Top 10 Horror Movies

This is my latest contribution to The Big Picture, the internationally recognised magazine and website that shows film in a wider context. The Big Picture has been running a series of horror-related features and reviews, while its contributors have also provided their Top 10 horror movies. The nature of these lists is such that you invariably change your mind every five minutes but, for now, this is my list (The Shining doesn’t make it I’m afraid – sorry).

Horror has been a staple part of my movie watching since I was a teenager. I can remember getting collywobbles the first time I watched Psycho at 3am on my own; being genuinely freaked out by the end of Ringu; and sitting through The Texas Chainsaw Massacre thinking it was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. However, no other horror film has stayed with me like George A Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. It was a game changer, not only for cinema in general, but also for my appreciation of what an often derided genre can be capable of.

10. The Exorcist (1973)

The Exorcist

9. [Rec] (2007)

Rec

8. The Haunting (1963)

The Haunting

7. Psycho (1960)

Psycho

6. Ringu (1998)

Ringu

5. Halloween (1978)

Halloween

4. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

3. Alien (1978)

Alien

2. The Thing (1982)

The Thing

1. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Night Of The Living Dead

 

 

Blogathon Announcement – ‘Debuts’

Debuts Banner

Calling all bloggers! Myself and the stupendous Terry Malloy’s Pigeon Coop are jointly hosting our first blogathon … and we want you to join us!

Speaking for myself, a blogathon is something I’ve wanted to get off the ground for a long time and I’m delighted to be working with the critical heavyweight Chris Thomson – aka Terry Malloy’s Pigeon Coop – to finally host one.

Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs

Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs

The ‘Debuts’ blogathon will, as the name implies, focus on directors’ first features (shorts not included), whether that be some little known work no-one’s heard of or a breakthrough piece that catapulted them to stardom. All directors, be they legends of the silver screen or plain old also-rans start somewhere and it’s fascinating looking back at a director’s first film to see how their work has matured, improved or steadily declined over subsequent features.

Orson Welles' Citizen Kane

Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane

And this is, of course, where you come in. Do you have a director whose debut you think deserves to be put in the spotlight? Maybe you’d like to look at Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs? Or Jean-Luc Godard’s A Bout de Souffle? How about Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead or Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane?

Chris and I are getting our choices in early – perks of hosting a blogathon. I’m going to be examining Steven Soderbergh’s Sex, Lies, and Videotape, while Chris is focusing on Stanley Kubrick’s Fear & Desire. Aside from those two, the world of directorial debuts is your oyster.

Charles Laughton's The Night of the Hunter

Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter

Is there a movie director whose debut feature you’d like to re-examine? If so, then make sure to contribute! We’re looking to run the blogathon from Monday, September 2, probably for about a week or so. Before you get cracking, however, please drop me an email at threerowsback@gmail.com or email Chris at chris1039@hotmail.com by Sunday, August 25 letting us know who you’d like to write about (just so we don’t get duplicate posts) or for more info.

Dennis Hopper's Easy Rider

Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider

We’ll stick out a few reminders over the coming weeks, but as we may well put a cap on the number of entries, we advise that you get in early to avoid disappointment (ours as much as yours).

We’re looking forward to receiving your posts for what we’re hoping will be a diverse and fascinating blogathon. Thanks for reading and we hope to hear from you soon! Most importantly, though, GET INVOLVED!

Four Frames – Night Of The Living Dead (1968)

I’m proud to say that I’ve become an offical contributor to The Big Picture, the internationally-recognised magazine and website that offers an intelligent take on cinema, focussing on how film affects our lives. Aimed at the enthusiastic film-goer at large, The Big Picture provides an original take on the cinematic experience. This piece is part of the Four Frames section, wherein the importance of four significant shots are discussed, in this case from George A. Romero’s horror classic Night Of The Living Dead.

It’s perhaps fitting that in the year that saw the world descend into civil unrest, a micro-budget splatter movie in which the dead rise from the grave and usher in the apocalypse would redefine both the horror genre and contemporary cinema.

Night of the Living Dead

There’s horror before 1968’s epochal Night of the Living Dead and there’s what came after, such is the seismic impact that George A. Romero’s debut feature continues to have.

Chucking out the rulebook in true anti-establishment style, he found a unique and unorthodox way to envisage the tipping point society seemed to be inevitably careering towards at the time.

Night of the Living Dead

Romero monkeys about with the audience’s expectations from the film’s opening moment when siblings Barbra (Judith O’Dea) and Johnny (Russell Steiner) visit their father’s grave. Our assumed hero Johnny latches onto his sister’s unease and, putting on his best Boris Karloff pokes fun saying: “They’re coming to get you Barbra!”

He continues to freak out an angry Barbra and observes a shambling figure seen earlier in long-shot drawing ever nearer. “Look! There’s one of them now!”

Night of the Living Dead

The unintended irony of this statement arrives with a jolt when the man (Bill Hinzman, who in basing his shuffling gait on Karloff in The Walking Dead proves that the old ways are sometimes the best) attacks Barbra. We presume Johnny will come to the rescue, but in fighting the ghoul (the word “zombie” is never uttered in the film) he falls and smacks his noggin on a headstone. Not so much the hero after all.

With our assumptions in tatters, all bets are off as Barbra flees to a farmhouse and is joined by Ben (Duane Jones), who doesn’t convince anyone, least of all himself when he shuts the growing horde of undead out (or imprisons them both, more to the point) and says “it’s alright”.

Night of the Living Dead

Not for nothing has Steiner’s Karloff impression become a defining moment in horror cinema. Romero, deciding that no-one else was going to do it passed the baton to himself by choosing to subvert an old icon, as if to say: “That’s then, this is now and you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

Tellingly, it’s the one amusing moment in a film that, like its implacable army of the undead, relentlessly progresses towards a soul-shattering conclusion.