Watching Horror, “Classic” and Otherwise

image of vampire from 1922 nosferatu filmEarlier this month I read a Variety article about the last hundred years of horror films. It featured the usual suspects, but I had the nagging sense that I was missing some things about which I had vague ideas. So, naturally, I popped the films and their dates into Excel and quickly learned which of my vague ideas were on point, which were off-base.

In the “on point” camp, I’ve seen more recent horror films than older ones. No big surprise, though I was surprised to see how dramatic the shift is on the seen/unseen axis when it comes to films made since I was born. Likewise, while I like to think of myself as an “old horror movies” guy, apparently I’ve been a Universal Horror guy first, “old horror movies” second, 1920s horror dead last.

In the “off-base” camp, I’ve seen less Asian horror than I thought. When I started going down the list, I realized that my vague idea that I “hadn’t seen too many Asian horror films” could be more accurately described as “haven’t seen more than a couple of the biggest.”

In the “huh” camp, I apparently don’t watch horror movies much during times of serious stress or crisis. Not just when someone close to me dies, but at other life or job stress points. Sometimes I go back and rewatch the biggies of the period, but other times not.

If all of this sounds like excessive navel gazing for someone who doesn’t really write that much about horror films, you’re not entirely wrong. In the last couple years, though, I’ve been writing more horror or horror-adjacent nonfiction, as well as thinking about movies. (I had an essay planned for a volume on contemporary horror films, and I withdrew this month, as I’m 2020-blocked, and it’s just not moving quickly enough.)

I’ve read some of the standard horror film/studies books (Clover, Creed, Carroll, etc.), which, if you’ve made it this far, you probably have as well. Some of the more recent work I’ve enjoyed has included…

  • Orrin Grey’s Monsters from the Vault books.
  • Horror Pod Class, also featuring Orrin in recent seasons.
  • Aesthetic Horror, as well as more general film Twitter and YouTube sites
  • Xavier Aldana Reyes’ is a big name in the field right now, and I like his scholarly work (the affect stuff is killer), but I’ll confess to being especially charmed by his #gothiccinema366 project on Twitter this year.

I’m also a reader of various horror stories and novels that take film as their subject, whether Gemma Files’ Experimental Film or Stephen Graham Jones’ The Last Final Girl. I’ve contributed a story or two to the genre as well, including my “There Has Never Been Anyone Here” in Nightscript IV.

Do you have a list of “must-see” horror films? One you go back to pick new watching from? A favorite film book you use to guide your watching? Feel free to drop it in the comments. In addition to the titles and projects mentioned above, I love The Scarecrow Video Movie Guide.

I’ll close with with a still from a 1997 film I watched yesterday that did not make Variety‘s list… but which was a lot of fun.

still shot from anaconda

2 thoughts on “Watching Horror, “Classic” and Otherwise

  1. The two best film books I’ve ever read, hands down, are Stephen Thrower’s Nightmare USA: The Untold Story of the Exploitation Independents and Kier-La Janisse’s House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography of Female Neurosis in Horror and Exploitation Films. Thrower has also done books on Fulci and Jess Franco which I consider essential. Though not horror, Troy Howarth’s So Deadly, So Perverse volumes are indispensable giallo guides. Anything by FAB Press is great. I don’t think I’ve ever come across a guide that effectively tackles the full history of horror cinema; it’s just too vast at this point.

    Mondo Digital is one of my regular website visits. Tons of reviews! Their web design is hard on the eyes (white text on black background) and there are some dead links, but the stuff they review I simply can’t find anywhere else. They’ve inspired me to buy films sight unseen; that’s not easy to do! http://www.mondo-digital.com/

    I could go on and on… 🙂

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