What Makes a Horror Film a ‘Classic’?

It’s no secret that I am a horror fan. I wouldn’t be writing this article if I wasn’t.

And there is nothing I like more than watching my favourite movies or finding new ones to rave about other than sitting with other horror fans and talking about movies.

Now, I have chatted with horror fans old and new over the years and met so many cool people through my love of the genre. I have talked with older folk that have a knowledge that comes with years of watching movies and sat with younger guys just getting into it.

One thing I have noticed is there are a few movies that always get talked about. It’s like a universal list that all horror fans have either seen or are looking forward to seeing. The older guys will talk about obscure classics from long forgotten subgenres whereas the younger lot generally stick to the more mainstream, bigger budget flicks that we all know and love (give the kids time, they will catch up, ha ha.) So for the purpose of this article we will be mostly talking about the better known movies on the list.
And to be fair, it’s a fairly big list.

Standing the Test of Time

So anyhow… A few friends and I were having a beer in a quite lovely beer garden, chatting away about games and movies and sport and food and booze and the like when one of my friends asked me if I had seen the new Insidious movie yet.time 1
“You like horror, right?”
“Indeed I do” and no I haven’t seen it yet as I was put off by the second one and had one of the worst cinema experiences ever while watching the spin off movie, Annabelle (second only to seeing The Conjuring, I’d need a rather large scotch before I relived that barbaric tale).

I explained that I wasn’t that big a fan of the ‘jump scare’ style of these movies, and really I’m not. They leave me a little dry in the seat if you catch my drift. That’s not to say that these movies are not well made, with the budgets they have behind them it’s going to be pretty hard not to make a good looking movie.
But in my opinion, if you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all.

Now, I’m not going to sit here and knock these movies and tell you exactly why I’m not a fan, there are loads of articles online of the same ilk. I just don’t think that these kinds of films will hold up in the long run and be considered real classics given enough time by less than the hardcore horror elitists. That may not be the right terminology, ‘elitists’ but you get my meaning.
Do I think people will be talking about the Insidious franchise the same way people talk about the Nightmare on Elm Street movies?
You can argue that that are totally different kinds of films and I would have to agree but there are some similarities. They are all bigger budget horror movies made by bigger production houses designed to get bums in seats and money in the till at the concession stands. We are talking mainstream horror pictures here.

time 2I tried to break down what made the Nightmare franchise stand the test of time over the new wave and in truth I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. So I turned to social media (good old Facebook) and put up a post encouraging others to discuss the topic and I was more than surprised at what feedback I got.
Most people didn’t bash the movies in the way I thought they would, quite the opposite in fact. There was a lot of support towards modern horror but one thing did keep popping up in way of a negative.
It would seem that the general consensus towards these films is that the fun factor was lacking in some respect. Though these movies are good and well-made they seem to miss what made such films as Nightmare and the Friday the 13th so popular and enduring. They were just fun. They didn’t take themselves too seriously.

Where’s the fun?

This isn’t to say that fun horror movies are not being made, look at the output the Soska Sisters have had over the last few years. Or Troma, they have stood by their independent outlook and flown the flag for low budget, guerrilla film making for the last 40 years and have never wavered.
But again, these are never really films that the mainstream audience will tap into unless they are going out of their way to find them.
I can’t remember a time when I saw a trailer at a big multiplex for a Troma release.
Just saying.

A couple of decades ago we had the Scream films and whether you loved or hated the franchise people still refer to these films even now. True, they spawned a wave of poor imitations with few worth any note (let’s just be glad there won’t be another ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’) but still, they did raise the game in a genre that was as good as dead at the cinema.

Classic horror

Torture porn

A decade later we had the Saw movies that really upped the game of what modern, mainstream horror was all about, blurring the lines between standard thriller fare and the more exploitative aspects of (I guess you could call it) torture porn. Again, whether you loved them or hated them you can’t deny that they are worth a mention in many ways ten years or so down the line.
But the problem that I see with the new wave of mainstream (there’s that word again) cinema released horror is that there aren’t really moments where you can say “that bit where ‘so and so’ did this and that”.

We mentioned before the Friday the 13th films; I’m willing to bet that most people reading this have a favourite death scene in that franchise. I have a top five with the girl and her banana from the start of part 4 being my (possible) number 1.
I can’t say I have the same thing with the Insidious series.
It really does sound like I’m hating on these films but believe me, I did enjoy them and I’m just using them as a jump off as they are the bigger of the recent cinematic output.

In summary

I do like these movies and will watch them again and I often get excited when a horror movie gets a general release in mainstream theatres. Why wouldn’t I, I am after all a horror fan and supporter. I will pay my hard earned cash to go and watch them and in some cases will be greatly entertained. (I make myself sound like such a miserable twat sometimes).

But will I look as fondly at them in twenty or thirty years as I day of the deaddo with the likes of Dawn of the Dead, the Hellraiser movies or even the classic Hammer Horror and Universal flicks?
I don’t know.

Maybe I’m just a little set in my ways and can only identify with the generation of horror that I grew up with, maybe it’s an age thing or maybe I’m just waiting for that next thing to give horror another needed boot up the arse?
Again, I don’t know?

Horror at its strongest?

One thing is for certain though and it fills me with great pride because horror has been such a large part of my life, is that in my mind I don’t think the genre has ever been so healthy.
There are so many talented writers, directors, make-up artists and film makers out there and as far as the fan support, just look at the resent conventions that are popping up all over the globe in support of horror.
And with web based companies such as Netflix showing (and in some respects showcasing) new and independent horror the way they do I can’t see the genre shrinking anytime soon.

Until next time as my old Nan used to say, the blood is the life.

PS. Let’s get some dialogue going on this; I’m really interested in what people think on the subject so let’s fill up that comments section even if it’s to tell me that I’m just full of shit.


Gravesend Gore

After crawling his way back to the surface of the earth from his putrid tomb, Gravesend Gore set up a home entertainment system and lazy boy a mausoleum in Highgate cemetery. On certain nights when the stars are right and the air warm and still he can be heard howling with laughter as he watches scene after scene of brutal killings in his crypt/play room. He only ever emerges to purchase tea bags and biscuits from the corner shop and waits for the arrival of the postman with his Amazon orders.

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1 Comment

  • Anything by Carpenter (pre-Ghosts of Mars) is classic.

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