Though my preferences usually run more in the Classic vein of Horror, every so often I feel the need to inject a little blood and gore into the mix. Usually, I’ll pull out a Bava or Fulci film, or, depending on my mood, one of De Ossorio’s Blind Dead movies. The European “Lost Cannibal Tribe” films of the ‘70’s are always good for plenty of blood & guts, though they aren't for most tastes. For more recent fare, there’s no shortage of filmmakers who tend towards the gorier aspects of Horror. Takashi Miike, director of the Japanese cult hit Ôdishon —aka— Audition, has developed quite a reputation as a director who pushes the boundaries with his films. The Spanish filmmaker Nacho Cerdà has repeatedly blown through those boundaries, most notably with his short film Aftermath.
Domestically, the movies of Herschell Gordon Lewis never fail to keep me entertained, even if calling them “B-Pictures” is paying them an undue compliment. I’ve always had a soft spot for bad movies, and H. G. Lewis would’ve given Ed Wood a run for his money in that department. Romero’s Dead films are always an option for gore, as are the films of Wes Craven, Tobe Hooper, and Clive Barker. Currently, directors such as Eli Roth and Rob Zombie are keeping
manufacturers of fake blood in clover.
Of course, we also have the teen slasher films so popular in the ‘70’s, ‘80’s and ‘90’s … franchises such as Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, and the first and best of the Unstoppable Slasher movies, John Carpenter’s Halloween.
Thought of today primarily for being the film that introduced us to Jamie Lee Curtis, Halloween should instead be remembered for having given birth to the uniquely American sub-genre of the standard slasher films, a curious sub-genre that I refer to as the “Unstoppable Slasher” movies. Jason might have gotten the glory, and Freddy the best lines, but Michael beat them both to the punch. And, in addition to being the first, he was by far the best.
Horror Fans today, long since jaded by multiple sequels, prequels, and even a cross-over, rightfully view each new iteration of these masters of massacre as nothing more than the lowest form of Horror, the cinematic equivalent of a Big Mac and fries… in truth, just more evidence of Hollywood’s contempt for the loyal fans of Horror Films.
But that overlooks just how good … just how influential, these films were when they premiered. Halloween gave birth to a genre, and resurrected the Franchise concept that had been so successful for both Universal and Hammer Films. Fans today might decry the never-ending parade of sequels that these films became, and not without reason. But that fails to acknowledge that there is a reason that Halloween, and films like it, became franchises in the first place: Because the original movie was so damn good.
If Slasher films are the American version of
Giallos, then John Carpenter is the
American Bava. One of the best directors
in Horror today, as he has been since 1978, Carpenter has been responsible for
some of the greatest Genre films of the past thirty years. The Fog,
The Thing, Christine, The Prince of Darkness … all have served to
demonstrate the range and ability of Carpenter, and Halloween is, at least in my opinion, his masterwork. Though not as polished and professional in
appearance as his later films, the film’s raw, rough edge helped make it one of
the most effective Horror Films of all-time, and the best of the Slasher
genre. The minimalist plot; the silent,
emotionless killer; the teen-agers trapped in a peril they’re not even aware
of, and Loomis’ absolute conviction that his patient is the physical embodiment
of evil. All of these factors combine to
produce a truly suspenseful film—one that slowly builds into a frightening
climax while not depending on the cheap, throwaway shocks that would become the
hallmark of movies of this type.
This soon became one of the most successful films of the ‘70’s, and was, for a long time, the top-grossing Independent film of all time. Though it gave rise to a series of sequels, none were helmed by anyone with a hint of Carpenter’s talent, and the series declined rapidly.
A year and a half after the premiere of Halloween, Friday the 13th made its debut. Directed by prolific producer Sean S. Cunningham, and owing much to Halloween, F13 was nevertheless a tremendously good movie in it’s own right… not up to the quality of the former film, but easily the best of a weak year for Horror. The film was hugely successful, well beyond the anticipation of the producers, and a string of sequels soon followed. Friday the 13th: Part II, released one year after the first film, introduced us to Jason Voorhees, the champion of the Slasher circuit, who’s still in business 25 years later. Yet another sequel is currently in pre-production, with a 2007 release planned.
Four years after F13 began its domination of the sub-genre, Wes Craven gave us his take on the theme with the wisecracking, knife-gloved, ghost-of-a-psychopathic-pedophile Freddy Krueger, in Nightmare on Elm Street.
Craven, certainly the most commercially successful of the great Horror directors that arose in the late ‘60’s-early ‘70’s, predictably took the Unstoppable Slasher movies in a new direction with Freddy, and would resurrect the sub-genre 12 years later with the innovative, and much-copied, Scream.
There were other attempts to create similar horror franchises … the Candyman movies, a doll named Chucky, even a Leprechaun and a Genie. Some of these movies were actually pretty good. Most weren't. But none ever equaled Halloween—the night Michael came home for the first time.