Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Horror Is The Greatest Movie Genre...

and here's why;

Horror films have been shockingly snubbed by the Oscar snobs over the years, with no true horror film ever winning the best picture prize. 'Silence of the Lambs' won in 1991, although it's more recognised as a thriller by most people. It definitely has horror elements, but even if I include this as a win for Horror that's one time in the history of motion pictures! The closest a true horror film has come to winning the most prestigious award in film is 'The Exorcist' with a nomination in 1973 and a nomination nod for 'Jaws' in 1975 (again, not a 'true horror').
Now, an Oscar win isn't the soul measure of how good a film is and this introduction isn't the best way to start defending my claim, but what I'm trying to say here is; Horror is often wrongly snubbed by critics and the Academy, and now I'm gonna explain why I think it's the greatest genre in film...

Exhibit A: The Directors

Horrors benefited from some of the best talent in the world making movies and it has launched the careers of many of the most acclaimed filmmakers in the business. Even some of the biggest names have dabbled in the genre. Roll call;

John Carpenter

I'm gonna get the ball rolling on my defence of the 'best genre of all time' with one of its greatest helmers. Carpenter made the slasher sub-genre famous with 'Halloween' (1978) and Michael Myers, one of the most iconic characters in cinema history. He influenced a generation of horror directors and composed his special effects masterpiece 'The Thing' in 1982. Horror has always been innovative in the advancement of special effects with films like 'The Thing' at the forefront.

Peter Jackson

Long before he was knee-deep in orc and elve shit with the hugely popular Lord of the Rings series and winning the best director Oscar for 'Return of the King' (2003), Peter Jackson was making his debut with low budget B-movie splatter fodder 'Bad Taste' in 1987, a gory and ridiculously fun comedy-horror. And then cementing his place in the trashy side of Horror history with the legendary zombie comedy 'Brain Dead/Dead Alive' in 1992. These films are a far cry from where he is now (all three of the LOTR films are currently in the top 20 on the IMDB top 250), but they were the films that helped to craft his film-making skills and they still have a massive cult following of fans, including myself. So, the Horror genre helped shape one of the most loved and respected trilogies ever made.

Steven Spielberg

Probably the most famous and one of the most praised directors living today, not really that well known as a horror director. Although, Spielberg launched his career by making people scared to go for a swim back in 1973 with his debut 'Jaws'. And his most successful film at the box office to date is 'Jurassic Park', the 15th highest grossing film of all time. We could argue these films aren't true horror flicks, but they have very strong elements of terror and fear that to me makes them horror at the core. One of the best known directors working today found his form scaring people with his debut.

Stanley Kubrick

Kubrick is often cited as the greatest director of all time, he made masterpieces spanning various different genres and it's difficult to pick a favourite from his work. While he's not known purely for doing Horror with 'The Shining' he created one of the most loved and memorable horror films of all time (currently ranked at 58 on the IMDB top 250) and got one of the best ever on-screen performances out of Jack Nicholson. Proof that the horror genre can be just as much an art form as any other.

Alfred Hitchcock

One of the most famous directors of all time, often referred to as 'The Master of Suspense', Hitchcock pioneered many of the techniques that have become the standard in suspense and psychological thrillers. 'Psycho' (1960) was one of the main influences on the popular slasher sub-genre and has one of the most iconic and memorable scenes in cinema history. When it comes to famous names in film they don't get much bigger.

David Cronenberg

The man that brought us the body-horror sub-genre, Cronberg's films are both thought provoking and disturbing experiences. His vast and accomplished back catalogue of horror makes up the majority of his early work and includes (but not limited to); the visually impressive practical effects laden 'The Fly' (1986) with an incredible and surprising performance from Jeff Goldblum. His feature debut 'They Came From Within/Shivers' (1975) a spin on the zombie/infected sub-genre where the infected hosts become sex crazed fiends. 'Rabid' in 1977 which plays like a companion piece to his debut, with a full-blown flesh-eating zombie epidemic, 'The Brood' (1979) here Cronberg's exploration of 'body-horror' as taken full shape in his most personal film to date. 'Scanners' (1981) mostly remembered for the great practical effect shot of an exploding head and 'Videodrome' (1983), where Cronenberg takes 'weird' to the next level. A consistent body of work during his horror era that any artist would be proud of.

Wes Craven

Craven has redefined the slasher genre and breathed new life into horror three times in his career, first with his controversial revenge film in 'Last House On The Left' (1972). As much of a precursor to the slasher sub-genre as 'Psycho' (1960) before it, his debut is one of the key movies in the birth of the American slasher movie, leading the way for the likes of  'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' (1974) and 'Halloween' (1978). He then created one of modern Horrors most famous icons in 'A Nightmare On Elm Street' (1984), making audiences scared to go to sleep with the genius premise of a monster that can stalk our dreams. And most recently with the self aware 'Scream' (1996), dragging the slasher flick back onto our cinema screens when the sub-genre was pretty much dead and buried. And that's one of the great things about horror and its sub-genres, its ideas can be resurrected and made fresh again for a new generation with the right director.

Sam Raimi

Most known for his Evil Dead films, Raimi is a massive influence on young directors wanting to shoot a movie, more specifically a low budget horror. All you need is some friends, one good location and the passion to make something right? And of course all the equipment...but, budding directors see films like 'Evil Dead' (1981) and want to make their own films, I'm not saying it's easy to make, it's just attainable for someone with the right skill set. And definitely very inspiring for a young horror fan.

James Cameron

OK, he's not known for horror, but stay with me on this one. The director of the two highest grossing films of all time debuted with 'The Terminator' (1984), yeah it's an action/sci-fi flick. BUT, essentially it is actually a slasher movie if you think about it, and one with a strong sense of threat. An unstoppable killer trying to terminate a woman in the 80's with a synth driven score...c'mon! It's a goddamn old school slasher flick! And one Cameron fine-tuned his directing abilities on. Arguably still his best film too.

Exhibit B: How We Watch Films

I remember going to the videoshop as a kid and nothing else in the shop compared to looking at that wall of horror tapes and picking out the most gruesome looking vids to scare your younger sibling with. In the 80's and early 90's horror was big business and the home-video market was booming. Later on I worked in a videoshop and even though the horror section had shrunk, you'd still get groups looking for a good horror flick and wanting recommendations. People rarely asked for recommendations on other genres, but horror; pretty much everyone asking for recommendations wants to know what the most scary or gory horror film is and then immediately rented it! I'd get free films, I would take one home after work to watch alone and have to check all the doors were locked afterwards, or I'd go to a friends house and watch with a bunch of people. And that's another great thing about horror; they're loads of fun with a group of friends or scaring yourself to death alone in the dark.  Nowadays we just cycle endlessly through pages of films on streaming sites for something to watch, it's not quite the same.

Exhibit C: So Bad It's Good

More so than any other genre if you get a crappy horror film most of the time it still holds some sort of entertainment value. You can pick flaws with the plot and laugh at the dodgy acting, there might even be some nice gore effects on show (most Friday The 13th sequels and imitators have all these traits), a bad horror film can be an amazingly fun comedy. A bad comedy is simply just a bad film that's not funny. Even bad horror films are awesome most of the time!!

Exhibit D: The Fans

Along with science fiction, Horror has the most dedicated and loyal fan-base of any films, there's massive conventions for horror fans that rival the world of comics and videogames. And that's because the fans are geeks for what they love. There's so many sequels to popular horror films because there's an audience for them and producers know that it's easy money! More than anything we want new original ideas and classics of the future, we mostly get tired reboots and sequels and we stay loyal because we love the genre and when an awesome new independent breaks through it's a big deal to us.

Exhibit E: Halloween

With the exception of Christmas movies (which isn't really a genre), what other genre has its own special day? That one day every year that we go all out; calve pumpkins, set the room up with spooky ambiance and decorations, dress up as our favourite characters and munch on some treats whilst watching a movie marathon. And there's also a certain John Carpenter flick of the same name.

Exhibit F: The zombie Apocalypse

Surely it is the greatest story ever told? We seem obsessed with this concept, we've seen pretty much every possible incarnation of this idea put to screen since George A Romero invented it and we still want more. Is it because there's the fear that it could actually happen? Or that we usually find the true monsters of these films to be regular people? Whatever the reason; I'll take another zombie story over a rom-com any day of the week, or how about a zom-com?

Exhibit G: Launchpad To The Stars

Many of Hollywood's biggest stars started out or got their breakthrough role in Horror. Including; Johnny Depp (Nightmare On Elm Street), Leonardo DiCaprio (Critters 3), Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween), Sigourney Weaver (Alien), Chloe Grace Moretz (Amityville Horror), George Clooney (Return To Horror High), Jennifer Aniston (Leprechaun), and Kevin Bacon (Friday The 13th).

And The New Breed

There's always been a steady stream of new directors in Horror to bring us fresh and inventive terror inspired by the likes of Carpenter and Romero. I think it's the best genre for showcasing new talent in film right now, but who will bring us the future of horror?

Ti West

He impressed with his 70/80's horror tribute 'House of the Devil' (2009) and showed variety with the enjoyable Innkeepers (2011) and his segment on V/H/S (2012). Definitely a name to keep an eye on.

Future Horror Verdict: 3 Severed heads out of 5. Plenty of potential

Pascal Laugier

The French director exploded on to the scene with the disturbing and instant classic Martyrs (2008), he also made a decent effort with the bigger budgeted and English language film Tall Man (2012). He's been a bit quiet recently, but hopefully we'll see something new.

Future Horror Verdict: 3.5 Severed heads out of 5. Brilliant debut, needs to bring something new to the table to stay in the game.

Rob zombie

Zombie's been around a while now and in some ways he's a veteran with his feature debut House of 1000 Corpses back in 2003. In terms of the future of Horror, Zombie is very relevant however and one of the genres brightest hopes. Looking forward to his crowd funded '31' coming out later this year.

Future Horror Verdict: 3.5 Severed heads out of 5. Some solid content, but a bit uneven. 

Jason Eisener

With his low-budget debut and tribute to trashy B-movie exploitation; 'Hobo With A Shotgun' (2011) Eisener showed a lot of visual flare and the sort of gory violence ideal for Horror. He's gone on to impress with two of the best short segments on the horror compilations 'The ABC's Of Death' (2012) and 'V/H/S/2' (2013). I can see Eisener doing something really cool in the future.

Future Horror Verdict: 2 Severed heads out of 5. Not enough evidence yet, but he's got bags of style for sure. One to watch.

Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo

The French directing duo made their debut with 'Inside' (2007) one of the best Horror films in recent years, it was a tough act to follow and Livid (2011) didn't quite live up to expectations. They're attached to the 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' prequel 'Leatherface'.

Future Horror Verdict: 3 Severed heads out of 5. As a lot to prove on their next film.

Jennifer Kent

Jennifer's only film to date is her feature debut 'The Babadook' (2014), but what a debut it was! I'm hoping she stays with horror and doesn't move onto something different, with the hype surrounding her first film she might be lured away.

Future Horror Verdict: 4 Severed heads out of 5. Could be the next big thing in Horror, if they want to be.

Adam Wingard

'You're Next' (2011) was a great home invasion horror flick with some nice fresh ideas and twists, with a cool soundtrack to boot. His segments for the horror anthologies 'The ABC's of Death' and 'V/H/S' series have been a little uneven in comparison. He's attached to the remake of excellent Korean thriller 'I Saw The Devil', unfortunately the original is pretty much perfect and doesn't need remaking.

Future Horror Verdict: 2 Severed heads out of 5. Needs to prove they didn't get lucky on 'You're Next', remaking great foreign films isn't the best way to do it.

Kevin Smith

Here's a dark horse for you, the guy that brought you all those slacker comedies and dick jokes from your youth. Smith took a change of direction with the recent 'Red State' (2011) and even more so with his latest 'Tusk' (2014), he's got plans to do a trilogy of horror films with ridiculous concepts that will include 'Tusk'. He's also got 'Clerks 3' planned for fans of the good old dick joke days.

Future Horror Verdict: 2.5 Severed heads out of 5. Recent films have been entertaining, but roots are in comedy. Could be a dark horse, could go back to dick jokes.

The future of the greatest genre is uncertain, but there will always be an audience for Horror and new directors inspired by the classics!