The Ministry of Truth (Minitrue)

Resplendent in Newspeak and Doublethink.

The Guardian’s ‘Horror List’: Where they got it right. Where they got it drastically wrong.

I’ve discovered to my cost in the past that when you try to voice your choices for an ‘all-time’ genre movie list, you inevitably get flamed or, worse still, laughed at; so I’m not intending to deliver an overall critique of this list. Instead I thought I’d just highlight those titles that may have been misplaced, should not even have graced it at all; and those which (for reasons best known to the unnamed author) were shockingly absent. For the most part it’s a simple case of a reshuffle, yet there are a couple of unwelcome shockers in there too (I do, however, cheat once in my list!)

This is what they published on Friday:

1. Psycho

2. Rosemary’s Baby

3. Don’t Look Now

4. The Wicker Man

5. The Shining

6. The Exorcist

7. Nosferatu

8. Let The Right One In

9. Vampyr

10. Peeping Tom

11. The Innocents

12. Ring

13. The Haunting

14. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

15. Dead Of Night

16. The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari

17. Halloween

18. Bride Of Frankenstein

19. Les Diaboliques

20. Dracula (1958)

21. Audition

22. The Blair Witch Project

23. The Evil Dead/Evil Dead II

24. Carrie

25. Les Vampires

How about I now reshuffle it?

1. The Wicker Man

2. The Exorcist

3. Psycho

4. Nosferatu

5. Night Of The Living Dead

6. The Shining

7. Peeping Tom

8. Funny Games

9. The Evil Dead/Evil Dead II

10. Let The Right One In

11. A Nightmare On Elm Street

12. The Innocents

13. Scanners

14. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

15. Dead Of Night

16. Dracula (1958)

17. Halloween

18. Bride Of Frankenstein

19. The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari

20. Les Diaboliques

21. Audition (just recite “kiri-kiri-kiri” to any bloke who’s seen it….)

22. Ring

23. The Haunting

24. Carrie

25. Les Vampires

(ok, the cheat: I took out ‘Vampyr‘ as, for my sins, I’ve never had the opportunity to watch it. *hangs head in shame*)

Can you spot the flaws? Let’s look at them first, notably #22: ‘The Blair Witch Project

It’s pure shite. I can’t be more polite about it frankly. As a prime example of how the web was utilised as a mass-marketing tool to promote a film of such a low budget, no major studio backing and no recognisable cast, it’s perfect. As a horror movie it’s terribly derivative. Drawing from the dry well of William Castle and Val Lewton, it’s a hopeless mess, running from one twig-snap scare to another, culminating in the over-use of lack of light and a creepy, desolate old house to force it’s conclusion, one left open-ended for a sequel (which it duly got in the even-more abysmal ‘Book Of Shadows’).

With ‘Rosemary’s Baby‘, it’s another case of Roman Polanski throughly over-egging the pudding. I’d give benefit of the doubt as I’ve never read the book, but it’s just dreadful. I’ve been led to understand the idea of seemingly-normal people who turn out to be devil-worshipers is supposed to frighten me in this picture (frankly this was all done so much better five years later in ‘The Wicker Man’, which is placed at #4). Whilst it’s certainly true that Polanski is one of THE most over-rated filmmakers still working, the story is formulaic and the casting laughable, especially Mia Farrow at her most winsome.

Don’t Look Now‘ is a prime example of Nicolas Roeg’s output. Boring…boring….boring. Blah-blah-blah. Oh, how I wish I could be more constructive than this but I just can’t muster sufficient enough energy to do so as I type away, attempting to expel just how much I detest his work and ‘Don’t Look Now’ especially so. What makes it’s favour with many that much more galling is that I’m one of the few who can see through the facade of it’s desperate use of a late-addition (and somewhat controversial and incredibly unnecessary) sex scene, dropped in last-minute by Roeg under the pretence that it would detract from persistent bickering of Sutherland and Christie’s couple, when in fact it was obviously a desperate attempt to try and drag people into screenings back in ’73. Regrettably, it worked, and it’s the only reason people still harp on about this load of old cobblers ever since. “Were they really shagging?” Who gives a f…

Removing these entries, this leaves four places to fill.

A Nightmare On Elm Street‘ is an easy one to chose. The best film Wes Craven has ever made and with it he delivered to an unsuspecting filmgoer a truly terrifying and gruesome monster in the legendary Freddy Krueger. Along with Michael Myers and Jason Vorhess, Krueger has become an iconic character in modern horror, and whilst the gradual depreciation of the characterisation through successive, and less inspiring, sequels, greatly harmed his true evil and brutality (Mark Kermode once comparing his later incarnations with comedian Henny Youngman, delivering one-liners rapid-fire), Craven delivered a monster for a new age. The notion of mixing reality with dreams was brought to the screen in the most unsettling and terrifying manner for it’s time and this is why I’ve chosen to add it to the list.

If ‘Psycho’ can be in the list, then there is simply no concrete argument for not having Michael Haneke’s ‘Funny Games‘ in there either. Where Argento is the grand master of Giallo, Haneke is the crown prince of fear and violence that emanates from everyday life. Considering it was never intended as a horror movie, instead as a treatise on violence in the media, it enacts upon a very common fear of home invasion (the one place we can all attest to feeling truly safe), it’s violence is brutal, shocking and relentless. The use of the fourth wall keeps you transfixed when your humanity demands you to turn away, yet gradually you feel as if you a complicit in it’s acts of torture and sadism.

Scanners‘ is Cronenberg at the top of his game. A filmmaker who from the start has never shied away from mixing science and medicine with extreme horror, ‘Scanners’ would be the result of previous blueprints, developed from such titles as ‘Rabid’, ‘Shivers’ and ‘The Brood’. With it’s now infamous ‘exploding head’ scene and with a quite extraordinary and maniacal performance from Michael Ironside, this tale of drug-induced psychics as a new line of weapon mixes not only developed ideas drawn from science fiction, but with it’s mix of body horror, deserves it’s place in my revised list.

In adding ‘Night Of The Living Dead‘ there is little else to say. It deserves to be in the list and it’s omission is both glaring and a blatant disregard for both the zombie horror and it’s true master, George A. Romero. Whilst his most recent output has indeed lost it’s way, it’s in NOTLD, ‘Dawn Of The Dead’ and ‘Day Of The Dead’ that Romero stamped his authority on tales of the undead and global desolation. Utilising themes prevalent for the time in which the film was produced, he keyed into the strong emotions and sensitivities, none more so with NOTLD, taking the bold move to cast Dwayne Jones as it’s protagonist, Ben (who’s end still causes consternation and debate). Where ‘Blair Witch’ failed in making the most of it’s budget, NOTLD had, adjusting for inflation (as they say), had far less cash and yet delivered so much more, and a movie that helped not to only to define a genre, but to create one all of it’s own.

So there you have it. A revised top 25 Horror movie list. Is it better? Is it worse? Naturally, I would suggest it’s far superior to that which was published on Friday. Still, there’s always room for improvement, is there not…

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October 23, 2010 - Posted by | Film

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