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Just in time for Halloween: Scariest Movie Scenes October 30, 2009

Posted by Daniel Stephens in : Uncategorized, Horror, Artfully Deranged, Genre , add a comment

The horror genre produces some of the most iconic movies to grace cinema as well as some of the most derided. It might have been dismissed as low-grade entertainment, satisfying the darkest fetishes of society’s social outcasts and degrading our youth, but horror gives audiences the sort of frenzied adrenaline rush other forms of cinema cannot achieve. In effect, fictional entertainment should take you out of yourself and into the satisfying and gratifying world of the make-believe. Horror achieves this like no other genre because it breaks down those inherent defence mechanisms by focusing on our primal instincts. Read on here.

Top 10 Tom Hanks Movies of the 1980s October 26, 2009

Posted by Daniel Stephens in : Comedy, 1980s, Top 10s, Film reviews, Artfully Deranged, Genre , add a comment

From 1984 to 1989 Tom Hanks solidified himself as one of the Hollywood elite. Aside from a couple of more restrained dramas in the middle of the period showing his diversity and pre-cursing his later work, predominantly the films of the middle to late eighties highlighted Hanks’ natural gift for comedy. His characters were always loveable yet flawed creations that pulled at the heart strings while playing relentlessly on the funny bone.

For many, Tom Hanks’ body of comedic work during the 1980s was the actor’s finest and most enduring. Because of this Top10Films.co.uk presents the best Tom Hanks films between 1984 and 1989. Click HERE for the Top 10
Please visit my new site www.top10films.co.uk for other Top 10 lists

Alien (Ridley Scott, USA, 1979) March 23, 2009

Posted by Daniel Stephens in : 1970s, Film reviews, Artfully Deranged, Feminism, Genre, Audience , 6 comments

Dir. Ridley Scott; Written by Dan O’Bannon; starring Sigourney Weaver, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, Yaphet Kotto

My introduction to Ridley Scott’s space opus came sometime after being bowled over by James Cameron’s sequel. I guess it must have been around 1990, before David Fincher released the third instalment of the Alien saga. My ignorance of Scott’s sci-fi horror had to do with the fact I wasn’t born when it was first released in 1979, and partly because my mother had withheld the video from her impressionable son’s eyes; possibly fearing permanent psychological damage. This fear didn’t last long, since my determination to witness the Alien’s first cinematic adventure far outweighed her parental guidance. Coupled with the fact Alien was one of my Mum’s favourite movies, it wasn’t long before I was another devoted fan of Alien, Ripley, and the space-horror franchise. And, for the sake of not undermining my mother, I can safely say there was no psychological damage causedat least, that’s what my shrink tells me.

My first impression of Alien was one that appears the going trend. Quite honestly, it was one of the most frightening experiences of my movie watching life. Director Ridley Scott concocts a claustrophobic, uncompromising cinematic experience that bottles up all that is good about the haunted house movie and delivers it with teeth sharp enough to cut through the screen and take your arms and legs off. From the minute the opening credit sequence starts (bringing you out of your home comforts - that include a reassuring open fire and a locked door - into the unending expanse of outer space), the hieroglyphic letters appearing slowly and methodically onscreen offering no sense of hope, you’re left exposed, alone, vulnerable.

Alien was developed in the mid-1970s, the brainchild of film school graduate Dan O’Bannon. O’Bannon had worked with John Carpenter on what would become simultaneously the most successful student film and the worst professional film ever released theatrically - Dark Star. The film, a precursor to O’Bannon’s Alien, saw a group of astronauts bidding to stay alive aboard a spacecraft housing a rather nasty but ultimately timid looking alien creature. After O’Bannon left film school and saw his next project fall flat on its face, he turned to friend and producer Ronald Shusett for help. Together, they fleshed out O’Bannon’s concept and started shopping it… [MORE]

Rating: 5/5

Top 10 Scary Movie Moments February 16, 2009

Posted by Daniel Stephens in : Top 10s, Artfully Deranged, Genre , 4 comments

The horror genre produces some of the most iconic movies to grace cinema as well as some of the most derided. It might have been dismissed as low-grade entertainment, satisfying the darkest fetishes of society’s social outcasts and degrading our youth, but horror gives audiences the sort of frenzied adrenaline rush other forms of cinema cannot achieve. In effect, fictional entertainment should take you out of yourself and into the satisfying and gratifying world of the make-believe. Horror achieves this like no other genre because it breaks down those inherent defence mechanisms by focusing on our primal instincts.

It was difficult picking ten scary moments from the countless horror movies I’ve seen. Regrettably, my order will probably change from day to day, and I’m sure there’s a few outstanding moments I’m forgetting but below I present what I believe to be a pretty close representation of the ten biggest frights I’ve had during a horror film.

Below is my TOP 10 with brief introductions to the scenes in question. Read in FULL - HERE

ALSO: Watch clips and trailers for the films featured below HERE

#10 THE VANISHING (George Sluizer, France/Holland, 1988)
The Vanishing is a peculiar movie. It was badly remade by Hollywood when it should have been left alone. Alas, as a foreign movie with subtitles, it is still largely undiscovered outside of horror aficionados and foreign film buffs but I’d recommend anyone with a passing interest in psychological horror to…[MORE]

#9 THE EXORCIST III (William Peter Blatty, USA, 1989)
The Exorcist, my favourite horror film is, as you’d expect full of great scary moments. I’ve kept myself down to just two moments in my top ten but I’ve had to include this brilliant scene from the second… [MORE]

#8 ROSEMARY’S BABY (Roman Polanski, USA, 1968)
When picking this list I kept thinking I’m forgetting great scary moments in film’s that aren’t very good. It’s easy to remember those great films and scenes within them, but it’s more difficult to remember those poor movies… [MORE]

#7 THE OMEN (Richard Donner, USA, 1976)
The Omen was one of those horror films I saw when I was probably too young to watch it. I remember seeing it in my parent’s VHS collection and knew instinctively it was out of bounds. Firstly, it had the UK rating of 18, and secondly, it had that horrid image of a boy clad in black with a jackal’s shadow. The poster is brilliantly… [MORE]

#6 THE EXORCIST (William Friedkin, USA, 1973)
William Friedkin’s The Exorcist is the greatest horror movie ever made. Therefore, I can’t help but choose two moments for my top ten list. The first of which is the head-spinning-foul-language-crucifix-masturbation sequence. There aren’t any more words required… [MORE]


#5 ALIEN (Ridley Scott, USA, 1979)
Ridley Scott changed the way science-fiction was viewed heading into the 1980s; he empowered the female hero, and he inspired a slew of brilliant sci-fi horror movies to be made over the coming years as well as one of the… [MORE]

american werewolf

#4 AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (John Landis, USA, 1981)
An American Werewolf In London is the best horror/comedy ever made. I think of it in such high regard because it has some wonderfully funny moments (David Naughton running around London Zoo with a child’s balloons covering his crown jewels; his best friend turning up beyond the grave and explaining to him how bored he is being dead) along with, as you’d expect, some hair-raising… [MORE]

the exorcist merrin arrival

#3 THE EXORCIST (William Friedkin, USA, 1973)
I’ve always felt that the scariest thing about The Exorcist is the possessed girl’s face when she’s beginning to fall more and more under the spell of her possessor. That’s testament to the special-effects and make-up teams who created a facial design that evokes such threatening images of pure evil. Much of that evil is conveyed through the girl’s eyes which take on a very animalist look. In choosing one moment when Regan - the victim - is at her most unsettling was a difficult… [MORE]


#2 THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (Daniel Myrick/Eduardo Sanchez, USA, 1999)
The Blair Witch Project was the best horror movie of the 1990s and one of the most groundbreaking since the 1970s. Filmed with grainy video and a 16mm black and white film camera by the actors, the movie had an authenticity never before achieved. The film was more than just a movie, it was a definitive precursor to the You Tube generation and reality television, and it used the internet to generate a cheap but brilliant buzz that inferred the events depicted… [MORE]

Jaws shark

#1 JAWS (Steven Spielberg, USA, 1975)
I only recently read the Peter Benchley novel that Steven Spielberg’s film is based on. It came as little surprise, given the quality of Jaws the movie, that its cinematic incarnation is an exceedingly more pleasing experience than its literary form. Jaws is one of those anomalies - the film is better than the book… [MORE]

Watch clips and trailer from these films including the very scenes themselves right HERE

MORE

Check out my top 10 horror movies of the 1980s

Top 10 Horror Films of the 1980s May 7, 2007

Posted by Daniel Stephens in : Horror, Top 10s, Artfully Deranged, Genre, The Film Industry, Audience , 54 comments

To see the Top 10 Scariest Horror Film Moments - CLICK HERE

Where there is no imagination there is no horror.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The success, both in terms of the comment generated and the amount of visitors, this Top 10 list enjoyed is in no small part inspiration for my new site www.top10films.co.uk. Accessed HERE, the site includes hundreds of Top 10 film lists across a wide variety of topics with the purpose of providing you with a great choice of films to watch based on anything from a simple theme, to a genre, a time-period, or even special interest lists including world renowned filmmakers’ Top 10s.
Check out this feature with bells and whistles - video clips, interviews, and trailers!

___________________________
I vaguely remember my introduction to the horror film. My cousin was visiting, the curtains had been drawn on a sunny afternoon, and John Landis’ An American Werewolf In London had been placed in the VCR. I was seven years old. I recollect that evening, and for many nights consequently, I hardly slept. There was something under my bed, and there was even something in the closet, I knew it too well. Of course, it was easy to see since I’d cry bloody Mary if anyone tried to turn my light off. Could I keep my eyes open? It was becoming more difficult, all I could see were those green hills shrouded in the black cloak of night, and the warning: ‘Stay on the road. Keep clear of the moors,’ delivered in that Yorkshire twang. Bryan Glover’s short, controlled outburst – probably his unusual form of goodbye – ‘Beware the moon, lads.’ Then our hero David and best friend Jack are stranded. They’ve wandered off the path, there are no lights around, no one to help. They hear a sound, distant at first but growing louder. Could it be a dog, no, it sounds much bigger. Then the screams, the tearing of flesh, the quick cuts and extreme close-ups; we see a gun fire, all goes silent, and the darkness pervades.

I grew up as part of the video generation. Cinema was changing again – attendances were down and people were far happier watching videos or catching re-runs on television than they were venturing from the comfort of their own home. By the early 1990s, eighties babies were beginning to enjoy cinema beyond family movies, cartoons and the Wizard of Oz. In Britain, this audience - post-1984 Video Recordings Act - wanted to find their niche and what better place to start than the forsaken shelves of the video nasty. Bootleg, grainy copies of The Exorcist and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre tormented young minds, while the horror film cemented its place firmly in cult circles. This fervent popularity from both adults and teenagers for the horror film encouraged the industry (especially Hollywood) to produce some wonderfully surreal, engaging and stylish pieces of cinema. We saw the rampant emergence of the ‘Slasher’ movie from Wes Craven and Sean S. Cunningham, gore and special-effects from Tom Savini, the body horror of David Cronenberg, the dreams and nightmares of Clive Barker, the cross genre comedy-horror from John Landis, Tom Holland, and Dan O’Bannon. There was franchised sequels, villains-as-heroes, gothic homage, iconic theme music, lunch boxes, action figures and other cross-promotion. Indeed, the horror film was as much derided as it was loved. But the eighties produced some of the greatest examples of the genre following, and certainly inspired by, the fears and trend-setting new traditions of the new-age horror from the seventies.

The genre has failed for years to get recognition from a critical standpoint. Much of the recognition it did receive was negative – throughout the 1930s and 1940s, horror movies were thought to be harmful to society and many local authorities banned films they deemed unsuitable. During the 1950s, Hammer Studios used negative press and liberal scare tactics to promote their films, and it was as much the backlash from politicians and critics that helped cultivate underground following for the genre. However, by the late 1960s, there was a trend beginning in France that saw critics warming to the genre, and by the time Carlos Clarens and Ivan Butler’s books were released, there was a new feeling that looked at the films as serious art forms. Instead of lambasting horror movies as detrimental, even dangerous, to society, writers were beginning to look at the long literary traditions that had first inspired these films. And they also investigated the history and transformation of the genre since the first examples were seen in such German expressionism as Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. By the 1970s every critic who wanted a name for themselves had written about the horror movie, whether their point of view was positive, negative, or indifferent. Most importantly, horror had become a mainstream commodity with the obvious example being Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. It isn’t surprising that the seventies produced the best and most influential films of the genre (The Exorcist, Halloween, The Wicker Man, Dawn Of The Dead), with audiences, the art form, and the industry all benefiting from this budding type of film.

Yet, the eighties was a period not far behind the previous decade in terms of quality output. Certainly, the genre was much more diverse with self-reference, parody, and hybrids such as Kathryn Bigelow’s brilliant Near Dark, showing what could be done. On top of that you had some lovely original pieces of cinema with such films as Dan O’Bannon’s special-effects homage to Romero The Return of the Living Dead, Joel Schumacher’s coming-of-age vampire flick The Lost Boys, and beyond Hollywood with the Dutch/French production The Vanishing, and stylistic Italian director Dario Argento’s Tenebre and Inferno. Indeed, the vibrancy for the genre in the 1980s came from films which embraced and celebrated horror. Prime examples would be the self-referential Fright Night, gore-fest The Evil Dead, Peter Jackson’s Bad Taste, John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing, and Brian De Palma’s Hitchcock-inspired Dressed To Kill. It has been said the eighties was, much like very early film, the cinema of attractions. It pushed the boundaries of the medium to new frontiers, backed by Reagan’s forward-thinking plans. Director’s thought visually, and nothing held their creative minds back. It was the period where dreams and nightmares were displayed on screen more realistically than had ever been seen. In effect, there appeared no better time for horror (much like science-fiction during the same period) – with its otherworldly themes – to prosper on a grand scale. In a sense you’ve got to thank George Lucas because with Star Wars he reintroduced audiences to escapism, which had somewhat been lost during the dominance of social-issue and character studies of the seventies.

The genre, which would continue to diversify into the nineties (postmodernism in A New Nightmare in 1994, which led to Scream and the revitalisation of the Slasher film; and the digital video revolution and use of new media with Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez’s masterful manipulation of the audience with The Blair Witch Project), still retained a very distinct set of conventions that primarily challenged normality and distanced the real from the unreal. Reading many different theorists views about how the horror film works makes for wide reaching, and often, very politically motivated ideologies, but it’s interesting nonetheless. There’s a school that believes American horror is dominated by the struggles created by consumerism, patriarchal social relations, and family struggle, and that the location of the horror is in the home and our way of life. Others believe the monsters prevalent in horror films represent institutional fears, like the affect the church, government, or the police can have on breaking or changing familial tradition, while some writers look at the way the audience is manipulated through the aesthetics of the films by the way they play on the insecurities that defy rational explanation. There are also people such as Stephen Neale who believe the genre satisfies a fetish for violence and terror that is inherited by the society and cultural structure we live in, while feminist theorists argue the genre is dominated by misogyny and the ‘female’ as victim.

Whether you find yourself agreeing or disagreeing, the fact remains that the horror film is, and has been, a very popular genre for audiences. Despite its early critical backlash, the genre has been important as far back as the 1930s when Universal produced Dracula and Frankenstein amongst others, which were so well received by audiences, it enabled the company to become a major Hollywood studio. In the 1940s RKO created many films including Cat People, which pioneered a style which would be imitated by filmmakers for years to come. Instead of showing the monster, filmmakers used off-screen space, sound, lighting and deep shadows, character reaction, and the ambiguity of the audience’s imagination to produce stylish and emotionally impacting movies. Independent production prospered in the 1960s with the most influential film being George A. Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead, which led to a new respectability with Roman Polanski’s mesmerising Rosemary’s Baby, and the best film the genre ever created, William Friedkin’s terrifying The Exorcist.

For me, the best decade for horror was the 1980s and that’s why I present my top 10. Below, you’ll also find my Top five favourite moments:

10. Fright Night (Tom Holland, 1985, USA)

‘’Apparently your generation doesn’t want to see vampire killers anymore, nor vampires either. All they want to see slashers running around in ski masks, hacking up young virgins.'’

Top 10, why?: Tom Holland’s superb self-referential horror-comedy is both delightfully funny and darkly sadistic, wryly telling the story of a teenager who knows a Vampire has moved in next door but no one believes him. A standout performance from Roddy McDowell is the centre point of a film that simultaneously celebrates and parodies the genre. This unique film inspired a lot of the post-modern sentiment later seen in the 1990s.

Critic quote: ‘…it’s hard to get into this movie and not have a little fun…’ (Nadd Yapp)

External review: Absolute Horror

 

9. Hellraiser (Clive Barker, 1987, UK)

‘’We will tear your soul apart'’

Top 10, why?: The film embodies the idea of nightmares displayed on screen as Clive Barker creates a terrifying vision of hell on earth.

Critic Quote: ‘I have seen the future of the horror genre, and his name is Clive Barker.’ (Stephen King)

External Reviews: British Horror Films, Blog of the Rotting Dead

 

8. The Vanishing (George Sluizer, 1988, Holland)

‘’The only way to tell you, is to make you share the exact same experience'’

Top 10, why?: Sluizer’s film is about pacing and atmosphere. He plays with audience expectation (even telling us who the killer is half way through) and concludes the film with one of the best and most devastating conclusions to any horror film ever made.

Critic Quote: Sounds like an overworked premise for Alfred Hitchcock (The Lady Vanishes), Roman Polanski (Frantic), or Jonathan Mostow (Breakdown), but The Vanishing quickly veers into new and intriguing territories. (Matthew Kennedy)

External reviews: Bright Lights Film Journal, Combustible Celluloid

 

7. The Return Of The Living Dead (Dan O’Bannon, 1985, USA)

‘’Did you see that movie, “Night of the Living Dead”?'’

Top 10, why?: Dan O’Bannon’s homage to Romero is fun, pacy and full of great production design and prosthetic effects. The film was essentially fighting against Sam Raimi’s excellent sequel to The Evil Dead, but I decided to go with O’Bannon’s effort because it’s a more polished affair with several good performances.

Critic Quote: ‘It’s kind of a sensation-machine, made out of the usual ingredients, and the real question is whether it’s done with style. It is.’ (Roger Ebert)

External Reviews: Dr. Gore, Apollo Movie Guide, Club IGN

 

6. The Fly (David Cronenberg, 1986, USA)

‘’What am I working on? Uhh… I’m working on something that will change the world, and human life as we know it.'’

Top 10, why?: Anchored by a brilliant performance from Jeff Goldblum, director David Cronenberg continues his investigation into the renowned body-horror, as Goldbum’s Seth Brundle attempts metamorphosis but it all goes wrong when a house fly gets caught up in the machine. As Brundle struggles to find a cure to his problem, he falls deeper in love with Geena Davis’ concerned Veronica. When he learns that his body structure is becoming that of a fly, the fruits of his new powers soon challenge his own sanity, and his own survival. The Fly is one of several great horror films made in the eighties by Cronenberg but it stands out because it his most accessible, and probably most accomplished piece of work.

Critic Quote: ‘It’s hard to watch; not only because it takes a strong stomach to cope with the necessarily gruesome special effects but because the emotions depicted are so honest and direct that they eventually becomes overwhelming.’ (Mike Sutton)

External Reviews: Reel.com


5. Near Dark (Kathryn Bigelow, 1987, USA)

‘’We keep odd hours…'’

Top 10, why?: Near Dark has always fascinated me because it’s a horror film that only really works within the constraints of the genre based on the audiences expectation and understanding of the gothic, and of past vampire films. It’s almost a western love story, with the premise setting the scene for two star-crossed lovers from distinct families that cannot mix. It’s the Romeo and Juliet of the vampire world. The film features half the main cast from James Cameron’s Aliens, with Lance Henrikson, Bill Paxton, and Jenette Goldstein all working together again, and Paxton and Henrikson are superb in their roles as rogue bloodsuckers. This small-budget film was a given an awful marketing campaign that saw it fail at the box office, and also saw Joel Schumacher’s The Lost Boys become the remembered vampire film of 1987. However, Bigelow’s beautifully paced tale is a fantastic film because it was the most unique horror movie of the 1980s, and looked at the gothic story from a completely different point of view than had been seen before.

Critic Quote:Near Dark is the best vampire movie you’ve never heard of…’ (Rod Armstrong)

External Reviews: My full review, Horror Movies.com, Alex Jackson, My New Plaid Pants (for an interesting take on the film), Grave Robber

 

4. A Nightmare On Elm Street (Wes Craven, 1984, USA)

‘’Whatever you do, don’t fall asleep.'’

Top 10, why?: It says a lot that this is the only teen slasher film to make the top ten. Wes Craven’s excellent film, much like Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, embodies the idea of a nightmare on screen. It’s also backed by a brilliant premise that has a killer who can only hurt you while you sleep. Fantastic!

Critic Quote: ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street is tailor made for those who like their gore leavened with thought-provoking ideas - something that is a rarity in this genre.’ (James Berardinelli)

External Reviews: Alex Jackson

 

3. An American Werewolf In London (John Landis, 1981, USA)

‘’A naked American man stole my balloons'’

Top 10, why?: John Landis’ 1981 classic was an easy choice for a top ten spot because it’s one of my all time favourite films. It’s also a horror film that Roger Ebert absolutely hates, which means it has to be one of the best films ever made. Not that I’m trying to have a dig at the renowned critic (I’ve used one of his quotes for Return Of The Living Dead), but I do believe he simply doesn’t get Landis’ film. He seems to believe horror and comedy have lived seamlessly for years, but not like this they haven’t. An American Werewolf In London is equally funny and frightening, and Landis is one of only a few directors to actually make it work. Ebert, while celebrating special-effects maestro Rick Baker’s work on the film, merely disassociates that quality for his overall appreciation of the film. Baker’s werewolf transformation was not only one of the most realistic special-effects ever to be put to celluloid at the time, but it was underpinned by Landis’ superb use of music (the brilliant irony of classic Blue Moon). It works so perfectly because it flirts between a line that doesn’t tell the audience to laugh or cry, and by breaking convention, the audience is left not knowing what might happen next. The sequence makes for the best werewolf transformation ever put on screen, and is one of the primary reasons the film has such a cult following and is regarded by horror fans as one of the best examples of the genre ever made.

Critic Quote: ‘…in the summer of 1981 came John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London, which has, in many ways, set the standard for the modern werewolf movie.’ (James Birardinelli)

External Reviews: DVD Times, Jeffrey Wachs, Chrissy Deberyshire, Darth Jamyz

 

2. The Thing (John Carpenter, 1982, USA)

‘’I dunno what the hell’s in there, but it’s weird and pissed off, whatever it is.'’

Top 10, why?: Much like The Fly, I’d have to question whether to put this in the horror or science-fiction category but essentially they are both horror movies at the most primitive level. The Thing was John Carpenter’s sixth major feature production, and for me, it’s a work that he has never surpassed before or since. He made many excellent movies within the genre through the eighties, but the sense of paranoia amongst his ensemble cast in The Thing makes for wonderful, suspenseful viewing. The blood test sequence in the middle of the film is one of the best scene’s in horror cinema ever put to celluloid.

Critic Quote: ‘John Carpenter may be better known for Halloween or Escape from New York, but The Thing is easily the famed horror director’s best film.’ (Evan Pulgino)

External Reviews: James Berardinelli

 

1. The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980, USA)

‘’Here’s Johnny…!'’

Top 10, why?: This was an easy choice for number one. It’s Kubrick’s best film and one of the greatest films ever made, no matter what genre. What I love about the movie is that it gets better with every viewing, and I know the next time I watch it I’ll enjoy it more than the last.

Critic quote: ‘Stanley Kubrick doesn’t anything by halves. What this die-hard perfectionist has created, during the years of post-production work that went on while tucked away in a British film studio, are exemplary pieces of artistic refinement: 2001, A Space Odyssey was a masterpiece in science-fiction, Barry Lyndon set a new standard for historical epics and The Shining redefined the meaning of horror altogether.’ (Der Spiegel)

External Reviews: Alex Jackson, Chris Justice, Robert Castle

Round up

There’s obviously many great films that didn’t make my top ten, notably the Evil Dead’s, Dressed To Kill, The Lost Boys, Innocent Blood, The Howling, The Fog, Christine, Prince Of Darkness, a whole heap of teen slasher movies, Dead and Buried, Manhunter, Tenebre and other European independent films, Bad Taste, Cannibal Holocaust and a lot of exploitative filth, Critters, Gremlins (but I always enjoyed the sequel more), The Hitcher, Scanners, Re-animator, The Serpent and the Rainbow, Silver Bullet, Child’s Play, the list goes on.

I probably realised this before making my top ten, but it confirms that I don’t like sadistic horror films that set out to repulse the audience. You may notice that I’ve chosen mainly mainstream horror films. It’s all well and good making social comments like Wes Craven’s The Last House On The Left, but when a film becomes the director’s perverted wet dream, it isn’t fun anymore. For all that the horror genre does to its audience it should always be fun and entertaining, leaving the viewer with a feeling of adrenaline, not sickness. For that reason, I think the eighties produced some of the best films from the genre (and don’t get me wrong, it also produced some of the worst). They were and still are entertaining movies. The improvement of special-effects may date the films now but the nostalgic feeling of watching them again makes up for that.

 

Top Five Moments from 1980s Horror

1. An American Werewolf In London – The Transformation

David Kessler tries to keep himself occupied in Nurse Alex’s house when she leaves him to go to work. As night falls, and the full moon comes out, he feels a terrible pain in his chest. His skin begins to burn, and his bones begin to crack, as his body changes into that of a werewolf. The great thing director John Landis does here is to make the whole scene painful to watch and clearly painful for David. This isn’t the easy transformation that had been seen in cinema before. This was bones, and flesh, moulding and changing; it hurt. The scene is very realistic, and the prosthetic make-up effects look better than any CGI would today. Landis beautifully underpins the scene with the blues classic Blue Moon which is sadistically ironic.

2. The Thing – Blood Test

Working out that alien and human blood react to each other, the surviving group conduct a blood test to work out which, if any of them, are alien. Carpenter infuses the scene with paranoia, creating a level of suspense he hangs on to for several minutes as the scene plays out.

3. Evil Dead II – Ash battles his own hand

When Ash’s hand gets possessed, he’s forced to cut it off. However, after the gruelling dismemberment, the severed hand (clearly pissed off at such an action), comes after him in one of the great comedic horror moments.

4. The Vanishing – The final twist and devastating conclusion

The film leaves both the viewer and main character Rex in completely darkness over the fate of his girlfriend. Although, we meet the man who abducted her, we are still unsure whether she is dead or alive. When Rex agrees to take a sleeping pill in order to find out what really happened, he awakens to have all his questions answered. This is one of the best endings to any horror film from the eighties. It’s both devastatingly affecting and cruelly ironic.

5. The Hitcher – They thought it was all over…it wasn’t.

The audience, and the characters, are left thinking the terror might be all over…but it isn’t. Jim leaves his hotel room to find Nash (the girl he had fallen for over the course of the film) tied between a truck and its trailer. If the police shoot the driver, his foot will leave the clutch and the truck will roll forward, ripping Nash in half. In order to save her, Jim gets into the truck with the driver to talk him out of it. He doesn’t succeed.

NOW WATCH!

See video clips, interviews and trailers for the films mentioned above - right here

FURTHER READING:

Inside Out: Body Horror, Films of the 1980s

Final Girls and Terrible Youth: Transgression in 1980s Slasher Horror

Everything I need to know, I learned from 1980s Horror Films

Hammer Horror and British Cinema (1930s to 1970) May 4, 2007

Posted by Daniel Stephens in : Artfully Deranged, Genre, The Film Industry, Audience , add a comment

Below is an essay I wrote at university attempting to answer the question: What contribution did Hammer make to the development of the British cinema from its beginnings to c1970?. I present it here for anyone wanting some background on the subject. I believe it is historically accurate and the facts are definitely sourced, but the quality of argument and the style of my writing leaves at lot to be desired. My only defense is that it was written many years ago in my first year at University. I do hope I’ve improved since.

The son of James Carreras – Enrique, formed a distribution company in partnership with Will Hinds in 1935. The company was called Exclusive Films and during the 1940’s it produced the occasional few films based on radio characters such as Dick Barton. The company was very much a family run affair, and in 1947 its production activities were rationalised and a new company, Hammer films, was set up. The name came from the stage name of Exclusive’s co-owner Will Hinds, who was known as Will Hammer in the theatre. James Carreras became the managing director; Anthony Hinds (Will Hinds son) became a producer and Michael, son of James Carreras became his assistant. The production company came about at a bad time for the film industry in Britain, with the industry falling into recession as films were not making profit. Hammer though, survived, thanks largely to James Carreras’ ideas for film production taking the stance that if a film would not make profit, then it should not be made at all. With ruthless cost-cutting and a determination to treat films as commercial products rather than simply expressionist art, Hammer was able to maintain itself. In examining how and what ‘Hammer’ films did to the development of British cinema I intend to look at several key areas which are: How Hammer started to make commercial products to make profit over critical praise or artistic merit; how Hammer managed to keep production costs low, something that meant many other production companies couldn’t make profit because the cost of making their films was so high; how Hammer was able to introduce a new genre into British film industry as well as British culture – a genre that had already become very popular in the USA; and finally, how Hammer was able to make films for the international market, branching out British cinema to new countries especially the USA.

Hammer is remembered today for its ‘horror’ films, which is a little unfair because it produced many other genres, starting out with dramas and comedies, and also period-action films. Horror movies didn’t even register as half their output. As a matter of fact, only 1/8th of Hammer films were horror, and one of their most famous and appreciated films was the comedy ‘On The Buses’. So why is Hammer so synonymous with the ‘Horror’ film, and more importantly, such Gothic horror characters like Frankenstein, Dracula and Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde? It links back to James Carreras’ idea that a film should only go into production if it is sure to make money. In the 1930’s, the horror genre started to crop up in the USA, and soon became a very marketable and profitable commodity. The horror genre at this time hadn’t appeared in Britain, and there was no indication that anyone was too bothered about it. Twenty years later, in 1954, Hammer Films was struggling and times were bad with the company’s future depending heavily on the box-office of their 1954 output. One of the films produced during this time, was the ‘The Quatermass Xperiment (1954) and it did surprisingly very well. The film was a mix of science fiction and horror, and was produced largely due to the success of the television show it was based on – Nigel Kneale’s The Quatermass Experiment. Additionally, ‘horror’ was beginning to be a more marketable genre in Britain with the rise of horror comics. Many of these comics were subsequently banned, after they were deemed unsuitable for any audience, and this created a ‘stir’ with attention drawn to this new type of entertainment. The idea was simply: try to scare an audience for pleasure. With the political intervention barring people from horror products, demand grew. However, not only did Hammer’s The Quatermass Xperiment offer an outlet for this growing demand, it also utilized the new rating of ‘X’ in its title. This new certificate was for films aimed only at an adult audience.

James Carreras then did his own market research to find out why the film was such a success, asking cinema managers whether it was the sci-fi elements, or the horror elements that were getting people into the cinema. The response was totally in the court of the ‘horror’ aspect, which sent Carreras off to quickly create more ideas, and films in the horror genre. What followed was a ‘spin off’ ‘X – The Unknown (Leslie Norman, 1956) and a sequel ‘Quatermass 2 (V. Guest, 1957). While Hammer didn’t totally discard other genres to produce ‘horror’ films only, their horror output was their most marketable and profitable genre. Such was the money acquired from these films, Hammer stopped producing comedies soon after The Quatermass Xperiment’s success. It should also be noted that during this time television was growing more popular so using a notable television show theme was an iconic reminder that brought people back into cinemas.

It is also worth noting that Hammer Films thrived on the bad publicity it got from certain sectors claiming their horror films were not suitable to be seen, citing the horror and violence as inappropriate. ‘It doesn’t really concern us at all. We’re purely a commercial company, we turn out films we think are fairy tales in a way and we don’t think they offend anybody. We’ve never known anyone rush out after seeing a Dracula and help himself to a pint of blood, or rush off to do a transplant because they’ve seen Professor Frankenstein doing one.’[1] This links with the idea that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Also, the idea of life imitating art is raised which has become a prominent media angle in the 1990’s. Films such as Natural Born Killers (Oliver Stone) and Scream (Wes Craven 1997) have been targeted as causes of high school shootings (eg. Columbine High School) and rape (a woman was raped by a man wearing a mask featured in ‘Scream’). Like these films in the nineties, Hammer Horror were able to gain a cult following because of the media distaste, with people wanting more, not less. In many respects cinemagoers were trying to revolt against the higher powers. In the 1950’s it was likely the revolt was based on class status. Therefore, it could be seen that Hammer horror was a precursor, at least as far as cinema’s involvement, to the decline of a class system in Britain.

We have to look back at Hammer Films history to see how they could make so many films, in small stretches of time and with so little money. After all, it wasn’t over-night that The Quatermass Xperiment’s success transformed Hammer into a production company churning out box-office successes month after month. What did happen however was more interest came from the USA and while Hammer continued to produce various genre films, it was their ‘horror’ films that were the most successful both in Britain, and what would soon become a success in the USA. This is one of the major reasons why Hammer are remembered for ‘horror’ rather than anything else. While their ‘horror’ films were attractive to audiences, they weren’t always of a very high quality in terms of the way in which they were acted, scripted and directed. Additionally, the critics hardly ever praised Hammer horror films – partly due to their exploitive violence, but mainly due to them lacking artistic merit. Therefore, other Hammer films, produced under different genres also fell pray to low quality and poor critical appraisal.

One of the major costs of film production was rental studio space, but Hammer came to the solution of buying a large country house, converting it into a studio and creating scripts to work around the décor and location of the house so that it could be re-used, and wouldn’t require constant changes in production design or locale. ‘The actual cost of buying such a house compared favourably with the studio rentals asked, and with the right story material, the décor of the house could actually provide the sets for the film…’[2] There were of course limitations with using a ‘real’ country house to make films, like for instance, it encouraged the use of 35mm wide angle lenses and the avoidance of panning and tracking shots. Such were these limitations that ‘long takes’, with very little camera movement, became prominent parts of Hammer Films’ mise-en-scene. But as other production companies used mobile sets, moving from location to location, the ‘country house’ idea proved cost effective. For example, Outlook Films using mobile sets made ‘Blue Scar’ (Jill Craigie 1950) for 75, 000 pounds, while Hammer made a couple of movies at the same time for considerably less. ‘Their first, Dr. Morelle (Anthony Hinds 1948) cost 15, 000 pounds, and their second (PC 49) was budgeted at 12, 000 pounds…’[3] With the money they were saving they were able to maintain a stronger foot hole in British cinema by being able to make more films more quickly than their competitors. In making the films on a smaller budget they didn’t have to rely on every one being a success as 1 or 2 profitable moviess was enough to recuperate expenses, and enough to make further films. It should also be noted that Hammer utilised the services of the same actors playing either the same or very similar roles. This allowed them to keep costs down by buying actors for a set amount of movies, and it also created audience anticipation and a cult following of the actors involved. Christopher Lee as Count Dracula regularly appeared and this not only gave Hammer an angle to promote the film (star status), it also gave their output a solid foot hole in British cinema because people started going to see the films because an actor they were familiar with was involved. This did not just work in Britain but internationally as well, and it could be argued that Hammer played a key role in the emergence of ‘star persona’.

However, Carreras was not content to pander to just the needs of Britain, he wanted to expand and get his product seen all around the world. ‘If you’re going to spend x amount on film and your only market is your own and perhaps Australia and South Africa, we think it’s better to make subjects that every country will buy.’[4] The Quatermass Xperiment, did surprisingly well in the USA, which put Hammer into the international limelight. From this, movie deals quickly became available with Carreras signing contracts with Universal, Columbia and United Artists. While Hammer continued to make varied genre films, they ceased making comedies as they were very difficult to sell abroad. Carreras’ method of selling films for the American market was to present an impression of what was needed to get audiences into cinema’s around the world. ‘Before we make a picture we say to ourselves “What will it look like outside of the cinema” and “Is it international”’. One of the main reasons why Hammer comedies did not work was because British humour was very different to American humour, which is reflected in the films produced then, and even now.

Hammer horror films maintained a British ‘feel’ and generic features that separated them from the American competition. Such things as the exploitation of technicolour via the lavishly coloured ‘country house’ sets; the abrupt endings, very simple narratives; no flashbacks or dream sequences; attention to detail through the use of lingering shots of certain aspects of the mise-en-scene in order to emphasise; and all the films were there to exploit – exploitation of blood, death and the macabre (things people hadn’t seen before), all clearly delineated in trailers, posters and of course in the films themselves. The films ‘in cultural terms were “British” in a very specific way. By and large they were set in a fantasy world of the past or of the future, but only rarely did they deal with the “real” Britain of the day.’ While they didn’t show a realist representation of Britain, the films did analogise ‘the time of uncertainty’. They showed a changing Britain (the critical backlash, the change in rating with the introduction of the ‘X’ rating), and also the depiction of good and evil, which had become a major part in British society with the uncertainty after the second world war, and the threat of nuclear weapons. Also, the changing of Britain’s youth as teens rebelled against authority, (the ‘Horror is bad’ message in the media only fueled a hunger for more).

In conclusion, looking at Hammer Films we see that Carreras and his team not only introduced a new genre to British film culture; and not only made that genre popular and profitable, but they also tapped into the American market with their fantasy tales. Not only this, Carreras’ shrewd selling tactics enabled Hammer to sell more films in America than anyone else, expanding British cinema abroad. To say Hammer revolutionised the British film industry is debatable, but what it did do is produce films that not only stand the test of time today, but also leave a legacy and footprint in the history of British film. British Film today utilises low budget (Trainspotting); ‘star persona’(The Parole Officer – star: Steve Coogan); making generic horror films (Dog Soldiers); breaking norms to create interest (24 Hour Party People – shot digitally; documentary style); using real locations to save money (The Full Monty); shrewd business (Working Title films deal with American studio to produce a number of films: Four Weddings and A Funeral, Notting Hill etc.), all things that can be directly related to Hammer fifty years ago.

 

Bibliography

The Oxford History Of World Cinema – Antonia Lant – Oxford University Press © 1996

British Cinema History – Creativity at Ealing and Hammer Studios pg. 193 – 207

Authorship and British Cinema – Peter Hutchings – Chapter 12



[1] Creativity at Ealing Studios and Hammer Films – British Cinema History (Curran and Porter) pg. 197

[2] Creativity at Ealing Studios and Hammer Films – British Cinema History (Curran and Porter) pg. 194

[3] Creativity at Ealing Studios and Hammer Films – British Cinema History (Curran and Porter) pg. 194

[4] [According to Carreras] Creativity at Ealing Studios and Hammer Films – British Cinema History (Curran and Porter) pg. 197

The Slasher Film: An Introduction April 3, 2007

Posted by Daniel Stephens in : Artfully Deranged, Genre , add a comment

You could look back at the stalk and slash sub-genre of horror cinema (predominately known as slasher’ film, or teen slasher’) and cite the book written about serial-psychotic Ed Gein as the root of the genre. Alfred Hitchcock bought the rights to the book and made the pivotal film, Psycho in 1960. Along with Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom (1960), Psycho was the major influencing factor that allowed Tobe Hooper and then later John Carpenter to define the sub-genre with their films: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and Halloween (1978). It was the monster’ as a human rather than an otherworldly, fictional entity, that gave the horror’ a more solid basis in reality, in turn breeding a closer ideological connection with its audience the next rampaging maniac to run around wielding a knife could be a friend, a relative, a co-worker. Psycho also introduced the audience to the knife as a weapon, a symbolic object of danger, death and madness, which would become an icon of the film and later within the genre itself. The knife represented another human aspect to the evil’, a culturally defined object used by everyone that could quite easily become a weapon in the wrong hands.

Generally, slasher films are American-made, there are a few exceptions in Europe that loosely fit the sub-genre mould (Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977) for example), but such European films draw on a very European gothic horror the remnants of old feudal systems and the wicked aristocrats that live in their rundown castles (Frankenstein and Dracula are prime examples, while Suspiria is entirely based in the decaying, rundown castle’ whose inhabitants happen to be wicked’ witches, living out their power of old.) Slasher films of American cinema drew upon a very Americanized heritage, that of their pioneering past and the new frontier, linked to home and family, the American Dream. These slasher films had at their central core, characters who would break this mould, they would revolt against their parents better’ judgment (family) in doing drugs, alcohol, having sex; they would venture out from their sanctuary (home) and in their socially transgressed behavior, they would in turn take the gloss off the clean shine of this heritage. The ever-partying’ teens (teenagers were predominantly the main characters in American slasher films, started by Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but arguably pre-dated by Bob Clark’s Black Christmas which was released in 1973, and continued through John Carpenter’s Halloween) were seemingly causing a rift in their society that had to be put right, and this meant being killed by the hand of a usually masked, always unstoppable (until the end) murderer.

In slasher films the killers are predominantly male and regardless of how inhuman their actions or reactions, they are still human. In The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes (1978), the killers are reflections of the family unit as idealized by American society. They are rendered monstrous by their actions subverting what has been idealized as they are violent, cannibalistic, deadly, threatening forces. While post-Halloween slashers had single killers, Hooper and Craven’s earlier films, and Hitchcock’s Psycho, played on the gothic Americana, in that these families protected their own frontiers, their homes and the family. In The Hills Have Eyes the evil cannibals don’t like the inner city holidaymakers setting up camp on their land as if accidental trespass is a crime to be paid with one’s life. Likewise, in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the victims come under threat after wandering onto the family’s land. Interestingly, as the family settle down for a meal at the dining table, much like any family, the idealism of such an act is subverted as the meal is tied to a chair at one end of the table begging for her life. Slasher films post-Halloween used these ideas, especially that of the family unit. Freddy Krueger killed the children of the families that burned him many years previously in A Nightmare On Elm Street, while Michael Myers in Halloween felt compelled to finish the job he started as a child after killing his sister, by tracking down and killing his only remaining sister, and Mrs. Voorhees in Friday The 13th took revenge for the death of her son. Revenge is an important part of the killer’s mindset, and it is interesting to note that in most high school/campus set slasher’s, they are based upon the premise of someone avenging a wrong, committed to them or to a loved one by a particular group’ (Whitehead, M. 2003, page 12). In Friday The 13th, the particular group’ that committed the wrong are the camp site counselors who are responsible for the death of Mrs. Voorhees son, while in Prom Night the particular group are four teens responsible for the death of a fellow student.

The killing within slasher films does suggest something deeper within the act, than just one more bloody death. The family unit and the break-up of this unit is an important device in that in reality, the family as idealized by the American dream was becoming less and less common. Divorce was splitting families, and the increase in teenage pregnancy was placing another generation within the family home. Additionally, the whole notion of if you have sex you die!’ that was mocked in Wes Craven’s Scream (1997), became a predominant element of the genre, and could be linked to the increase in the A.I.D.S virus and the deaths it was causing.

Other features of slasher films resurface constantly like for example the inability of authority figures to offer any kind of help, leaving them either superfluous within the plot or non-existent. Police, teachers, parents can rarely be trusted or relied upon in the slasher movie’ (Whitehead, M. 2003, page 12). Lt. Thompson in A Nightmare On Elm Street doesn’t believe his own daughter, and the very same thing happens in Halloween with Sheriff Brackett. In Friday The 13th, the campsite coordinator leaves the campsite before any murders start but before he can be of any help, is killed himself. This is an interesting device in that in a slasher movie, unlike a war film or a western, the side of the bad’ cannot be easily distinguished, especially by those who are there to protect the public (the police, the army), and it could be argued that this element is there as a representation of the idealism that America so despises but cannot control. For example, the Vietnam war represented America psychically fighting communism, but as an idealism itself, it could not be fought as easily or as obviously, and perhaps slasher films’ killers symbolize that untraceable, evil’ idealism that can infiltrate its society with silent ease. Certainly the genre’s convention of the everyday man becoming a bloodthirsty murderer, would compound this.

Another feature of the slasher movie is that of evil’ buildings, or places that hold terrible secrets and bloody histories. This links directly back to Psycho but it has its roots in gothic horror literature from the likes of Edgar Allan Poe, H.P Lovecraft, and Stephen King. Michael Myers’ house is a prime example, having the bloody history of his sister’s murder, yet in the film during present day, it is boarded up, and the kids tell frightening stories about the house and dare not go near it. Many slasher movies climax within the building or place where the wrong’ took place Michael Myers is believed to be dead after returning to the Myers house; Nancy battles Freddy in the boiler room where he was burned which she gets to through her basement; and the killer is finally killed in My Bloody Valentine after returning back down into the mines where the wrong’ first took place. Later films in the yuppie-in-peril/suspense genre such as John Schlesinger’s Pacific Heights (1990) and Jonathan Kaplan’s Unlawful Entry (1992) turned this idea around echoing the family values that were being espoused by politicians and morally-appointed spokespeople at the time’ (Whitehead, M. 2003, page 13). The family home represents everything that is good and wholesome and the evil’ comes from outside, breaking the boundaries that the family unit lives by within their home. Yet, the breaking of the family ideal and the corruption of the family home can be seen in slasher films, and whatever building, or place is taken as refuge, it’s never enough to prevent the evil’ from getting in. In Halloween Michael Myers gets into the babysitters house even though she tries to take precautions to prevent him, and in Dwight H. Little’s Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers (1988), the authority figures (again being ineffective) try to protect the little girl from Myers in her home. Several cops lock and board up the doors, manning them with guns, yet Myers still gets in.

Technology in slasher films is also important in that it rarely works when it is needed. Car engines won’t work in an escape and the phones/radio’s won’t work when trying to call for help. In Dominique Othenin-Girard’s Halloween 5: The Revenge Of Michael Myers, Haddonfield loses all power, plunging the town into darkness. It’s a collapse of technology within these films, to the point where they appear to be an extension of the killer Lynda is strangled by the phone cord when she is on the phone to Lorrie, who believes her muffled gasps are a prank in Halloween. Wes Craven would later turn this into a suspicion of technology, as in Scream, voice-transformers are used to hide the killer’s identity and mobile phones are cloned creating false identities. The killer’s themselves wouldn’t chance the use of such extravagant technology, using as their weapons, the most basic of devices. The knife is used in the likes of Halloween, and originally in Psycho, while a pickaxe is used in My Bloody Valentine, a machete in Friday The 13 Part 2 (1981), and Freddy has a glove made of knives in A Nightmare On Elm Street. While slasher films are consistently presented within the present day (during the slasher boom’, this would be the eighties), the problems with technology and the simple weapons link to a distinct primitiveness, which in turn links back to American heritage and the conquering of frontiers in years gone by. This appears to suggest primal instincts and survival within the wilderness, like the first settlers, and that to earn your life, you must rise above that which confronts you and challenge it with the limited capabilities available.

Aesthetically, slasher films possessed subjective camerawork such as seeing through the eyes of the killer with point-of-view shots that spurned the well-known phrase look behind you’. This is exampled very obviously in Black Christmas whose director, Bob Clark, used point of view subjectivity to great effect, placing the audience in the position of killer, rather than simply voyeur. The opening segment of the film which is entirely filmed from the killer’s point of view as he/she looks at the girls within the sorority house before climbing in through a window and hiding in the attic, is voyeuristic but the audience’s position within this world is not that which they would associate themselves (ie. the victims) but with the killer. John Carpenter did a similar thing in Halloween but the idea seems to stem from Powell’s Peeping Tom back in 1960, whose killer murdered because he wanted to capture on camera people’s reactions to being killed, so filmed the act.

The films had high moral values, seemingly ignored by critics who saw the films as promoting violence and violent behavior. Death never went unpunished in these films, from Freddy Krueger’s child molester in Wes Craven’s A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984) being eventually defeated and killed for his crimes, to Micheal Myers in Halloween or Jason Vorhees in Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday The 13th (1980), there was always someone on the side of the good’ who beat the monster’. Equally, the genre’s formulaic nature would compound this notion in that, even though each of these three killers come back in the sequels, the audience knows that yet again, someone will rise to beat them by the end. It was here though, that slasher films, like many of their parent genre counterparts, came under threat from detractors who saw the violence as a dangerous element of popular culture. The 1984 video recordings act banned many films in Britain including The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and while the reasoning behind this is complex it seems to point to a disregard of audience intelligence and understanding, or at least a disregard to a problem that outweighs simply the movie theatre which becomes an easy target the problem being that of murder and violent crime in our society. One of the points made is that such films force the viewer to identify with the killer through subjective camerawork’ (Whitehead, M. 2003, page 9). This seems to suggest that impressionable viewers could find themselves associating with the killer, allowing an inner demon to surface in real-life, largely because all such slasher films forced this subjective killer identification onto us. Reverend Fred Nile, writing on behalf of the Australian Christian Democratic Party believes the repetition of screen violence desensitizes its viewers to it, The recent acts of violence and the attitudes of adolescent youths are showing up - to a tragic degree - that some youths have not been properly prepared to be able to resist and deflect the “Influence” carried into their lives by the entertainment media.’ (Nile, F. June 1999). Nile sites Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers as the film, which contributed to the pair, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, going on a murderous rampage. U.S president at the time, Bill Clinton attacked Hollywood over the Columbine shootings, instructing it to clean up its act or face restrictive legislature’ (Whitehead, M. 2003, page 10). However, Harris and Klebold were part of a gang named the Trenchcoat Mafia’ who had high regard for Hitler and Nazism, exampled in the shootings at Columbine taking place on Hitler’s birthday. They were widely known around school as haters of minority groups such as Jewish and African-American students, and they also hated the athletes who had power and popularity, something they did not. (Seely, A.R. Nov 1999). Perhaps more attention should be paid to gun control, which Michael Moore investigated in his 2002 documentary Bowling For Columbine. Equally, the Jamie Bulger murder, which was partly blamed on horror films, particularly Child’s Play 3, shouldn’t be generalized as a consequence of a new wave of video nasties as the killers Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, both ten, were delinquents from school who often stole from shops and had been stealing incidental items the morning before they abducted, tortured and murdered Jamie Bulger. Such an unspeakable act cannot be blamed, partly or otherwise, on a film. There has to be other more obvious influencing factors and a desire to commit such crime that delves far more deeply into psychology and sociology, than the science of screen violence and the horror film, but as Mark Whitehead states, there’s a set of very complex relations that remain between the audience as spectator and screen violence as spectacle.’ (Whitehead, M. 2003, page 9) That said, no film can be accounted for the child murderer’s lies after the act, or the callous four-hour torture and the lies they made to cover their backs during the day of the murder. The man who tried to assassinate Reagan claimed to have been influenced by Martin Scoresese’s Taxi Driver (1976), but David Berkowitz claimed to have been influence to kill by his dog, leaving the whole influence’ debate massively questionable and infinitely debatable. (Altered Dimensions. 1998)

It does seem convenient, however, to blame such criminal acts on the violence of the mass media, especially film. During the heights of the slasher boom, during the eighties, the Yorkshire Ripper was terrorizing women in the region. This was associated to the treatment of women in slasher films by many critics, and that many such films had misogynist overtones, but the very fact that most slasher films had female heroes seems to leave this idea highly questionable. From Lorrie Strode in Halloween to Nancy in A Nightmare On Elm Street, to lesser known films such as Paul Lynch’s Prom Night (1980), Roger Spottiswoode’s Terror Train (1980), Fred Walton’s When A Stranger Calls (1979), and George Mihalka’s My Bloody Valentine (1981), to newer additions such as Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer, all featuring women as the final, conquering, victorious characters who beat their, predominantly, male foes. An argument that cites slasher films as part of a revolution for female lead characters and largely feminist in undertone seems to hold more water. Such films as Meir Zarchi’s I Spit On Your Grave (1978) took this notion one step further (arguably one step too far), in that our sympathy lies with the killer raising moral questions. Here we see a woman seeking revenge on those that raped her and left her for dead, killing each in more and more elaborate ways, yet while she is gaining her revenge it still blurs the distinction between right and wrong, good and evil, which is perhaps the reason why this film continues to garner very little support from either critics or film fans. However, predominantly the killer is usually the evil force within slasher films and it is the Final Girl’ who destroys him either by killing him, or subduing him into submission. Carol J. Clover investigates from a feminist point of view, how the stereotyped viewers of slasher films are adolescent males, and while they are constantly placed into a position of killer and therefore an identification with the killer is created through subjective camerawork, it doesn’t necessarily mean the film is misogynist. (Clover, C.J. 1992, Chapter 1) From films that Mark Whitehead touts as misogynist, Lucio Fulci’s The New York Ripper (1982) and Terry Bourke’s Lady, Stay Dead (1981), to more well-known films such as Halloween, Clover sites the Final Girl’ as being the most important part of the film’s overall politics. Clover argues that the female victims are dumb’ but the heroines, or Final Girls’ are headstrong, they are resourceful, unswayed by earthly pleasures and, rather than just heroines’ they are heroic’ in the proper sense’. (Clover, C.J. 1992, page 28) These girls confront the monster and have the common sense and courage to destroy it, exampled in Nancy Thompson’s final battle and destruction of Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare On Elm Street, or Kim revealing and destroying the killer in Prom Night.

Bibliography

Altered Dimensions (1998) Son Of Sam David Berkowitz [online], New York available from http://www.spartechsoftware.com/dimensions/crime/Son OfSam.htm (accessed 20 March 2004)

Clover, C.J. (1992) Men, Women And Chainsaws London: British Film Institute

Nile, F. (1999). Columbine High School, Colorado, Shooting [online], Sydney available from http://www.cdp.org.au/fed/mr/1999/990601.asp (accessed 19 March 2004)

Scott, S.L (2004). The Death Of Jamie Bulger [online], London available from http://www.crimelibrary.com/notorious_murders/young/ bulger/10.html?sect=1 (accessed 19 March 2004)

Seely, A.R. (1999). Tragedy at Columbine High School, Littleton, Colorado [online], Montreal available from http://cnview.com/tragedy_at_columbine_high_school.h tm (accessed 19 March 2004)

Whitehead, M. (2003) Slasher Movies (Revised and updated version) Vermont: Trafalgar Square Publishing

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