1.16.2013

Screening bloody murder



I’ve been in love with horror stories longer than with any other genre.  The only cultural texts that made an impression on me at an earlier age were fairy tales, which themselves appealed to me as horror stories—it was always their darkest and scariest scenes that I seized on (Gretel pushing the wicked witch into the oven, Snow White biting into the poisoned apple, etc.).  I began watching horror movies regularly around the age of six, often in the company of my father, with whom I would rent videos from one of our local supermarkets.  I found them entrancing.  Their imagery obsessed me.  Some years later, as I neared adolescence, I set out to work my way alphabetically through our every film in the video store’s “Horror” section.  While I only made it up to F before I abandoned the project—it was around this time that my cinematic tastes began to broaden—I’ve filled in most of the gaps over the years since.  But gaps still remain, or have only recently closed: although Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw has been an object of fascination for me for almost as long as I’ve been watching horror movies (I can recall first trying, and failing, to read it around age eight), it was only two years ago that I finally got around to watching Jack Clayton’s masterful adaptation The Innocents, for instance (see above).  I have no doubt that had I seen the film as a child it would have made just as deep an impression on me.  Other classics like The Night of the Hunter, Suspiria, and Alien have also been relatively late discoveries. 

This project, like nearly all of the viewing projects out of which my blog posts arise, is about continuing to fill those gaps.  I’ve chosen a handful of horror films, spanning the silent era to the present, which I’ll be working my way through these next several months; and because I’m always suffering some burn-out around awards season, the posts are likely to trickle in at a somewhat leisurely pace.  My selections have been shaped by several criteria, such as ease of availability (there are almost no obscure titles here), reputation (many of these are alleged to be classics of the genre) and variety (I wanted to choose films of many different types from across the decades).  I have decided to put some slight emphasis on horror films made in this century, mainly because they are titles with which I am the least familiar.  Most importantly, they had to be films I hadn’t seen before—in part so that I can continue my study of the genre that has become, for better or worse, a lifelong project, and perhaps also as a way of trying to recapture that sense of discovery and excitement that I felt when, as a child, I first saw masterpieces like Rosemary’s Baby and The Company of Wolves and Psycho for the first time.  I invite you to join me…if you dare.  

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