Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Favorite Horror Films

Tom Blunt at AMC asked me what horror films influenced me. Here are a few.

Beautiful scene of exposition!


They quoted me saying this:

Would Kricfalusi ever try making one himself? "I wouldn't mind making my own live-action horror movie, if I had another lifetime to live. I'd make up for all the things that pissed me off about monster movies when I was a kid -- get rid of all the filler and give them what they want!" (The Monster)

What I meant was, it's a horror movie tradition to hardly ever show you the monster. They wait till the last second or make you suffer through some cheesy romance between 2 characters with no personality or some retarded plot line, when all you want is the fear and horror.

It's the Hollywood executive theory that the audience can't sit through 90 minutes of solid entertainment - in any genre! They think you need boring parts in between.
There are a few movies that have disproven the rule- Naked Gun, Night of The Hunter, The Raven, Detective Story, Champion and a handful of others.


Anonymous said...

Good example of a movie you'd hate:


It's basically everything negative you just described, but with dog-sized parasites.

Anonymous said...
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Ted said...

I think the not showing the monster thing has more to do with not being able to actually pull off a monster effect in a convincing manner for long enough.
The Val Lewton documentary that was on TCM recently was explicit about budget being the reason for the structure in his movies; they couldn't afford to show a convincing Cat Person, so it was all implied. Compare that to Dracula, where you get plenty of Dracula because all you need is Bela Lugosi. Or Freaks, where you have your actual set pieces without having any effects.

Captain Napalm said...

Yeah, but it's nothing without SOME suspense. I mean, in "The Shining", there's a lot of foreshadowing, but that foreshadowing is entertaining in itself: the creepy background noises, the eye-popping camerawork, Bartok's shit-inducing music, Jack Nicholson acting crazy even before he supposedly GOES crazy, etc....

Paul B said...

Hi john!

you always talk about cartoons of short format where it is possible to put tons of entertainment.

Could you dedicate a post on cartoons of longer format (big budget films)?
about how you believe that they should be.

I hope to have explained myself well

your pal, Paul.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Wooooww!!! Great choices! Lorre was great and the exposition sequence with Joan Crawford was hilarious!

stephen said...

love me some night of the hunter

Kali Fontecchio said...

Does Autumn Leaves count as a horror film? Isn't it scary?

idragosani said...

No kidding! If I'd done something like 'Alien vs. Predator', I would have killed off all of the humans in the first 5 seconds and had nothing but 2 hours of the two alien species fighting. Instead, we got the reverse, a lot of boring crap and hardly any fighting between the two alien races, hardly any at all!

Mark aguilar said...

"Night of The Hunter" is the Sh!T. Robert Mitchum is great in that movie. The preview has one of my favorite scenes (Robert Mitchum slamming his hand on the table) I am surprised you didn't put "Cape Fear" right under that because that is another good horror/ suspense movie. Although "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane" is not a horror flix it is definitely twisted.

In regards to your remarks towards monster movies or movies with monsters in it. What about "Jaws?" Excellent movie, most of the suspense and horror is created in the audiences imagination. The actual robotic shark becomes secondary instigator of suspense. Do you consider "Jaws" not scary or suspenseful?

HemlockMan said...

I understand what you're saying. And I sympathize, which is why I like the films of Guillermo del Toro so much. He likes monsters. He fills his movies with them. You don't have to wait a long time to see them, and you get to see them a lot. Sometimes they actually star in the film.

Jim Rockford said...

Its ALL true!

I always hated how they wouldnt show you the monster until you were half asleep from boredom.
you'd have to sit through the boring filler and sappy cliched romance subplot just to get to the good parts with the monster!

Thats why Elvira,and shows like mystery science theatre 3000 are so popular,because they sit there an rip on all the cheesy filler and dialog.

"Detective story" (one of my all time favorite movies) has no filler,everything is integral to the story,the acting is so dynamic and the dialog so compelling that you cant help but become completely absorbed in the plot.

I have shown that movie to people who wouldnt normally watch anything that is black and white
and they have always become engrossed in it. ALWAYS.

So you're right it can be done,we can make movies that are pure entertainment...so why dont we??

Jacob said...

I think that animation could be the perfect avenue to explore horror in. You can create a horrific monster and images of pain without all the digital effects that sometimes destroys suspension of disbelief. Transformation body horror would be much grosser and more frightening in the animation format I would think

Steini said...

"It's the Hollywood executive theory that the audience can't sit through 90 minutes of solid entertainment - in any genre! They think you need boring parts in between."

I've been wondering for a really long time now... how do you feel about Arrested Development? It's almost nothing but jokes, and any drama they throw in is usually pretty good (and even if it isn't most of the time it's bookended by comedy).
If I had to guess (and this is mostly just a ploy to get you to reply and correct me) I'd say you're probably not too fond of it, but still rate it above most other current sitcom offerings.

Bill Field said...

Thankfully, Eddie, the Blue Oyster Cult Song never came true-"Joan Crawford Has Risen From The Grave". I loved Cloverfield because it was as if you were a part of the mass exodus from Manhattan, it's roughly in real time, until the very end, the monster is huge and fast running behind buildings right as you catch up to it for a glance.
I have something else to add later-
Oh- hey "Space Madness: The Movie" would be terrorific!

SoleilSmile said...

Would Jaws be an exception to your pet peeve of not seeing the monster until the very end in horror films?
Steven Spielberg said that the scariest thing about Jaws in that we never got to see the shark until the second half of the film. This was mainly a happy accident due to the animatronic shark's frequent breakdowns. Therefore the filmmakers couldn't film the shark until the second act. Tell me your thoughts.

Captain Napalm said...

Actually, I don't get how you can call the very end of a movie "exposition". It's more like a beat-the-clock denoument, just leaving you hanging with an idea of what comes next....today that would indicate a sequel, but back then it would seem that such devices were designed to PREVENT sequels!

J Hobart B said...

Why only in live action? I would LOVE to see an animated horror film.

David Germain said...

Good example of a movie you'd hate:


Ha Ha! I actually threw up in the theatre when I watched that. Well, mostly because the pretzel bites I had were extremely greasy. Regardless, I and my buds walked out of there about 1/5th of the way through not feeling like we missed anything.

Oh, John, HAPPY CANADA DAY, EH?! Hoser. ;)

Tony said...

Jacob said:
"Transformation body horror would be much grosser and more frightening in the animation format I would think."

Akira did that to great effect.

Chip Butty said...

Lucio Fulci's Zombie at no. 10? Why's that? The shark vs zombie battle?

J. said...

Hey John

I sketched some ideas for George's greasy spoon hangout here

Are you still recruiting people? If you can let me know that'd be great because, you know...then I can apply elsewhere and get out of your hair.

Bubs said...

Actually Cloverfield was a satisfying monster movie. It showed the monster just enough so you could get a real good picture of it but didnt just flaunt him in your face until you were numb to its appearance. You can't overexpose the monster. Don't forget about the good ol' "suspense" factor.

Anonymous said...

I've owned Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein for a couple of years, and they're genius. That scene of The Bride coming to life is one of the best edited scenes ever, not to mention the shots themselves.

I also just bought Night of the Hunter. Wow. It's intense. It's got so many moods, incredible acting, amazing shots...everything. Not to mention the fact that it's artistic without being "artsy". My favorite scene is the "Lustless Honeymoon". That gave me the "shame shivers" as you put it.

I'd love it if you posted a full review of Night of the Hunter, and bring into the open some more of the things you like about it so much. Was this movie the inspiration for "The Infernal Wedding" episode of the Ripping Friends?

Anyway, thanks for the list, John! Between you and Mr. Worth I've got a huge list of horror movies to catch up on. Unfortunately I have to buy 'em all 'cause our movie rental places suck.

Josh Heisie

Kris said...


Most horror movies are garbage. That's intrinsic--they make money whether they're good or not, since it's cheap for the studios to make them.

To be honest I think the best era for horror movies was the '70s and '80s. Those decades brought us the peak of physical special effects technology and sci-fi/horror filmmaking. Try watching American Werewolf in London, John Carpenter's The Thing, Alien, or The Fly (the 1980s David Cronenberg version). These guys know how to make a scary, scary movie. (Also Videodrome is a good one but it's not a creature movie.)

C. A. M. Thompson said...

I'm surprised you included The Deadly Mantis! I had a book of that movie when I was a kid and always wanted to see it (it was included with books of all the famous Universal monsters). Then when I finally did I was really disappointed because it mostly took place at the North Pole, which I thought was a dumb place to put a mantis. It kind of paled in comparison to Them! even though ants are much less cool than mantises.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, David Germain. I admit, I like the way the monster looked, but did we HAVE to sit through 15 minutes of mindless teenaged chatter before seeing the head of the Statue of Liberty destroy a couple of cars?

And another question: what idiot stands right in front of a giant freaking monster? I mean, you KNOW you're going to either get torn in half or gruesomely killed, but seriously? Standing in front of a 50 foot monster with a camera in your hand? That's stupid.

I don't have to discuss the cheesy love story.

So: J.J. Abrams and Matt Reeves did a decent job with Cloverfield, but some parts drove me crazy. And bloody spontaneous combustion is kinda funny in a sense.

Moro Rogers said...

A lot of that 'boring crap,' I suspect, comes from following the dogmas of Robert McKee. Moments where the film comes to a screeching halt in order to have a 'characterization moment' at some stage of the hero's 'arc.' Characters ought to be defined by their actions and by their unique worldview, not by some shit they say between action sequences.

Peter Bernard said...

ted has already said some of what I was going to say here. I would add though that it's considered received wisdom among film teachers, students and fans that "everyone knows" that the only way to make a classy horror movie is to withhold the monster from the audience. This is because for years the classier horror movies were, as ted mentioned, made on a low budget by Lewton. I've had really long boring conversations with people that you could almost never afford to make a convincing monster back then so it was the only way to keep the audience frightened and not laughing at the cheap effects. Then when I would get done, they would just tell me then that the only way to make a classy horror movie was to hold back on the monster as if I hadn't said anything to them at all. An authority figure told them this so it must be followed without thinking, and I must be a lunatic if I am saying something different.

With computers these days, you know that a horror movie that skimps on the monster isn't just cheap, it lacks imagination.

I agree that monster movies should show the monsters as much as possible and involve as few human characters as necessary to move the plot along. This ESPECIALLY is true of giant monster films, haha.

odradek5 said...

"Night of the Hunter" and "Straightjacket" are horror films? Of course, they aren't. They're thrillers. It's only after a generation of lame "horror" movies where the monster is a single mad slasher that these have been reclassified as "horror". There were much better horror movies than these in the era 1920--60.