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This documentary was acquired by yours truly through a video rental store nearly a decade ago and it scared the hell out of me. It coaxed me to watch the various films it discussed like THE EXORCIST, PSYCHO, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, and more! A couple months ago, I bought an original copy of this rare gem off of EBAY. This was a wonderfully crafted documentary that surely satisfied fans before 100 YEARS OF HORROR came along. Christopher Lee narrating was nice and we are given surprisngly a lot of screen time for Robert Bloch and other masters of the craft, musing about the meaning of fear and how film achieves the goal of scaring and haunting us. If you can track it down, kudos! Meanwhile, I'm going to see whether or not I can't undertake a restoration of this gem. But, that's another story.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The history of the horror film is a fascinating subject, and ever since
motion pictures began, the visuals and fright of these often difficult
films to sit through have embedded our imagination and crept into our
darkest fears of what the world holds in secrecy. This is a fun
documentary which goes into great detail about the psychology of why I
enjoy them so much. From silent films like the original Nosferatu,
Metropolis, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, among others, where movies
didn't have sound so the filmmakers needed to use visuals to make them
With actors such as John Barrymore, Lon Chaney, and Conrad Veidt, the world of the silent horror film was something that today can bring on frights simply through suggestion. The coming of sound so I change and while the visuals remained exciting, new stars like Lugosi and Carlos came along. Not mentioned in the documentary is British actor Todd Slaughter who certainly played his share of horrific characters, molesting young virgins and disposing of them with glee. The grand guignole all of his films has been fortunately rediscovered. However it was Hollywood where horror films really shined with Lugosi as Dracula, Karloff as Frankenstein's monster, and eventually Lon Chaney Jr as the Wolfman.
Later on, Vincent Price came along and starred in a string of Gothic Edgar Allan Poe based horror films at American International, while in England, Christopher Lee made an excellent color Dracula. Italian horror films, many of them starring British actress Barbara Steele, have become cult favorites with the delightfully frightening "Black Sunday" leading the list of the many films of this genre. Horror and sex became one in many of these films, usually ending with Steele as the revenge seeking ghost or in the case of "Black Sunday" a female vampire. Science fiction mixed with horror utilized the theme of the nuclear world and how it was affecting our planet as a whole. Giant spiders, grasshoppers and other creatures played the nightmares of the screen, and resulted in many fan favorites through the drive ins which were very popular starting in the 1950s.
But as times change, so do horror films, and in the 1970's and 80's new filmmakers like John Carpenter and Clive Barker came along, giving us more blood, more psychopathic characters who is it up with film series of them own. "Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Friday the 13th" were among the most successful of these mostly forgettable films that were popular with the young but serious connoisseurs of horror films looked on them as trash. Fortunately, true artists and film makers such as Francis Ford Coppola took a different look at the classics, making Dracula and Frankenstein with visuals that made them almost look operatic. While this documentary focuses on films made up until 1991, a recent view of horror films it is it in an almost satanic like, and films about the doom facing the world in the end of this days have seem to have taken more center stage.
I don't know what this means for the future of the horror film, but at least we can go back and look at the classics of the genre, some delightfully campy, some deliciously bad. Of course for me, September and October is time to catch up on horror films that I have not seen in a very long time or others that I have discovered. Home Video has made available some films not seen in years, and there are more being released today including titles that never saw a VHS release. For me, I do not get scared at many of the film anymore. Some have shocking visuals that certainly take in my mind, and in available film stills it really shows much imagination in the creators of the people making them more than just box office but simply art.
Documentary on horror films of interest for the appearance of veterans of the horror filed, notably the late Robert Bloch. Never really goes into much detail and shows a bias towards gorier films especially the British variety. The narration by Christopher Lee is a definite plus, however.
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