Mr Romero

Someone’s Taken Their Love Of Scary Movies One Step Too Far!

Or so goes the tag line to Wes Cravens 1996 postmodern shocker Scream. Shocker, that’s another of Cravens. It’s seems that we are getting to some sort of saturation point with horror cinema, but then just when we feel that way a Scream or a Blair Witch or something will come along and turn everything upside down.

Way back in 1968 horror films had been restricted to literary classics like Dracula, Frankenstein and Pit and the Pendulum, or were analogies for either the science gone awry or the red menace, think the giant ants of Them (1954) and Invasion of the Body Snatches (1956) something came along to turn everything upside down – Night of the Living Dead

Mr Hooper

This documentary looks at the social environment that created Night of the Living dead and five other groundbreaking films, Last House on the Left (1972), Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Shivers (1975), Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Halloween (1978).

Why these films? Well they are scary but they also reflect the times in which they were made. Sure Herschell Gordon Lewis broke a lot of taboo’s in 1963 with the graphic gore of “Blood Feast”, but it’s silly plot doesn’t stand up to the nightmare logic of Night of the Living Dead which added to the gore a Black hero as well as patricide.

The documentary interviews the directors of each of these classics as well as film historians and American Werewolf in London director John Landis and make-up genius Tom Savini.

Mr Cronenberg

A lot is made of the impact of the Vietnam War as well as domestic problems America was having. The same can be said for the happy films that came at the end of this period like Star Wars (1977). It can be certain that the political unrest did create some memorable images.

Mr Craven

At 73 minutes, this documentary isn’t too long. Any one of these films could be examined for that amount of time, for example Document of the Dead (1989, dir Roy Frumkes) runs at 92 minutes and only tackles Dawn of the Dead. The filmmakers are fascinating to watch interviewed, but I found that but the film doesn’t reveal too much. The film rightly places each of these films in its historic setting, but compared to Christopher Frayling’s series Nightmare: The Birth of Horror, it is limited.
Another limitation of the series is that it only looks at films that have had an impact on American society. It completely passes the European cinema which had Dario Argento creating Profondo Rosso (1975) and Suspiria (1977) and also overlooked is The Exorcist (1973). Included though is Canadian David Cronenberg.

I would have loved more, but I’m happy to take anything on these films, this period and these film makers.