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An Interview with Wes Craven

Hey folks, Harry here, with an excerpt from an as of yet unfinished book by Andrew J Rausch of an interview he did with Wes Craven. Now this isn't a piece about a lot of scoops about SCREAM 3 or his next film, but rather quite a bit on Wes Craven's feelings on the genre of horror films and his own career. Personally I found it quite fascinating... I hope you do as well...

by Andrew J. Rausch

Whether or not you're a fan of the horror genre, chances are good that you know of Wes Craven. The man is a household name. A brand name for horror, if you will--the cinematic equivelant of Stephen King. For over 25 years, Craven has been primarily associated with the horror genre. Now Craven plans to step away from the genre, calling Scream 3 his last horror film.

Craven has directed a number of genre-altering films, including The Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Scream--all of which are considered horror classics. In the end, Craven may be remembered simply as the man who created the mythic horror figure Freddy Krueger. In 1995, Craven tried his hand at comedy, directing Eddie Murphy in Vampire in Brooklyn. Most recently, Craven directed Scream 3 and Music of the Heart, an art film starring Meryl Streep, Aidan Quinn, and Angela Bassett. In addition, he recently published his first novel, a thriller titled The Fountain Society. Despite his crazed schedule, Craven managed to find a few minutes to talk with me via-telephone.

AR: I find it interesting that everyone is so amazed by your decision to step away from the horror genre to do art films. It seems to me that your last pure horror film was Wes Craven's New Nightmare, which was some six years ago. Vampire in Brooklyn had some elements of horror, but it was really a comedy at heart, and Scream, by your own admission, is really a thriller disguised as a horror film.

WC: Well, it's very difficult for me to even define what a horror film is. I think a lot of the films I've done are quite far from the "classical horror film." You know, the car stalling in the middle of the woods in a dark night beside a haunted mansion and things of that sort. Even the Hammer films. I've never really felt that close to that particular part of the genre. A lot of the films I've made are just kind of using the genre, because that's where I was in effect, to talk about violence and hallucinative reality and kind of the irrational curve of the 20th century. I mean Last House on the Left didn't feel like a horror film so much as a bizarre political commentary in a B-movie format. People Under the Stairs was certainly very political. I'm kind of talking about the ones that I wrote myself because I kind of did some real dogs in there, too. [Laughs.] And even the end of Nightmare on Elm Street--the seventh one I did there last--was already kind of deconstructing the whole format and looking behind the scenes at the people who made it and confronting issues of censorship and everything else. I don't know if anyone in the genre has, but I've never felt--especially since I didn't have a big background in the genre--that I was ever consciously making "horror films."

AR: You mentioned A New Nightmare, which brings me to an observation. As that film and Scream 3 both deal with a movie-within-a-movie, you seem somewhat interested in that concept.

WC: It did fascinate me. I think in my own work I kind of pushed the use of the genre beyond where it didn't want to stretch without kind of going to that next step of talking about what we were doing in a sense, in a way that the viewer was aware of you as a filmmaker. That was part of it and part of it was just a frustration that in the years during which I hadn't been associated with the Nightmare series, it felt like it had drifted so much that I couldn't find a recognizable theme anymore. I would always confront myself when asked to do something like that when given the chance with whether or not there was a way to take this up to the next level. When I was called and given the chance to work on Nightmare on Elm Street 3, I felt I could do that by using a character that was melded with other characters of the same sort of psychic gift or someone who had this vision of the way things could work. But once it was past that level, I didn't know a way to take it up any further without going outside of it. So that idea of talking with a film-within-a-film sort of started early. In that case it was watching characters watching a film they had made and seeing the effect it had on children or, as a whole, reflection on an earlier work in a time it was being watched in currently. So that was kind of my interest in that. For whatever reasons, Kevin [Williamson] sort of hit on that same theme with Scream 2 so I just felt very much at home with it and I liked it a lot. It gives you a way to talk about your own film or similar films without being completely tied to your own body of work. [Laughs.] You can kind of say, "Here's how it can be done badly," which is kind of fun.

AR: You've sort of become the cinematic equivelant to Stephen King in that your name has become a brand-name for horror. Now these films that you've produced become labeled as "Wes Craven's" Wishmaster or "Wes Craven Presents" Carnival of Lost Souls. What is that like?

WC: It's kind of a mixture of fun with a very cautionary feeling about the danger of selling out. You know, How can I exploit this? I've worked so damned hard, how can I cash in on this legitimately? There's kind of feeling of wanting to give back a little to the community of young filmmakers by shepherding something through that might give a young filmmaker a chance. It's kind of a mixture of all of those things. It's strange in a way because you don't have your hand on it the way you're so used to doing your own films, where you want every frame to kind of have your own initials on it someplace and you feel responsible for it and want to use every ounce of your strength to make it something that is completely your own. With this other kind of film we're talking about, you're kind of taking everything you've earned from that process and kind of lending it in a way to someone else. It's either a very good feeling or a queasy feeling depending on how you feel about the end product.

AR: In the past you've discussed the horror genre's penchant for always coming out with rip-offs of every successful film that comes along. Certainly there are examples of these rip-offs in every genre, but horror seems to take that to the next level. In horror, whenever there's something new and refreshing, you can almost count on at least half-a-dozen or so rip-offs coming out within the following year. Why do you think this practice is so much more prevalent in the horror genre?

WC: I think it's the finanical inducement that exists in the horror genre because they tend to make a lot of money when they're good and they generally cost very little to make. The Blair Witch Project would be a great example of that currently. This kind of makes the dollar signs light up in the eyes of a lot of people that usually wouldn't be drawn to the genre for the sake of loving it or for the sake of expressing any feeling about violence or whatever in the world at large. It's just, How can we make one of those and make some money? That's kind of the difference between a guy or an organization that sits down to make a rolex and a guy whoÊjust sits down to make something that looks like that so he can make some money. The result is that the genre is almost immediately engulfed by bad copies after something innovative has come along and I don't think that's usually true with films that sort of fall in the midpoint, which could be real artistic expressions but nobody would ever think of trying to copy them. Something like Red, White, and Blue. [Laughs.] Of course nobody ran out to try and make anymore of those to make some money. But with genre films that do can just bet that there are 26 or 100 versions of Blair Witch because they're going to be done by everybody with no real impulse to do it except that it made so much money and they want to be on that gravy train. I think that's the curse of the genre really. It's what those who love the genre, or have come to love it as I have, kind of wince at it and kind of forgive the genre because that's not really its fault. It draws those kinds of films because of that financial payoff when it works.

AR: Do you feel that the perfect horror film--the Citizen Kane of horror--has been made yet?

WC: I doubt it. It's such a difficult medium to keep perfect. There are so many influences on any given film. There have been some really, really good ones, including, I would say, the first Scream. That was just a terrific script...

AR: I would agree.

WC: They got us great actors and you had a director at the top of his form throwing in his own ideas. It felt like a great combination. It's very rare when that happens. Obviously on Nightmare [Part] One where I just had an idea that sort of came to me with no financial inducement whatsoever and I just had the idea and wrote it completely on my own. I just wrote it because it felt like it needed to be written. Everything about the making of it just seemed to have that spirit about it...except for the last few minutes. [Laughs.] The last few minutes of Nightmare on Elm Street are a good example of how at the very end something can happen to make you feel like it's no longer quite mine. That is the hard part about making a film and one that you think is really quite perfect, as you say the Citizen Kane of horror films. You have to be making one entirely on your own in a situation like Last House where it was just myself and a producer. There were literally two guys making the film. And even that got cut at the end while I was absent. You really immediately lose the sense that it's your film anymore. That was after it was just released for about a week.

This conversation is an excerpt of an interview which will appear in Andrew J. Rausch's forthcoming book The Love of Film: Directors on Movies, which will feature interviews with over 50 filmmakers including Kevin Williamson, Kevin Smith, Frank Darabont, John Milius, and Bryan Singer, as well as quotes from noted-critics Roger Ebert, Manohla Dargis, Leonard Maltin, and, of course, Harry Knowles.

Readers Talkback
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  • Dec. 16, 1999, 5:19 a.m. CST

    citizen kane of horror?

    by Lazarus Long

    well, I wouldn't really call "Scream" an example of the best of the medium. It seems that it's impossible to make a ture horror film now without being a bit referential about the genere, or going completely outside of it like Blair Witch. Scream may be a great post-moderm horror film, in that people aren't really scared by anything anymore. It took Blair Witch, advertised as "real" to scare anyone. I have to say that The Exorcist and Rosemary's Baby are about as close to perfect as the genre will get in terms of pure psychological mastery over the audience, with good source material and script. I personally feel The Shining is the greatest horror film ever, but so much of it isn't frightening; it's just uplifting watching Kubrick spin his wheel. But the parts that are scary, the images that are meant to scare (elevator of blood, the flashes of the dead girls in the hall), the use of sound (big wheels on the floor and carpet), the maze. That's the best stuff ever put to film in that genre. I like Craven's work, but his correct response to the question would be to say that it's too late for a great, original, high-profile production to be the Citizen Kane of horror. The public is too jaded.

  • Dec. 16, 1999, 6:35 a.m. CST

    Plan 9 from Outer Space of Horror?

    by Sir Chuck

    Hmmm... let's see...that's a tricky one...the Plan 9 from Outer Space of Horror?...hmmm....I'm going to have to say, oh, I don't know...what is "Plan 9 from Outer Space," Alex?

  • Dec. 16, 1999, 9:37 a.m. CST

    Hammer Horror

    by c9751451

    personally I thought scream sucked big time and didn't bother with the sequel - maybe 'cos i'm a kid of the eighties so I couldn't relate to the kids in scream that well (gakk). Wes has made some pretty good movies though - Serpent and the Rainbow, People under the Stairs, Nightmare on Elm Street, Deadly Friend (yes i like it!)and The Hills have eyes. The Plan 9 from Outer Space of Horror could be Lifeforce - even though I used to love the movie it seems to be pretty slated by most folks - it's definately B movie Horror/Sci-fi gone mad though! Proper scary Horror would have to go to The Shining or The Amytiville Horror (spooky soundtrack or what) or even Jaws! Most modern Horrors are not scary - prime example of this gone haywire is The Haunting. Ciao.....

  • Dec. 16, 1999, 10:05 a.m. CST


    by SCOTT1458

    Seriously, personally I just don't find any of his films that good. The first Nightmare on Elm Street is good I admit, can all the sequels. John Carpenter has had more quality horror films than ol' Wes did. And Scream sucks ass. Well, I guess if you're like a gen Y'er and your depressed all the time..then you might like it. As for best horror films, The Exorcist hands down. I still can't watch it. Rosemary's Baby sucks, too damn "artsy", The Shinning is fantastic, and nods to Terror Train..remember that one?

  • Dec. 16, 1999, 10:35 a.m. CST

    Last House on the Left

    by smilin'jackruby

    All I want for Christmas is for whoever the fuck has the rights to "Last House on the Left" (even Craven claims not to know who it is at this point) to hand it to Anchor Bay so that Craven can do commentary and a bad-ass special-edition DVD comes out for "Last House..." I consider that to be the grand-daddy of slasher films and still one of the most brutal pics in the genre. I FUCKING LOVE THAT MOVIE!!! Watching it really explains the difference between "Friday the 13th" the first one and then all the subsequent "Jason" episodes. "Last House on the Left" and "Friday the 13th: Part I" are cut from the same cloth (and produced by the same guy, everybody's fave, Sean Cunningham). For anyone who ever has anything to say about Craven and how whacked out he gets sometimes with what his films "mean," see "Last House on the Left." It is a great, dark, evil fucker of a film and a guilty pleasure.

  • Dec. 16, 1999, 11:25 a.m. CST

    Best of horror...

    by Deltahead

    I don't believe the public is too jaded to respond properly to horror films. In fact, I don't really believe "horror" films even exist except as a subset of suspense and drama. Therefore, one of my all-time favorites in Carpenter's Prince of Darkness (director's cut only please). Runner up: Wes Craven's New Nightmare. And my favorite bad horror movie is Dead Alive, a loony British predecessor of the Evil Dead series. Hands down craziest zombie flick ever. Runner up: From Dusk Til Dawn. Peace.

  • Dec. 16, 1999, 11:37 a.m. CST

    plan 9 of horror?

    by tpat

    Goofy, dumb, yet still fun and in a horror-ish vein? How 'bout House and its sequel? One of my guilty pleasures...

  • Dec. 16, 1999, 11:42 a.m. CST


    by mckracken

    HOW can you say Dead Alive is the best weirdest loopiest gore/Zombie film and then have the MIND to call PETER JACKSON ***BRITISH***??? ARE YOU NUTS???? THATS NEW ZEALAND HORROR my friend!!! (and yes dead Alive rocks 100% but get the unrated version please!!!) sheeesh....

  • Dec. 16, 1999, 11:47 a.m. CST


    by Deltahead

    Oops. Pity the poor Yank from New York City who can't recognize a New Zealand accent (unless it's Lucy Lawless...) Many apologies mckracken. And yes, I did see the unrated version. The Independant Film Channel here in the states was kind enough to leave in the sentient intestines, blood-soaked floors and creepily Oedipal overtones.

  • Dec. 16, 1999, 12:07 p.m. CST

    Citizen Kane of Horror

    by TrashcanMan

    Craven's wrong; there HAS been a "Citizen Kane" of horror. In fact, there were three of them: "Night of the Living Dead," "Dawn of the Dead" and "Day of the Dead." Thanx- TCM

  • Dec. 16, 1999, 12:14 p.m. CST


    by TrashcanMan

    Jimmer, I have to disagree with you. While I do think 1982 WAS a great year in horror("Poltergeist" and "The Thing" are two of my favorites), I actually think 1999 will go down as the GREATEST year in horror. No. 1: It is the year we finally got away from all that post-modern satire "Scream" shit (I know "Scream 3" is coming out still, but I'm pretty sure it'll bomb) and back to making movies that are scary. No. 2: Just LOOK at some of the movies to come out: "EXISTENZ," "Blair Witch," "Stir of Echoes," "The Sixth Sense," "Sleepy Hollow," the list goes on. Mark my words, these movies will all be classics -- TCM

  • Dec. 16, 1999, 12:22 p.m. CST

    Perfect Horror Films & LAST HOUSE.....

    by mrbeaks

    I think Cronenberg's DEAD RINGERS is just about the most chillingly precise film ever made, and, as for visceral thrills, I don't think HALLOWEEN will ever be equaled. THE EXORCIST is a great technical exercise, but it never scared me (I've been told that my not being catholic has a lot to do with that.) If Wes did a Special Edition of LAST HOUSE..... he should most definitely jettison the awful music and the idiotic subplot that deals with the inept police officers. Talk about jarring! Those scenes seem to exist only to pad the film out to feature length.

  • Dec. 16, 1999, 12:27 p.m. CST

    The "Plan 9" of horror

    by Billy Goat

    1996's "Werewolf". I saw it before it was even shown on MST3K, and it was STILL hilarious.

  • Dec. 16, 1999, 12:29 p.m. CST

    Apology accepted Deltahead.. :O)

    by mckracken

    Sorry for over-reacting there Deltahead, friends? :O) The unrated version is the only version as far as I'm concerned, I taped the rated "R" Dead/Alive off HBO, then years later, sought out the unrated cut out on video...(next is buying the DVD!!!) does anyone know the difference in running time between the two versions? --McK

  • Dec. 16, 1999, 12:58 p.m. CST

    Could I be less excited about "Scream 3"?

    by eegah

    Call me crazy, but watching "Scream 2" was like having a Krakatowa-like blast of Montezuma's Revenge in an anti-gravity chamber. My suggestion for the ending of this one: The gang corrals the killer and pull of his mask, revealing him to be: ALFRED E. NEUMAN! He grins at Campbell and says, "What, me worry?" Not a dry seat in the house. After that, Williamson should direct his creative energy to an idea of mine: "Richard Dawson's Creek", in which the beet-faced game show host pursues the nubile girls of Capeside wearing an ill-fitting ruffled tuxedo yelling, "Give us a kiss, luv!" Now THAT'S entertainment.

  • Dec. 16, 1999, 1:05 p.m. CST

    Sony take notice! The fan's wish-list page for the cast and crew

    by Larry Cucumber

    Here is the URL: --Bob the Tomato (

  • Dec. 16, 1999, 1:34 p.m. CST

    TrashCanMan and (as usual) MrBeaks

    by smilin'jackruby

    All right, exactly, right TrashCanMan. If there is a "Citizen Kane" or horror films, "Night of the Living Dead" and "Dawn of the Dead" are them, though I HATE "Day of the Dead" and see it as something on par with "Troma's War" (though the original draft of the script is genius). I do, however, stand by my pick of "Last House on the Left" as being the "Citizen Kane" of slasher films. But, as the educated MrBeaks pointed out, the music and inane subplots do kind of screw with a modern watching (the bumbling police officers are just ridiculous, as is the "Dukes of Hazzard"-esque score). The day will come, MrBeaks, where you and I will meet in a field of battle and geek each other to death, a day, oh yes, that you will rue.

  • Dec. 16, 1999, 1:52 p.m. CST

    The Citizen Kane of Horror was Candyman. Clive Barker is the mot

    by Jake The Snake

    If not the Citizen Kane, then it's probably the Godfather. It got very little attention because it had no big stars, no big PR hype, no art-house indie festivals sweating or Harry to push it. It was just a scary movie that went to video faster than a White House intern gets on her knees. As for Wes, while I liked Scream, a lot, I think his best movies were a tie between New Nightmare and People Under The Stairs. I saw New Nightmare in the movies in a packed house and the crowd was screaming. It, along with Renny Harlin's Part 4, were the two best Freddy Kueger movies. People Under The Stairs, along with Candyman, are the two best horror flicks you have never heard about, though I'd have to say "People" is more comedy than horror while Candyman was pure horror. "People" is an attack on everything Right-Wing in American life and politics. From racism, to religious fanaticism to the rich. It's a very funny movie and features a Pre-Pulp Fiction Ving Rhames. Rent that shit when you get the chance. Also, don't be fooled into buying the Freddy Krueger DVD collection. I know the box and the ads looks cool but it isn't worth it, not even if your a die-hard slasher fan. The only two good Freddy's were Part 4 and New Nightmare. I'm not so crazy about the First Nightmare, all it did was introduce Freddy. No big scares or funny Freddy hijinx. 4 is well-paced and well scripted with probably the most original death of the series. new Nightmare was just a good mindfuck.

  • Dec. 16, 1999, 2:15 p.m. CST

    The Omen

    by Joe Buck

    While not up there with NOTLD, DOTD, The Exorcist, or The Shining, The Omen is a pretty damn scary movie. Just the music alone is enough to freak me out. Rosemary's is coming out on DVD in the next few months but haven't heard anything about The Omen yet. I gotta agree with you Jack, I can't stand Day of the Dead either. Zombies that speak or use guns is just blasphemous. But I have only seen it once, while I've seen Night and Dawn dozens of times, so maybe a rewatching is in order. Another one nobody has mentioned that is probably the best of the last 10 years is Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. Other great 70's horror films include Evil Dead and Nosferatu: The Vampyre. For something old school it doesn't get any freakier than Todd Browning's Freaks.

  • Dec. 16, 1999, 3:03 p.m. CST

    Clive Barker is the Man, but "Candyman" is Bernard Rose's baby

    by smilin'jackruby

    Clive Barker is the man. Anyone on this site or in life knows that I worship him, have directed his plays, collect first editions of his books, and love everything he is associated with, especially his literary vision. However, Bernard Rose is the man behind the skillful adaptation of a couple of Mr. Barker's short stories (that, and the amazing score by Philip Glass). Bernard Rose is the guy who is attached to direct "The Thief of Always," even though Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall yanked funding. So, the genius of "Candyman" should belong collaboratively to Mr. Rose and Mr. Barker, something that I'm certain Clive Barker would admit if asked.

  • Dec. 16, 1999, 3:06 p.m. CST


    by Pomona88

    Jimmer: BSD also had one of Anthony Hopkins' worst performances ever. Frankly, the film had little going for it other than Gary Oldman and his shadow.

  • Dec. 16, 1999, 3:17 p.m. CST

    If We're Talking Barker.....

    by mrbeaks

    I thought the original HELLRAISER was an efficient little horror flick. As for the sequels..... well, HELLBOUND was mediocre, but the other two were terrible. I did like NIGHTBREED (heck, one of my favorite directors played a serial killer in it,) but it's a frustrating movie. I remember turning to my friend after we saw it, and saying, "man, that could've been the STAR WARS of horror films." I still believe that. Maybe if a more experienced director would've taken the helm, we'd be discussing a whole series of NIGHTBREED movies.

  • Dec. 16, 1999, 3:26 p.m. CST

    Cronenberg the Actor/Barker Barking Bark

    by smilin'jackruby

    "Nightbreed" could've been the "Star Wars" of horror, but fell short in minor ways. It has the closest feel, however, to the writing of Barker, though. Clive Barker is a fucking genius, I will sound that from the tops of hills 'til the day I die and teach his works if ever I'm an English professor, but his ability is somewhat lost on film. I am a big fan, but I think "Lord of Illusions" is, hmm...well, a "flawed" piece (despite the use of Erasure on the soundtrack-the happiest band in the universe now that ABBA got all divorced). I just wish Barker would keep writing and writing and writing and maybe let the next film, "American Horror," sit on the backburner for awhile (he has said that he's got two books to finish before turning that movie on over at New Line). As for Cronenberg, I wish he'd act for Atom Egoyan. That would be a sight to see.

  • Dec. 16, 1999, 3:37 p.m. CST

    You're A Kind Man, jack

    by mrbeaks

    LORD OF ILLUSIONS is a "flawed" film? Well, since you're a fan, I'll leave that particular "work" alone (except to say that the always hot Famke Janssen was in it.) Cronenberg and Egoyan? I'm surprised they haven't collaborated, too.

  • Dec. 16, 1999, 5:02 p.m. CST

    Ya' Gotta Admit...

    by smilin'jackruby

    ...Scott Bakula's a talented guy. Famke Janssen has been one of my favorite people in this year's and last year's #1 Trash Classics: "Deep Rising" and "House on Haunted Hill," both films I truly, truly enjoyed on the level of A+ Trash-o-la. Back over on the Moriarity Rumblings Talkback, however, I wish Agent Cole would evaporate.

  • Dec. 16, 1999, 5:05 p.m. CST

    We've All Felt That Way About Cole At Some Point

    by mrbeaks

    BTW, IMDB is quoting the "Popcorn" site that Anthony Hopkins, on the strength of Zaillian's screenplay, is on board for Ridley Scott's HANNIBAL.

  • Dec. 16, 1999, 5:21 p.m. CST

    Clive Barker's NightBreed; wouldnt we all be better off going ba

    by mckracken

    from the opening of this movie (the scenes of death and destruction play withing the letters of the title!!) I KNEW this was going to be a hit. Nightbreed was always intended as a three part deal, and thats what confuses alot of people. The marketing geniouses marketed Nightbreed as "just another slasher flick" while it was so much more. As a stand alone flick, it has WAY too many characters. But as part one of a Trilogy, well it would be fine by me. but since we'll never likely to see them FINISH the Nightbreed series, my suggestion is to go reread the Marvel Comics....THEY ROCK! (although theres no appearance of David Cronenbergs character after the movie adaptation ends)

  • Dec. 16, 1999, 5:24 p.m. CST

    Yeah, I saw that

    by smilin'jackruby

    Now maybe that uptight "I'm defending a character that I didn't really create" jerk-of-an-actress Jodie Foster will get in line. Nothing pissed me off more than hearing her say that she didn't believe the new script held true to the character of Clarice. SHE DIDN'T WRITE IT!!! Agh. Pet peeve. This is funny. I'm sitting here, working away at my job, allegedly hammering out a multi-million dollar deal with an Asian firm, but I keep returning to today's talkbacks. I love the Internet.

  • Dec. 16, 1999, 5:30 p.m. CST

    Usually, I Defend Jodie,.....

    by mrbeaks

    .....but she's been acting pretty bitchy over this whole Clarice issue. I bet Zaillian did a major overhaul of the book, and likely delivered something that will bear as much resemblance to Harris' tome as THE LOST WORLD did to Crichton's, ahem, "work." Not that I care all that much. The book was something of a letdown.

  • Dec. 16, 1999, 5:47 p.m. CST

    All you have to say...

    by smilin'jackruby the script went from David Mamet to Steven Zaillian. The gulf of difference between those two men is enormous (though "Searching for Bobby Fischer" featured Mamet regs Joe Mantegna and Bill Macy) and I'm certain the demure Ms. Foster finds "A Civil Action" more palatable than "Sexual Perversity in Chicago."

  • Dec. 16, 1999, 6:21 p.m. CST


    by jbreen

    The problem with a lot of horror flicks is that they're written by directors and scriptwriters with an eye on Hitchcock, postmodern reference and the teen market. There are a lot of good to brilliant novels out there that skew horror into new directions or which take the classic tale and drive the mother home. Christopher Fowler, Kim Newman, Phil Rickman, Poppy Z. Brite, Dan Simmons to name a few. Someone should adapt one of these guys books for a new slant (whatever happened to 'Spanky', then?)As for what films are good - well, yeah, The Exorcist and The Shining. I'd also throw in the almost wonderful George C. Scott 'The Changeling' and the original 'The Haunting'. (There does seem to be a little bit of confusion between horror and terror in these talkbacks, so I'm just throwing it all in!). 'Eraserhead' was wierd - scary, but not in the nightmare way, if you take my drift. It's funny that everyone here mentions 'classics', but no-one is going back to 'Dracula', 'Noseferatu', 'The Cabinet of Dr Caligari' etc. Sure, some of them seem quaint, but there is, in the best of them, an additional creepiness to be found in the fluttering b&w frames and creaky soundtrack (I've never been able to listen to Swan Lake in the same way since I first saw Lugosi). As for Mr Barker - I prefer 'Hellraiser'! Oh, and the ol' BBC have made a few series built around ghost stories, some of which are quite good. Not classic, mind, but their adaption of Dicken's story - The Signalman (I think) - was quite a corker.

  • Dec. 16, 1999, 7:42 p.m. CST

    HORROR 101: The Shining is nice to look at but not scary!!

    by Fatal Discharge

    (1) Even though I have it on video, I agree with Stephen King that Kubrick's film is cold-at-heart and all about surfaces rather than emotional terror. What made the book great was the terror of the hotel's underlying history of evil and how it impacted the caretaker's battle with alcoholism and possible abuse of his child who has psychic powers. The movie is all about steadicam and helicopter shots, although superb, and cannot even scare with the book's spookiest scene of the boy encountering the lady in the bathtub. Disagreeing with the guy who posted about the shots of blood-filled evelators and twin girls, I think these are weak setpieces which don't terrify at all. (2) I find the best horror movies to contain characters we actually care about and are not merely setups for a body count. And because horror is not a respected genre in the mainstream, some of the best movies whose purpose is to horrify are lumped in with other genres: - war movies (ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, PLATOON, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN's opening beach landing) - fantasy/science fiction (KING KONG, ALIEN, THE THING, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS) - serial killers/psychopaths (NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, PSYCHO, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, SEVEN) These are all horror movies at heart. Within the horror genre itself there are of course classics both of subtlety - THE HAUNTING(63), ROSEMARY'S BABY, DON'T LOOK NOW, THE VANISHING(88) and of explicit horror - NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD(68), THE EXORCIST, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, JAWS, HALLOWEEN, THE FLY(86), SEVEN. (3) I find Wes Craven a good horror director and contrary to some postings SCREAM is a classic both funny but also very scary and original (a partnership in serial killers says something real scary about the state of our society which preceded the Columbine tragedy). I liked SCREAM 2's opening but the rest was disappointing. Some people suffer from the snobbery that really successful horror films at the box-office are no good. Well, get over it. SCREAM and THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS are modern classics which the horror fan should be celebrating. (4) I'll throw in my 2 cents about the greates year in horror films too. I was lucky to reach my teenage years right on 1979 which was THE boom year of all time trigerred by the success of HALLOWEEN in the fall of 78. Best movies released were: - ALIEN, THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, APOCALYPSE NOW, THE BROOD, THE CHANGELING, DAWN OF THE DEAD, NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE, PHANTASM, and SALEM'S LOT on tv, among many others. This lead to a prolonged period of success for horror films throughout the mid-80's. More recently I think 1990 was a good year with the following: - AFTER DARK MY SWEET, ARACHNOPHOBIA, BURIED ALIVE, DARKMAN, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, EXORCIST III:LEGION, FLATLINERS, GHOST, HENRY:PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER, JACOB'S LADDER, MISERY, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD(remake), SANTA SANGRE, TREMORS, TWIN PEAKS(tv), and WILD AT HEART. The last half of the nineties were pretty bleak due to the film studios concentrating on big-budget action (with the exception of the classics SEVEN and SCREAM), so I agree that this year has been real exciting for us fans. Of course, THE SIXTH SENSE was a huge success that spread through word-of-mouth recommendations for it's well-made, well-acted and scary plotline. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, no matter if it was over-hyped, showed that a small budget movie (of which horror films were prime examples of in the past) could still be a huge hit if it had spooky and original ideas to excite an audience. Hopefully this will trigger another renaissance of horror in the years to come. The danger is in Hollywood throwing at us mega-budget no-brainers like VIRUS, THE HAUNTING, and END OF DAYS. So far we have some possibly interesting films in 2000 to look forward to like: - ALONG CAME A SPIDER, AMERICAN PSYCHO, THE BLAIR WITCH PREQUEL, BLESS THE CHILD, THE CELL, IMPOSTOR, LOST SOULS, THE NINTH GATE, REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, WHAT LIES BENEATH, and the inevitable batch of sequels.

  • Dec. 16, 1999, 8:02 p.m. CST

    Best Horror Flick ever

    by JeffLynnesBeard

    bluetwin - excellent commentary, but you forgot the scariest film ever - "Carry On Screaming"...

  • Dec. 16, 1999, 8:47 p.m. CST

    Tobe Hooper barely directed "Poltergeist"

    by smilin'jackruby

    Has anyone seen that famous photo of Hooper sitting in a chair reading a newspaper while Spielberg directs the action? I am NOT dissing "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and the Oingo Boingo fueled first sequel which is just as fun and awesome (the third one that tried to be a "genre" horror film sucked and then the 4th one is incomprehensible at best). "Poltergeist" is damn interesting, but it wasn't Hooper's really and most people won't dispute that.

  • Dec. 16, 1999, 10:58 p.m. CST

    Scream was no Citizen Kane.

    by rubinator

    The closest thing is Psycho. I consider a horror film the kind in which the purpose is to scare the audience. Number two is Halloween and number three is The Exorcist.

  • Dec. 17, 1999, 3:47 a.m. CST

    sorry for rambling on so seriously but what's a big horror fan t

    by Fatal Discharge

    Jimmer, I also saw The Guardian when it came out and there's a reason why Friedkin never directed another horror film again - it stunk. Regarding the last post, yes those are good films but to compare anything with the lasting impact of Citizen Kane is foolhardy. What makes Kane a masterpiece, besides the fact that it is an excellent film-viewing experience, is the many filmmaking revolutions that Orson Welles achieved and impacted cinema forever after. Camera movement and effects, special effects and matting, story construction, and on and on. You're probably right in Psycho being the closest a horror film has come to that impact. Although pychopaths had been portrayed prior to it, the release of Psycho caused a pretty definite break between horror films before it (mostly supernatural or alien monsters) and those after (man as the worst monster whether pure evil or psychologically impaired). Plot innovations include the main character being killed 15 minutes into the movie, identifying with the murderer, and the shocking final revelation. Editing of the shower scene spun off the quick-cut editing we see today. Bernard Hermann's film score is also a masterpiece.

  • Dec. 17, 1999, 4:12 a.m. CST

    on the rocks at spivey point......

    by c9751451

    some more Horror gems: Hellraiser - I agree with whoever mentioned this as a classic. I love this movie - some of the FX are a little dodgy but who cares! The direction and cinematography are excellent and the acting is great - Julia is just such a queen bitch, Joan Collins on Crack with a Hammer! The Music is also top notch. All the sequels I have seen dissapointed me big time - and part 3 actually upset me (awful, awful film). The Fog: You can't beat the Fog for the sheer over the top spooky story round the camp fire feel. This is one of my faves from John Carpenter, Adrienne Barbeau is great as the husky voiced DJ and the Pirates are spooky in a comic book kinda way. As a youngster The Fog kinda dissapointed 'cos it wasn't gory enough but as I got older and wasn't as bothered about seeing people have their heads ripped off in graphic detail I just loved it for what it is - the music is great too. Then of course you have your gore/slasher/bad taste classics: Tenebrae - haven't seen for years then only saw it once, but i remember this being VERY brutal and gory and having a good plot as well. Evilspeak - Fat Boy goes nutz with sword and black magick overdose in pig infested church. Zombie (Zombie Flesheaters) - Lucio Fulci - haven't seen this for ages but I used to just love the scene where the chick get's her throat ripped out - everyone always remembers the eye scene but that was unrealistic and crap compared to the all out gore of the throat scene - and it's one of those great movie moments where she stands there for about a minute as the zombie rises from the dead and eats her (dummy!). In the UK where i'm from we don't have a good deal on Horror as our Censorship is pretty strict (no UR or NC-17 options) so the Internet is a god-send for getting hold of movies in their original format - nice! Anyway that's enough rant from me more the moment - over and out......................................

  • Dec. 17, 1999, 7:27 a.m. CST

    I, The Brain and my assistant Pinky......

    by The Brain

    .....are having an off day. Does anyone remember the Phantom of the Opera starring Robert Englund. I think it was directed by Wes but I could be wrong I haven't seen it for a good few years but I do remember it being an excellent film. Also does Dawn of the Dead classify as a horror film, I first saw this when I was about 12 years old (life was good before the do gooders stepped in) and quite honestly I shit my pants....Brain

  • Dec. 17, 1999, 9:02 a.m. CST

    I, The Brain...oh forget it

    by The Brain

    what about the Phantasm??? The Burning, Bogey Man, The Scarecrow......I could go on forever but I'd just frighten myself.

  • Dec. 17, 1999, 10:23 a.m. CST

    To bluetwin

    by Pomona88

    I liked your post a lot. It's not too long at all, but you should have left off DARKMAN, EXORCIST III, and FLATLINERS because now we'll always have lingering doubts about your sanity. Those films sucked just as hard as THE GUARDIAN. As for the book vs. film comparisons of THE SHINING, I think the reasonably good made-for-TV version proved once and for all that mazes and axes are a hell of a lot scarier than dorky topiary animals and croquet mallets.

  • Dec. 17, 1999, 10:43 a.m. CST


    by smilin'jackruby

    Oops. Can't believe we left this trash series off. Now that's a hilarious little series. But, if we go to "Phantasm," we've got to hit "Demonic Toys" and "Puppet Master."

  • Dec. 17, 1999, 11:12 a.m. CST

    And Angus Scrimm As The Tall Man

    by mrbeaks

    One of my all time favorite credits.

  • Dec. 17, 1999, 11:53 a.m. CST

    Eating Clive Barker

    by SCOTT1458

    The guy sucks..just sucks. Lots of people on here calling him St. Clive...he sucks. I followed his career in the begining, and he had some great books at first. The books of Blood (1984) are fantastic (They really fucked up the movie version of Rawhide Rex) as a few other ones. The Damnation Game was ok, Cabal (Nightbreed) was good, and the movie was done right, but it didn't have that extra umph to get it there. Ever since the first Hellraiser, he's gone down, and down (and not in the homo-erotic way he likes) Starting with the Great and Secret Show,,put a fork in him..he's done. C'mon, Imajica...yeah right. It's sad too, cause he had the promise of being a cross between Stephen King and Lovecraft. But he has some other issues to deal with. And The Texas Chainsaw Masacure (and the 2nd one) beats The Last House on the Left any day of the week.

  • Dec. 17, 1999, 2:09 p.m. CST

    slither, slither, bump, hiss...

    by Fatal Discharge

    Thanks pomona, I do like those films though. Exorcist III was actually quite spooky and the conversation betwen George C. Scott and the possessed inmate later reminded me of Silence Of The Lambs in its creepiness. The director William Peter Blatty said the studio made him insert all those silly special effects (the woman on the ceiling - what a laugh riot) but bad as they were I think the movie still succeeded in the end. I don't know why Flatliners gets such a bad rap, the dream sequences were really well done and the movie touched me emotionally too. Kiefer Sutherland and the little boy chasing him was genuinely scary. Julia Roberts and her dad was heartbreaking. Darkman is more B-movie action than horror, I agree, but for a neat take on the Phantom Of The Opera with an Oscar nominee and winner (Liam Neeson, Frances McDormand) - you can't go wrong. Scott, I'm going to defend Clive Barker just a bit. Of course his Books Of Blood are classic, but I can see where Clive had to get away from that style because if he kept doing those the impact would be diminished. Maybe his books are a bit bloated in size but he's trying to achieve other effects rather than the nasty grossout. Anyway, you'll probably be happy to know he's finally writing another set of Books Of Blood and i'll be with you in line to buy them as soon as they come out - woohoo!!

  • Dec. 17, 1999, 2:28 p.m. CST

    Barker and King; the Wicker Man!!!

    by Lazarus Long

    Don't even put King in the same League with Clive Barker! People who are big King readers would need a dictionary to get through Clive's work. This guy has such a command of the english language, I find myself alternating between being terrified and being moved by the beauty of his writing. King books can all be summed up in neat little plot-blurbs. To try and explain to someone the intricacies and uniqueness of Imagica is impossible in such short space. And to say that he has gone downhill, there's obviously a little homophobia laced in your comment, and I would say he's made greater strides toward writing old-fashioned American literature than King has. His recent works may not be as COOL as his earlier stuff, but damn can this guy write. I recall a quote on the cover of one of Clive's books that was written by no other than Stephen King: "He's better than I am now." Which is close, it should say better than he ever was. His books are just not as easy to make into films, which is more of a testament to his imagination than anything else. On another note, congrats to Jake the Snake for mentioning Candyman, a very scary film because you WERE NOT rooting for the killer to kill everyone. He just plain scared the fuck out of you. The use of the projects in Chicago was a cool idea too. Does anyone remember the Wicker Man, with Edward Woodward (The Equalizer) and Christopher Lee? Ed goes to this island in Great Britian (I think) to find some girl that has disappeared. Well he discovers that the whole island is this crazy village of pagan weirdos, Christopher Lee is the leader, and the film's final scene of the burning man festival is one of the shocking finales in all horror. The inhabitants of the village are Creepy, Creepy, Creepy! I don't even know if this is out of print, but occasionally you can find a copy at the video store...

  • Dec. 17, 1999, 2:30 p.m. CST

    almost forgot...

    by Lazarus Long

    I think the video box of the Wicker Man actually has a quote from someone: "The Citizen Kane of Horror Films!" That's what made me think of it...

  • Dec. 17, 1999, 6:46 p.m. CST

    The Citizen Kane of horror is and always will be...

    by All Thumbs

    PSYCHO. (Though the Exorcist and the Birds come close.) Yes, psycho. Do you realize how many people are still to this day scared to take showers becuase of that movie or even flat out refuse to? (My mom said it took her months to overcome her fear of showers after she saw it.) PLUS...that entire scene, there was not a stab shown, but audiences still talk about how they saw the knife plunge into her body and blood spurted everywhere. Hitchcock knew how to get into people's heads and bring out their worst fears onto the screen. 'nuff said.

  • Dec. 17, 1999, 6:49 p.m. CST

    And on the subject of Plan 9-ish horror films

    by All Thumbs

    All you have to do is watch Monstervision on TNT with Joe Bob Briggs to see some of the worst (and also some of the best) horror movies ever. I think he rates the Howling part 7 or 8 as one of the worst ever and I have to agree because it was virtually unwatchable, even more than Manos, Hands of Fate (which I've seen both with and without MST3k).

  • Dec. 18, 1999, 3:42 a.m. CST

    And the award for the Citizen Kane of horror goes to...

    by Severen

    John Carpenter's The Thing, a film thats as close to perfect as any you could mention. Nuff said.

  • Dec. 18, 1999, 9:40 a.m. CST

    Re: Phantom of the Opera and The Boogens

    by Veidt

    Just thought I'd mention that the Robert Englund update of Phantom of the Opera was actually directed by Dwight Little, who also directed Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. Also, The Boogens wasn't a direct-to-cable film - it actually had a theatrical release in '82, although many younger fans do remember it mostly from its HBO airings (that's where I first saw it as well). Both are really fun pictures, in my opinion.