Sunday, October 16, 2011

Horror Movies For The Halloween Season

A thought struck me the other day. It was not anything earth shattering nor a profound realization, but a thought none-the-less. I haven't seen much in the way of promo on television for the October theatrical horror movie releases typical of the Halloween season. Did Hollywood run out of ideas for this year's tribute to the spooky, macabre, and gruesome?

What happened to the scary horror movies from the past that traded on the atmosphere of fear rather than the visual of spurting blood and flying body parts? The tingling sensation that made the hair stand on the back of our necks and goose bumps on our arms as our imaginations ran amuck. The spooky ground fog that seemed to slither over and around the tombstones, cloaking the cemetery in an eerie silence.

I'm talking about the traditional horror classics like Frankenstein from 1931 with Boris Karloff's brilliant performance as the monster. Also from 1931, Dracula with Bela Lugosi's portrayal of the vampire as both elegant and mesmerizing which left the horror to the imagination of the viewer. Then came 1941's The Wolf Man with Lon Chaney, Jr., as the stricken Larry Talbot.

True to Hollywood tradition, these classic horror movies spawned numerous sequels—Bride of Frankenstein, House of Frankenstein, Ghost of Frankenstein, Dracula's Daughter. And as long as Hollywood was on a roll, they added to the profit factor by capitalizing on the popularity of the characters by having them co-star in such movies as Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man. Then there were the myriad remakes that came over the ensuing years, some serious attempts and others totally ludicrous. Each one pushed the envelope in its own way in order to hopefully make it better (as in more box office dollars) than its predecessor.

And the award for the most remakes over the years goes to Dracula. Some were serious films and others were more on the ridiculous side with titles such as Dracula's Dog and Dracula's Widow.

With all three of the original movies, the remakes never really captured the essence of the originals…in my humble opinion.

And these certainly aren't the only horror movies that fall into the classic category. This month Turner Classic Movies cable channel is doing their October retrospective of horror movies. This year it's Classic Horror Monday with a total of 32 horror movies and one new offering in their A Night At The Movies series, their 2011 documentary The Horrors Of Stephen King. Their viewing schedule includes the silent classics of 1919's The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari and 1922's Nosferatu, takes us through the 1932 version of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde, and culminates with 1968's Night Of The Living Dead.

And that should be enough to satisfy any classic horror movie buff's needs.


Harlie Reader said...

I still think for me the scariest movie I ever saw was "The Shining". I still get chills and the cold shiver up my spine.

Harlie Reader said...

I think that Hollywood is just lazy and the stuff that has come out lately is just trash.

Samantha Gentry said...

Harlie: Yes, The Shining was definitely edge of the seat viewing. Stephen King certainly specializes in that. And, of course, there's also Psycho. You can't beat Hitchcock for suspense (but that's not the same thing as horror).

Toni V.S. said...

The Greeks always though violence and horror was best stated off-stage so the audience's imagination could fill in what was happening. Perhaps that's why the old classics still work so well, though the movie codes back then also played a part in what they could and couldn't show. Most of us know about the deleted scenes from Frankenstein (tossing the little girl into the lake) and King Kong (the scene where Kong strips Fay Wray of her dress and sniffs it; the spider-filled pit, etc.) Granted, some of the acting and dialogue is stiff by today's standards, but they weighed heavily on characterization and emotion, and atmosphere. I advise anyone seeing them for the first time to take that into consideration, and try to view them in that context.

Recently, I received the 50th anniversary edition of Frankenstein and Dracula (with a copy of the Spanish version with is far superior to the American one). Wish I could get Turner Classic Movies so I could see that Halloween line up, though I have a good many of the older films in my personal library.

Samantha Gentry said...

Toni: I've seen clips from the Spanish version of Dracula. As I recall, both movies were filmed simultaneously on the same set...the American one during the day and the Spanish version at night. I thought the directing on the Spanish version was more imaginative and creative...really added to the atmosphere.

Thanks for commenting.