Halloween junkie Caomhan Keane guides us through the A-Z of horror, including classics like ‘Carrie’, ‘Dracula’ and ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’.
With his fetishistic adherence to style over substance, Argento’s films hum with the outrageous. Convoluted, over the top plots featuring gruesome kills, badly dubbed actors and music that seems to pump neon through its lush, lurid colour schemes, Suspiria is his masterwork, where a young girl ends up studying at a German ballet school that may or may not be home to a sect of witches.
The fear that comes from losing control of your own body has been used to tap into our anxieties about motherhood, AIDS, global warming, etc. David Cronenberg is the subgenres brightest star. And while The Fly is considered his classic, The Brood is a more personal-and terrifying meditation on how the inherited trauma of childhood can manifest to traumatise everyone that crosses it.
While plenty of directors worked their magic in the horror genre before him, John Carpenter made its most profitable franchise when he released child-killer Michael Myers from a lunatic asylum to stalk babysitters one Halloween night.
But for a more unsettling watch, and one of the most disturbing onscreen deaths in the genre, check out his previous flick, Assault on Precinct 13, about a gang, gurning for revenge, laying siege to an isolated police station.
In book form, its outsold only by the Bible, so it’s no wonder Dracula is one of the most filmed characters of all time. My fave is Frank Langella’s swooning Dracula (1979) which works as a glorious gothic metaphor for sexual abandon, where our fanged hero is not so much a stilted monster, but a brooding menace whose desires have left him misunderstood by society.
The haunting production design is a gothic delight.
Enough has been said about William Friedkin’s 1973 classic. Its 1990 sequel, Legion, is a more than worthy successor where a “thought to be dead” serial killer stalks the halls of a hospital offing those with tenuous links to the earlier film.
While the first movie is good, the third movie, 1987’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, is so much better.
A group of teens are terrorised both in and, ultimately, by their dreams while institutionalised in a psych unit.
After their parents torch the neighbourhood paedophile he returns from the dead to stalk their nightmares with his bladed glove.
Not particularly scary, it features an array of killer lines and dazzling deaths, most gloriously where Freddie’s blades turn into needles as he flirts with a former heroin addict.
The Silence of the Lambs, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Psycho get so much sicker when you remember their most disturbing scenes all drew inspiration from this real-life murderer and body snatcher.
Gein turned the skulls, skin and other body parts he stole from a graveyard into household things like lamps, bowls and bedposts while also making leggings from human skin, a belt made from nipples and an actual female bodysuit. Now that’s a How Clean Is Your House I’d watch!
While Carpenter’s Halloween is perhaps the best known holiday horror it’s neither the first nor the best.
That honorific belongs to 1974’s Black Christmas, which also originated the classic line “The call is coming from inside the house” and a dazzling early performance from Margot Kidder as a boozy, hurting sorority girl, for my money, the best performance in all of slasherdom.
Few cinematic horrors have worked the public nerve as much as those urban legends contained on and spread by the internet.
Has any knife happy maniac invaded public consciousness as much as Slenderman or Momo?
If horror is a mental work out, then jump scares are its cardio. That moment where all is quiet until it’s not and the killer or monster leaps out of nowhere giving the audience a microdose of dopamine and adrenaline, resulting in a buzz.
While much of the recent adaptations of his work has been infuriatingly poor— It, Pet Sematary — they don’t call him the master of horror for nothing.
From killer sewer dwelling clowns (IT) to telekinetic prom queens (Carrie), paperback stans (Misery) and the type of haunted hotel Tripadvisor was created to protect you from (The Shining) you do have your pick with King.
You’re V-card was as effective as a bulletproof vest in the horror genre. But woe and behold those who cast it aside. For a delicious spin on the concept check out 2007’s Teeth, where a woman’s vagina protects her purity from predators...in extreme ways!
No genre reflects the horrors of their day more explicitly than horror. From the fear of foreigners depicted in Dracula to the fear of where science was leading us in Frankenstein, Godzilla and the monster movies of the 1950s tapped into peoples nightmares about the atomic age, while high school shootings led to the resurgence of the slasher genre in the 1990s.
Long before Get Out landed all the acclaim for it’s subversive look at race through the horror genre, there was George A Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968), with a black lead whose treatment at the end of the film continues to be a shocking indictment of the world we live in.
While only six horror films have ever been nominated for the academy’s top honour, they have rewarded-or at least nominated, some of the most iconic female roles in history — Ellen Ripley (Alien); Margaret and Carrie White (Carrie); Annie Wilkes (Misery); Clarice Starling (Silence of the Lambs) and Baby Jane Hudson (Whatever Happened to Baby Jane) all earned the actors Oscar nods.
As if the night feeds, tantrums and cracked nipples weren’t bad enough, you also have to consider if your child is the spawn of Satan. Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen might be best-known examples of this trope, but Hereditary is more traumatising.
The gay comes gloriously out of the shadows in A Nightmare On Elm Street 2 featuring the most 80s BDSM slasher death ever where a character is towelled to death in the showers.
Our hero gets more jock strap revealing action from his best mate and his PE teacher than his girlfriend and spends the movie in various states of undress as a demon tries to get him to enact desires he’s trying to suppress.
If the recent Halloween reboot has taught us anything, its remaking and rebooting horror movies makes smart financial sense but is often artistically draining.
One of the best cases of it working is Philip Kaufman’s 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which features one of the most chilling final scenes in any horror ever.
With dozens of also-rans, the definitive scream queens — Jamie Lee Curtis and Neve Campbell — single throatily kicked off the slasher craze in their respected decades.
Remove the soundtrack from movies like Halloween, Jaws or Psycho and you may as well remove those movies from cinematic history. For an underrated synth gem that will put you in the seasonal spirit, watch Halloween III.
The depraved lack of humanity shown by their soldiers was brought home and out on the American people through the horror genre in the 1970s. Particularly in movies like The Last House on the Left where a trio of killers accidentally take shelter in the homes of one of their victim’s parents to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre where middle-class draft dodgers are terrorised by the people whose land they have trespassed onto.
Whilst exploiting our deepest fears, horror can also be made up of individual parts – its soundtrack, its production design that can stand alone as art in their own right. HR Giger’s designs for the titular Alien are one such example, as beautiful and intricate, as they are scary.
The conservative Irish censor banned so many of horrors’ greatest flicks, they created a schoolyard brownie points system for anyone who got their hands on Cannibal Holocaust, The Exorcist, Child’s Play and From Dusk Till Dawn.
Many horror movies cost next to nothing and become box office GOLD. Open Water, Halloween, Friday the 13th, The Blair Witch Project and Night of the Living Dead all cost under a million, in some cases under $100,000 and have all made hundreds of millions at the box office.