Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Fear on Film

 If you haven't seen the early video below it's worth a watch, particularly if you're a horror fan.  It aired in Los Angeles on the legendary Z Channel, a local cable channel that catered to film nuts until its inevitable demise in 1989. The host here is Mick Garris, a renowned expert in the horror genre.

Also if you haven't seen the documentary, Z Channel - A Magnificant Obsession about that local LA channel, which influenced the cable industry and other paid networks like HBO, Showtime, etc. Check it out sometime. I've seen it multiple times and still find it rewarding to watch, and there are clips from many important films and influential directors. 

The early 1980s were such a great moment for the horror genre, and these three men were right at the center of it all. This interview was probably conducted in early 1982—Landis had recently come out with An American Werewolf in London, and was a year away from releasing the video for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” which anyone who lived through the era will tell you was not just any ordinary music video—it was a 13-minute horror movie on the zombie theme, and both song and video featured a memorable vocal bridge by Vincent Price. Carpenter, of course, had kicked off the Halloween franchise in 1978, had recently come out with The Fog, and would release The Thing in the summer of 1982. Cronenberg, whose previous two features were Scanners and The Brood, was promoting Videodrone, which would come out in 1983, the same year as The Dead Zone. And that’s not even counting something like the first Evil Dead movie, which came out in 1981, or Alien, which came out in 1979. The Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises started in 1980 and 1984, respectively, and that same period saw a whole lot of Stephen King movies too, like Firestarter, Cujo, Creepshow, and Christine.

It’s a pretty interesting interview—Carpenter insists that movies don’t scare him but then admits that seeing It Came From Outer Space when he was 4 years old did scare him. Landis thinks that there’s been a change in horror movies—back in the day, the movies were fairly good but then the effect is ruined by the appearance of a shitty-looking monster; by 1981 the movies had gotten worse but the monsters actually look pretty convincing. The names Rick Baker and Roger Corman are bandied about liberally. Both Landis and Carpenter bemoan the need for entire days being spent to make a single effects-heavy shot. Cronenberg complains about censorship in Canada and points out several positive aspects of the U.S. system (this was taped before the introduction of PG-13, which precisely mirrors a suggestion made by Cornenberg). Cronenberg shows decent self-knowledge when he says, “My films tend to be very body-conscious”—an understatement, to say the least.


At 7:18 AM, Blogger Richard Bellush said...

There is an airy "let's not take ourselves too seriously" quality to much 80s horror that makes it pleasant to watch, e.g. The Howling, Bloody Birthday, or Sweet 16.

Though the 50s sf/horror included much trash, some of it really was very well written, e.g. Monster on Campus, I Married a Monster from Outer Space, or Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It is curious that the better fx available by the 80s was accompanied by so much weakening of the scripts.

At 8:36 AM, Blogger El Vox said...

Hmm, Rich, some might have that same argument today as well when comparing today's movies to the 80's. We certainly have better fx today, and can practically do just about anything on screen if one has the imagination to create it. Though a lot of it, for me anyway, doesn't always hit the mark, particularly with the horror genre.

I love it when something does resonate with me in that genre, but not a lot of it does. Too much relies on jump scares, gore, or just dumb directing or formulaic scripts, plus a lot of the remakes just aren't necessary.

But yeah, I love some of the 80's horror and those from earlier decades that have worked. The Howling, Body Snatchers, I Married A Monster From Outer Space, The Thing, Psycho, Hammer horror, etc. can be a lot of fun.


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