Wednesday, June 22, 2016

100 Best Horror Movies Ever: Don't Look Now

This post contains spoilers for a 43-year-old movie …and I can’t believe I even have to type that, so this is your warning from here on out that all of these challenge posts may contain spoilers for old movies.

I watched Don’t Look Now with my husband, and since I’ve seen it before I pitched it to him as a classic film that’s still incredibly effective and frightening. And then the film went on to both prove and disprove my theory.

To be fair, I haven’t seen this movie since I was pretty young, so I only had a hazy memory of the whole thing, punctuated by the death-by-dwarf scene. I maintain that the climactic scene is chilling to the bone, but my husband had more of a “what the hell?” reaction to it, akin to my reaction the first time I saw Sleepaway Camp as a teenager. I was disturbed in more of an uncanny valley way than anything else – why was she making that weird noise? And why did they attach the head of a teenager onto the body of what was clearly an adult man? It was creepy, but funny. But creepy.

Here are those two scenes for reference, though if you haven't seen Don't Look Now I do recommend watching the whole thing. I still think it's one of the more effective and accessible classics I've seen.

This got me thinking about the nature of classic horror movies and why some people love them while other people can’t seem to connect with them at all. Spoiler alert: I don’t have a clear answer (I warned you these challenge posts wouldn’t be thesis-worthy, right?). I’m not sure if it’s the nostalgia of remembering something the way you first saw it – as in, that dwarf terrified me as a child, so I still feel chills when I see her now. Or maybe it’s just the ability to employ a different mindset and recalibrate your expectations while watching. I think that’s something a lot of people today either can’t or don’t want to do, which is fair enough – after all, I refuse to ever watch Citizen Kane again, no matter how many film classes tell me it was groundbreaking at one time. But I think watching classic horror requires the viewer to approach things in a different way than contemporary horror. The rewards are necessarily different, but not necessarily any less gratifying.

Going back to the uncanny valley thing, though, I think many older films have that going for them as well, and the results can be genuinely disturbing. Even when a film’s effects are shoddy and the acting is risible, it’s all just strange and surreal and off-putting enough to unsettle you. Or maybe it’s not. It really comes down to a big ol’  ¯\_()_/¯

So what say you? Are there any classic horror films that still give you the major creeps? Tell me in the comments or on Twitter! Do it!

As always, you can follow my 100 Best Horror Movies Ever Challenge with this tag on the blog, or the Twitter hashtag #100BestHorrorMoviesEver (I really regret making that hashtag so long). Next time I hope to be talking about Possession – the 1981 version with Isabelle Adjani to be specific, because man there are a lot of "possession" movies.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

An Ode to Pink Horror Posters

Don't get me wrong; I love a good creepy, gross, disturbing horror film poster as much as the next person. Horror posters adorn my entire house, and I love them - I wouldn't have them hanging over my couch if I didn't. But if I'm really honest, I sometimes find myself wishing they weren't all quite so... dark. I know, that's silly, right? They're dark movies, after all. But google "greatest horror movie posters" and 90% of what comes up is very monochromatic - a lot of blacks and grays, maybe with some dark green and, of course, red thrown in. There's nothing wrong with that, but today I'm publishing an ode to the brighter side of horror - the pink side, specifically.

I was originally inspired by this series of posters for Mickey Keating's latest, Darling:

I love how the pink notes carry through and link all the different versions together - and the effect is anything but cutesy. It got me jonesing for other such posters, and to my great delight I found that my beloved What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? once got a similar treatment:

If that first poster with the doll's head doesn't prove that a poster can be both pink and horrifying, I don't know what does. Oh hell, let's take a moment to appreciate a few more:

What are your favorite movie posters? Let me know in the comments, or send me a photo on Twitter!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

100 Best Horror Movies Ever: Repulsion

I’ve seen Repulsion several times before – it’s one of my favorite classic horror movies; I even have the poster hanging in my house. But it was while watching the film with the intent of writing this post that I became plagued with the question: Am I doing something wrong?

Immoral, I mean. Because although I knew basically nothing about Roman Polanski the first time I saw one of his movies, it’s impossible for me to plead ignorance today. It’s impossible to stick your head in the sand and pretend you don’t know he is a rapist, a coward who fled the U.S. to avoid paying for his crime, and basically just an asshole living what is surely a beautiful life abroad that he absolutely does not deserve.

And yet.

I happen to think he’s an incredible artist.

I’m generally a believer in separating the art from the artist. Frankly, I don’t think we would have a lot of the amazing art we do if we boycotted all the artists who also happen to be bad people in some measure. As Jay Parini wrote in the New York Times article, “The Polanski Uproar”:

There are many examples in history — too many — of great artists who were terribly flawed human beings, behaving very badly and hurting those around them. If anything, audiences easily make this distinction. Nobody looks at a Picasso painting in a museum and says, “I should not take this work seriously because Picasso cheated on his many wives and was abusive to his son.”

I think some great artistic geniuses are also dramatically cruel people. I think there are probably even more artists we all enjoy who are hiding horrific secrets that may or may not ever come out (that's the cynic in me, and it is strong). But selfishly, I suppose, I still want to be able to consume their art. I still think their art adds something rich and vital to the world, even if the artist himself takes away from it in other ways.

Of course, I respect anyone who doesn’t share this view with me (although I can’t say I respect those who wish to censor art or stop others from consuming it for any reason… but that’s a different conversation). And I recognize that in today’s world, where the art and artist are more publicly entwined than ever before, it’s getting harder and harder to make that separation. It’s why I don’t own any copies of Polanski’s films, much as I’d like to – because I want to contribute as little as possible to the inoculated life he’s currently allowed to lead.

Anyway, that’s just my little rumination on the subject, though there’s so much more to be said. Horror is all about confronting the ugliest facets of life, about not shying away from what’s unsightly and difficult. I think we should all endeavor to do that when necessary. Regardless of your opinion, you should have the backbone to face the issue.

As always, you can follow my 100 Best Horror Movies Ever Challenge by clicking this tag.

Next up will be Don't Look Now.

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