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Tricks and Treats

Frightening Flicks
Compiled by Liam Lacey, The Globe and Mail

Horror films from:

If horror is often used for the cheapest kind of adolescent shock thrills, it also represents some of the deepest and oldest traditions in cinema. Major directors, from F. R. Murnau, to Alfred Hitchcock and Roman Polanski have done some of their most inventive work in the genre. Such films borrow from a history that goes back almost to the beginning of filmmaking. Born out of the shadowy world of German expressionism, horror movies were from the start self-consciously rich in themes of Freudian and political repression. At the same time, they have managed to be a 20th-century mass entertainment medium that rivals perhaps only professional sports and rock 'n' roll, in its ability to compress the visceral, psychological and mythic together in one package.

30s & 40s
After flourishing briefly, and then burning out in Germany in the 1920s (especially Murnau's Nosferatu in1922), horror came to Hollywood shortly before the sound era. Tod Browning shot a stage version of Dracula in 1931starring Bela Lugosi, followed by James Whale's Frankenstein that same year. Both films were immensely successful, and numerous spin-offs resulted in the classic age of horror film, which started with a burst, and was over by about 1945. During the war years, though, producer Val Lewton, along with directors Jacques Tourneur and Robert Wise, distinguished themselves with a series of low-budget, high-quality films for RKO. Films include:
    Dracula (Tod Browning, 1931)
    Frankenstein (James Whale, 1931)
    Freaks (Tod Browning, 1932)
    The Mummy (Karl Freund, 1932)
    Island of Lost Souls (Erle C. Kenton, 1932)
    The Black Cat (Edgar Ulmer, 1932)
    Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde (Rouben Mamoulian, 1932)
    The Invisible Man (James Whale, 1933)
    The Raven (Louis Friedlander, 1934)
    Bride of Frankenstein (James Whale, 1935)
    The Hunchback of Notre Dame (William Dieterle, 1939)
    The Wolf Man (George Waggner, 1941)
    Cat People (Jaques Tourneur, 1942)
    I Walked With A Zombie (Jacques Tourneur, 1942)
    The Uninvited (Lewis Allen, 1944)
    The Body Snatcher (Robert Wise, 1945)
The Bomb, Commies and science fiction propelled the low-budget horror craze of the fifties, rich on extraterrestrial visitors, aimed at thrill-seeking teen audiences. Often better known for campy failures than successes, the fifties established horror movies as the bubbling underground of popular entertainment, a role it has never relinquished. Films include:
    The Thing(Christian Nyby, Howard Hawks, 1951)
    Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955)
    Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Don Siegel, 1956)
    Godzilla, King of the Monsters (Terry Morse, 1956)
    Plan Nine from Outer Space (Ed Wood, 1956)
    Curse of the Demon (Jacques Tourneur, 1958)
    The Fly (Kurt Neumann, 1958)
    Horror of Dracula (Terence Fisher, 1958)
Arty, psychological horror films arrived, with the ground broken by Alfred Hitchcock's watershed horror movie Psycho,followed by The Birds. Roman Polanski's films stand among the best of the period, while veteran Robert Wise offered perhaps the best ghost film ever made with The Haunting. Films include:
    Black Sunday (Maria Brava, 1960)
    Village of the Damned (Wolf Rilla, 1960)
    Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1963)
    Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (Robert Aldrich, 1962)
    The Birds (Alfred Hitchcock, 1963)
    The Haunting (Robert Wise, 1963)
    Repulsion (Roman Polanski, 1965)
    Fearless Vampire Killers (Roman Polanski, 1966)
    Rosemary's Baby (Roman Polanski, 1968)
    Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968)
Grand shocks and taboo-busting themes burst forth in such films The Exorcist, Carrie and Jaws,featuring the new generation of Hollywood filmmakers, who viewed genre films as an opportunity to show off stylistic chops. Halloween,a cheap but very smart $400,000 teen exploitation flick by John Carpenter, ushers in the era of the eighties slasher picture, and the female heroine who loses a lot of friends, but makes it through. Films include:
    The Wickerman(Robin Hardy, 1973)
    The Exorcist(William Friedkin, 1973)
    Don't Look Now (Nicholas Roeg, 1973)
    The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Tobe Hooper, 1973)
    Jaws (Stephen Spielberg, 1975)
    The Omen (Richard Donner, 1976)
    Carrie (Brian DePalma, 1976)
    Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1977)
    Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978)
    Eraserhead (David Lynch, 1978)
    Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Philip Kaufman, 1978)
    Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979)
    Dawn of the Dead (George A. Romero, 1979)
    Phantasm (Don Coscarelli, 1979)
On the cheap side, it was the era of video, and the serial horror series, from Amityville Horror to Terror Train, with such villains as Jason (Friday the 13 films), Freddie (Nightmare on Elm Street films) and Mike Myers (Halloween films), returning year after year to decimate the campuses and camping grounds of America. On the serious side, from Stanley Kubrick's under-rated The Shining,to the Alien series, to David Lynch's Blue Velvet and David Cronenberg's techno-horror meditations, it was the period when the monster emerged from inside, distorting the mind and body. Films include:
    The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)
    An American Werewolf in London (John Landis, 1981)
    The Howling (Joe Dante, 1981)
    Poltergeist (Tobe Hooper, 1982)
    The Dead Zone (David Cronenberg, 1983)
    A Nightmare on Elm Street (Wes Craven, 1985)
    The Fly (David Cronenberg, 1986)
    Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986)
    Dead Ringers (David Cronenberg, 1988)
With the eighties serial horror series exhausted, and directors such as Cronenberg and Craven anxious to move on to more respectable fare, horror movies declined, with occasional efforts rising above the common formulaic level. The one horror film of the early nineties was Jonathan Demme's psychological thriller, Silence of the Lambs. But Craven, unable to succeed as a conventional filmmaker, was lured by one final script, a teen horror-comedy that mocked the eighties slasher genre. Scream, released for Christmas of 1996, was a huge hit and established the pattern of late nineties horror films: teen-agers sitting around talking about horror films, until one of them turns out to be a killer. Films include:
    The Blair Witch Project (Eduardo Sanchez, 1999)Candyman (Bernard Rose, 1990)
    Arachnophobia (Frank Marshall, 1990)
    Tremors (Ron Underwood, 1990)
    Henry Portrait of A Serial Killer (John McNaughton, 1990)
    Dead Alive (Peter Jackson, 1992)
    Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1993)
    Seven (David Fincher, 1995)
    Interview With the Vampire (Neil Jordan, 1994)
    Scream (Wes Craven, 1996)
    Urban Legend(Jamie Blanks, 1998)
    Halloween H20: Twenty years later (Steve Miner, John Carpenter, 1998)
So, far, the new century has included horror movies that reflect or mock films of the past. Many serious horror films lean into the 'thriller' category, trading in blood and guts to spook viewers with things they mightn't see on the screen. Films include:
    Book of Shadows: Blair Witch Two (Joe Berlinger, 2000)Hannibal(Ridley Scott, 2001)
    Dracula 2000 (Patrick Luisser, 2000)
    Psycho Beach Party(Robert Lee King, 2000)
    Scary Movie(Keenan Ivory Wayans ,2000)
    Shadow of the Vampire (E. Elias Merhige, 2000)
    Shriek if you know what I did last Friday the 13th(John Blanchard, 2000)
    Urban Legends: The Final Cut (John Ottman, 2000)
    The Cell(Tarsem Singh, 2000)
    The Others (Alejandro Amenábar, Tom Cruise, 2001)

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