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Published 2:22 pm Tuesday, October 28, 2014
What’s the scarier thought for you?
There’s no wrong answer here, only the ones that reveal what kinds of movies might appear on your TV this week.
Is it the thought of seeing a shadowy blade about to spell your doom while you shower? Could it be the thought of a woman’s head spinning from a demon, or at least a bad case of bursitis? Or perhaps it’s finding a briefcase full of drug money while hunting antelope?
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Deciding on the more frightful scenario is as difficult as picking out a good Halloween costume for the party to which you’re invited at the last minute. I worked at a retail party supply store in the years after high school and I saw the markup on makeup. Making horror movies is a little like going all-out on a costume — gobs of money spent for a few hours of buzz and popularity, then it’s over. Then, you become your own sequel by doing the same getup every year.
I’m a fan of psychological thrillers over blood, guts and gore any day. The bulk of the violence implied by the murky human figure that stabbed an unsuspecting motel guest in the 1960 thriller “Psycho” lasted about 45 seconds. To hear Alfred Hitchcock tell it, though, the scene was far more complicated than gory to film. In interviews in the years that followed, he reminded folks that the blade never touched Janet Leigh’s skin and it was shot from 78 different angles over a six-day period. Art takes time, for sure. Hitchcock suspense is in a class by itself. Usually, novelty blood was unnecessary.
“The Exorcist” from 1973 remains in many ways a beachhead of sorts established by what became the modern-day blood-flick. The adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s novel that dealt with a 12-year-old girl’s apparent possession and two priests’ struggle to rid her of it has left us with the spinning head and other images that put the word “gory” into the lexicon. Honestly, it didn’t faze me as much as 1980’s “The Shining.” Special effects alone just don’t do it for me.
My fellow Gen-X’ers should know of the distinct split between suspense and horror that developed in later years. “Friday the 13th”, “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Halloween” are notable for the merchandising bonanza each spawned for its licensors. (I think the deluxe version of those masks retailed for at least $30 or $40).
Along the way, author Stephen King churned out some decent novels that were adapted into films. What he said during a 2011 documentary for Turner Classic Movies that chronicled the horror genre was quite revealing.
The true measure of so-called horror flicks is whether special effects support the story or the other way around, King said in “Night at the Movies: The Horrors of Stephen King”. And he scored points with classic film fans by choosing the original 1956 “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” as the one horror flick he’d take with him if ever exiled to a desert island.
If faced with the same fate, I’d have to overlook some faves of mine like Vincent Price and Peter Cushing for the ultimate suspense/action hybrid of the past decade.
The Coen Brothers once called their adaptation of the novel “No Country For Old Men” the closest they’d ever come to doing a true “action” movie. The quadruple-Oscar winner released in 2007 produced a film villain that didn’t need a mask, a cyborg’s face or a hatchet. He simply needed a common dairy farmer’s implement and one of movie history’s most unique haircuts. I’ll leave it at that for anyone who missed it.
Danny Barrett is a reporter and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 601-636-4545.