Taylor try to find out the truth behind these two strangers so that they can put an end to the darkness that has befallen their town.
John Smith is a man with a disease, an ache that has led him to slaughter innocent children without a shred of remorse. After murdering a young girl, he is approached by a messenger from an unknown race. This shadowy figure gave Smith an offer that could not be refused. Smith is to spill innocent blood as a penance to hold an ancient evil at bay. If sufficient amounts of innocent blood are not spilled, then the evil will not be satisfied and unleash its forces upon earth, obsessed with exterminating the human race. Smith accepts and becomes the Dark Man, a being that survives by consuming the flesh of the innocent. This negotiation has spawned many cycles of serial killers throughout history.
Forced into this madness with Keaton; Ben, his friends, and his mother Catrine are pushed to the brink of survival. They find themselves trapped in a run down church just out side the borders of Juniper Falls. Ben’s mother is killed in the midst of a fight between Keaton and the Dark Man leaving Ben alone. Ben and Keaton become partners of circumstance, bound to each other by an unknown fate. In the aftermath of the fight the Dark Man lies helplessly at the mercy of Jack Keaton. He confesses that his death will bring forth an evil that this world cannot survive. Keaton, unfazed, dispatches his vengeance upon the Dark Man. From the foreboding shadows the same messenger appears and attempts to place the burden of spilling innocent blood upon Keaton. Not one to be easily persuaded, Keaton declines the offer with six shots from his 357 magnum’s barrel into the messenger’s chest. Showing no signs of injury, this ungodly servant disappears into the shadows. Keaton and the kids start their journey back to Juniper Falls not knowing that evil has taken over, making the small town an epicenter of violence and insanity that is about to spread itself throughout the world.
Juniper Falls is a well written and well illustrated horror comic . Admittedly I do not read many comics, horror or otherwise (not since the old Superman and Spiderman comics of my youth, that is) so I’m not entirely sure what to compare it to.
First the story, as Juniper Falls seems to be primarily about the story. Although I have only read the first installment, the story is set up well with the characters laid out and fleshed. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there are characters in Juniper Falls that I care about – I want to know what happens next. Ultimately it makes sense that this should be present in every new comic offering, but I imagine that is easier said than done.
Regarding the visuals, the art in Juniper Falls is not exactly what I expected in a horror comic. In my prior experience the visuals and imagery were a huge part of the comic book experience, but not so much with Juniper Falls. The art is clean and appropriate, but relatively simple and without frills.
Overall Juniper Falls is a good read and has drawn me into the series. Now comes the countdown to when this one will be available retail. Stay tuned at Best-Horror-Movies.com for breaking news on availability.
-The Horror Czar
The first actors who starred in horror movies were Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. They brought Dracula and Frankenstein respectively to the screen. The horror movies I think are the best are Bones (2001) by Snoop Dog, Leprechaun in the Hood (2000) and Skeleton Key (2005).
Most horror movies do the same thing over and over and some just look stupid. People look for where sounds are coming from, or they just stand there and get killed. Girls act dumb and scream, throw stuff and try to run, usually tripping and falling.
More and more people love horror movies. I think they're better than other movies, and some people may not agree with me. Horror movies and more interesting and even their trailers are sometimes scary.
No popular genre has proven more reflective of America's unpredictable cultural mood swings than the horror movie. At the same time, no popular genre has proven more conducive to the expression of idiosyncratic nightmare visions than the horror movie. If these claims seem contradictory, even vaguely paradoxical, that is hardly surprising. For the horror genre consists of a group of texts as diverse as they are numerous, as controversial as they are popular, as conservative (or progressive) in their overt messages as they are progressive (or conservative) in their subtler implications.
Although the horror genre may be lacking in firm boundaries or essential features, its rich and storied history, which spans the entire twentieth century, exhibits a remarkable degree of coherence. There are at least three reasons why this is so. For one thing, what appear at first to be utterly dissimilar entries often turn out upon closer inspection to conform in crucial ways, whether formally, stylistically, or thematically. For another thing, as is typically the case with pop cultural phenomena, market forces have dictated that the most commercially successful entries would each spawn a host of unimaginative imitators. This in turn has led to a fairly reliable boom-and-bust period of the genre. Scary movies are nothing new, but films like the Saw and Hostel series have offered something different: They focus less on the suspense of the chase and more on the suffering of the victim.
If you're not a horror movie fan, you may be puzzled about why people put themselves through the ordeal of watching such movies. Defenders of these movies may say they're just harmless entertainment. But if their attraction is powerful, Cantor says, so is their impact. These impacts are felt by adults as well as children, by the well-adjusted as well as the disturbed. They may linger well after the house lights go up -- sometimes for years.
I have found four horror films where love blossoms even if there is tragedy in the end. So take heart romantics, and keep hoping for the happy ending.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
The Lovers: Donald Sutherland as Matthew Bennell and Brook Adams as Elizabeth Driscoll.
Bound together because of a common goal- to stay awake as long as possible- Matthew and Elizabeth support and protect each other the way only a couple fighting to save human civilization could. Unfortunately, this one doesn’t have a happy ending. Separated for but a short time, Elizabeth falls asleep. It doesn’t take long for Matthew to follow suit, leading up to the infamous alien scream of the final scene. If only Elizabeth could have stayed awake, they might have had a chance.
The Fly (1986)
The Lovers: Jeff Goldblum as Seth Brundle, Geena Davis as Veronica Quaife, and Stathi Borans as John Getz.
John loves Veronica; Veronica loves Seth. It’s the classic love triangle with a twist: One of them is turning into a giant vomit-on-your-box-of-powdered donuts fly. In the end, Veronica has no choice but to turn to John for help. She’s pregnant with Seth’s baby and he’s not turning human again anytime soon. But even in Seth’s final metamorphic state, Veronica cannot kill Seth. Seth finally pulls the gun to his own head. If you see The Fly 2 as a valid sequel to this story, Veronica was unable to have the abortion John insisted upon- even though there was a good chance her baby would be born a fly.
Jacob's Ladder (1990)
The Lovers: Tim Robbins as Jacob Singer, Elizabeth Pena as Jezabel and Patricia Kalember as Sarah.
This movie investigates the themes of good and evil, and redemption. Evil being a really crappy job in a post office with a less than interested romantic partner and demons following you everywhere you go. Good being a family, someone with whom to cuddle at night, and the saving grace called love. Jacob’s Ladder is loosely based on the teachings of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. I encourage all parties interested in horror to buy both the book and the movie. For all you intellectuals out there, the correlation is fascinating.
King Kong (2005)
The Lovers: Naomi Watts as Ann Darrow, Adrien Brody as Jack Driscoll and a large ape.
It seems as if one would be observing the love relationship between Ann and Jack. No chance of that! This story centers on King Kong and Ann all the way. Credit is most definitely given to the writers of this remake, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens. It’s obvious that this love is mutual. This makes the death of King Kong even more heartbreaking. Whether he got killed because of love or because he simply got in the way of modern day urbana, it isn’t hard is shedding tears over this sweet love story.
I use the front yard to set the stage, and provide some fun things to look at for the smaller children that may be too timid to venture into the "scary part".
Once past the initial scene, the brave ones venture onto the porch area. The wrap-around is enclosed in black plastic and filled with simple props and animations bought inexpensively from local Halloween shops.
So I, like many was not immune to the emotional highs and lows of high school. However, to imagine the fresh hell that public school could’ve provided stood luckily out of my reach. It wasn’t until seeing the movie Carrie that my heart ached and I heard myself quietly saying to Carrie White- “please, just realize it’s your period, all women go through it.”
For those of us who have seen Carrie several times, a type of metamorphosis occurs within our conscience, the lines between right and wrong cross indiscriminately. We may not have noticed the quiet longing that Carrie White (played by Sissy Spacek) so eloquently displays towards Tommy the first time we watch the movie. Or, the brilliance in which she proudly stands up to her mother, played by Piper Laurie- “they’re not dirty pillows, their breasts Mama.” But after seeing the movie two, three, or more times- Carrie White, in all her telekinetic glory, becomes an underdog. She is that part of ourselves we would like to tuck away forever; that part of us that ran from our high school crush, hated gym and did not understand the mean girls. She is quietly, embarrassingly like us. And if this is true, we must then suffer the existential question- If I had the special powers of Carrie White, would I exact revenge on those I felt wronged me?
Carrie White’s situation of course is extreme. Terrorized by her peers on a daily basis, overwhelmed by her religious fanatic mother, she doesn’t have any way to vent. She doesn’t have that safe place that we, as stress-coping individuals, provide for ourselves; except in her mind where she has complete control with the added bonus of controlling her environment by employing her thoughts. In one scene, Carrie White is walking home from school after a typically rough day when a young boy on a bike makes fun of her. She, on some level, maybe without even realizing it, has had enough. The boy hits a stone, topples over his bike and crashes to the ground. An odd sense of satisfaction comes over the viewer. Finally, she has done something about her lot in life. She has proven that she will not be pushed around.
Wouldn’t it be great to have that ability, just some of the time, and only with those people that are especially mean-spirited? After this scene and another in which she uses her power to stand up to her mother, the direction of this movie becomes clear. Carrie White will exact revenge on those who harm her. The question however, remains- On what level is her revenge acceptable? This young bike-riding bully now has a couple bruises and bumps and hopefully he’s learned his lesson. But he wasn’t set on fire. Brian De Palma is not one of Hollywood’s greatest directors for naught. With events set in motion and the prom looming, De Palma begins to humanize his characters for either good or evil.
In one scene, we see Tommy, played by the “greatest American cutie,” William Katt and his friends picking out tuxes for the prom. He’s having fun and one gets the feeling he’s not all that bummed out about going to the prom with Carrie. Likewise, in another scene we begin to see Chris Hargensen’s character, played by Nancy Allen, take form. Her vindictiveness towards Carrie grows, and she is unrelenting in her desire to bring Carrie White down. Her plots and schemes against Carrie are not just talk, she has something in store for the girl which, unbeknownst to her, will prove to be her untimely demise. And who could forget the infamous line Carrie’s Mom, Margaret, spews at her daughter before the big event- “They’re all going to laugh at you!” This line will play over and over again in Carrie White’s mind as she tragically misinterprets the reaction of the crowd after Chris has accomplished her evil deed.
Carrie White even believes her most fervent supporter, Miss Collins (played by Betty Buckley), is also chastising her. In a state of intense rage, made all the more frightening by her grotesque appearance, Carrie White does what she knows how to do best- use her mind to manipulate the objects around her. Chaos ensues, and a chain of events are set in motion that will forever change the course of everyone’s life. Sue Snell, played by Amy Irving is the only one that survives this ordeal. She initially convinced her boyfriend Tommy to take Carrie to the prom. Sue will forever live with the guilt of that night. Carrie White is mercifully relieved of this guilt.
So, I ask you to choose. Is Carrie White a hapless victim in all of this, or something more, something else?
While taking a screenwriting class in college, we were assigned the task of writing a short film. Having already been a huge horror fan, I wrote a short screenplay in which the protagonist, a female serial killer, would lure her victims - plumbers, the mailman, neighbors -into the basement and ax them.
I handed it in and didn’t receive a grade for it, but a message from the teacher written in red ink- “Women can’t be serial killers!!!” Four years later, the movie Monster was out in theaters to great reviews, it even won an Oscar.
Whether Monster can be called a horror film is up for debate. Based on a true story, it tells the tale of Aileen Wuornos, a prostitute turned serial killer in the late eighties, early nineties. The film is labeled under biography and drama according to film classifications. It is not described as a horror film but rather a tragedy of circumstance, abuse, and consequences.
Monster may have been one of the first popular movies to portray a female serial killer, but it is certainly not a testament to the history of the female serial killer in America. We’ve all heard of Lizzie Borden and her infamous act, (the Lizzie Borden house in Massachusetts is now actually a lovely little bed and breakfast where one can stay for the night or two....) but she is just one of the
many reported female serial killers in America. The first recorded female serial killer of the twentieth century was named Belle Gunness a.k.a. Lady Bluebeard who, on her sprawling farm in Indiana, systematically killed her spouses, lovers, friends, and children she had adopted through the state. Since then, Belle has been categorized as a “black widow,” a woman who develops personal relationships with her victims before murdering them. The list goes on, poisoning being the most popular murder method among female serial killers and shooting coming in at a close second.
What about the female serial killer in film? Does she exist? Or, are we just not quite ready for that brand of horror? Take for instance the film, Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte starring Bette Davis. It is never really said whether she killed her lover or not, but we as an audience all know what happened - blood on her hands and dress after a spat with her lover? Good thing her family was rich. And after that murder, Charlotte becomes a rich spinster recluse. Can you imagine what the film would’ve been like if she had just kept going?
Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte as well as another famous film called Basic Instinct are labeled under thriller, or mystery thriller, nowhere near the gory implications of horror. And they’re not that gory. After all, we never really see Sharon Stone enact her vengeance against unwitting men. The murders just kind of happen. In the film Henry - Portrait of a Serial Killer, the viewer never really sees Henry committing the act of murdering someone but a couple of times. With the rest of the murders, the audience is left to wonder. This movie, by the way, is labeled under horror.
There is one very popular horror film with a female serial killer. Remember Jason from Friday the 13th? He wasn’t the original knife and ax wielding murderer. It was good old Mom, taking revenge against the camp counselors whose predecessors let Jason drown in the lake while they were busy with other things. Good thing Mom was replaced with Jason. After all, he is much scarier than his crazy screeching mother. She just got kind of annoying after awhile. And without Jason, there would’ve been no
Freddy vs. Jason. And I’ll take that movie over a female serial killer any day.
**Editor’s note: Haute Tension comes to mind as another horror movie with a female serial killer. It is interesting to note, however, that this is not communicated until the very end as a dramatic twist very much as Pamela Voorhees was revealed to be the killer in Friday the 13th. The same type of thing happened in Urban Legend. Are we just not ready for female serial killers in our horror? What do you think?