Years ago I remember staying up all night to watch a Halloween movie marathon. I must have been about 13.
I remember it was the first time I had watched Creepshow and how spooked out by the unsettling filth of Death Line. There was also a little Abbot and Costello thrown in at the end to lighten the mood.
I sat there in the front room of the old family home wrapped in a sleeping bag with enough popcorn and lemonade to burst an elephant; curled up all night soaking up the horror until about 6 in the morning. It was everything that Halloween could be for a 13 year old kid.
I think that was the night that originally fucked up my body clock.
Ever since then my nights have been filled with all the gore I can get my hands on from every corner of the globe, from Bombay to Tokyo, from Hollywood to Paris and everywhere in-between.
But you know what I have found over the years…
You can’t beat a good home grown British horror romp.
A lot of people will argue that the quintessential monster characters are from the ‘Universal’ horror era and for the most part they would be completely right.
You’ve got Bela Lugosi as Dracula, Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster and Lon Chaney Jr as the Wolfman. Every single performance ground breaking, every film a classic.
For me it has to Hammer Horror.
Hammer managed to bring the right levels of everything that makes a classic horror movie come to life.
You could say that it’s because I’m from the UK or that I think this way is because I was pretty much raised with Christopher Lee as the face of Dracula – valid points. But there is just something about that era’s film making that just stands out.
And it’s not just Hammer; Amicus and Tigon made some darn fine classics of their own too.
At the time the three production houses were in direct competition with each other to try and corner the horror market so each film they produced was pretty much made to outdo their rivals. Something that universal never had; a little healthy competition.
And there’s another thing that Universal didn’t have… Boobs.
You can’t beat the UK when it comes to busty scream queens swooning into the arms of some malignant terror that jumps out from behind a curtain to sink its teeth into the soft, pale flesh of her neck. A clap of thunder, a flash of tits and a squirt (steady now) of rather brightly coloured and obviously fake blood and the screen begins to sizzle.
Or something like that, anyway.
Speaking of blood, since when did cinema feel the need to exchange fake blood for CGI? I fucking hate CGI blood splatter, it just isn’t right; it looks faker than the fake, slightly orange or bright pink 3M stuff.
And it can’t be anywhere near as cheap to produce as the corn syrup variety.
I remember watching Land of the Dead and there was a scene where ‘Dead Reckoning’ the huge anti-undead truck was rolling through a town blasting every zombie within its range but all the blood effects were CGI. It looked really cheap yet I guarantee it probably cost more to make that than if they used ‘real’ practical FX.
What’s wrong with just exploding a few fake heads filled with synthetic brain matter and cornflakes like they used to do in the good old days?
Just take a look at some of the best head explosions of all time; Scanners, Maniac, The Story of Ricky and let’s not forget the opening sequence of Tokyo Gore Police; but did you see any CGI in those scenes?
You can’t skimp when it comes to blood, you just can’t. It has to be as near as damn it real or the audience is left unfulfilled.
Take the recent and much needed Evil Dead movie, I mean what the fuck, how brutal was that bastard?
I know someone that took their girlfriend to see it and they had to leave because the girl really wasn’t up for that kind of savage gore after pizza and ice cream. I don’t think she was sick but I’d like to think that she probably was.
I went to see it and there were so many scenes in there that made me stand up and cheer, I haven’t seen that level of practical FX executed in that way for a long time, especially in a mainstream cinema release out of the US.
From what I recall there was only one bit that used CGI and that was when someone was grabbing a book from a fire; it still would have been nice to see that done ‘for real’.
If you haven’t gone out of your way to see it, feel free to do so, it really is unrelenting and the last big splatter sequence is a real jaw dropper.
I think that’s my point here, horror needs to take a bit of a back step when it comes to FX. CGI has its place but not in the horror market. It’s been tried, tested and in most cases left wanting. It’s okay if you’re watching some mega-shark or giant spider low budget straight to DVD flick but when it comes to the fundamentals, keep it simple.
I think that’s another reason that I loved the British of the late 60’s/early 70’s, it was simple and it really didn’t take itself too seriously. It knew it was kitsch, it knew it was camp but that was its charm.
And damn the women of the Hammer era were hot.
I remember the first time that I saw Ingrid Pitt in ‘The House That Dripped Blood’; I think it was the day that I became fully sexually aware… That or when I got an erection during an episode of Challenge Anika. It was one of those running bum close-ups when Anika was getting into a helicopter.
We have come a long way since then, women are not just thrown into the scenes because it demands a lusty beer-wench have her throat ripped out; we have strong, independent female protagonists that are leading the charge when it comes to on-screen heroines.
It really is something that is unique to the horror genre; the scream queens of today really get put through the mill so hats off, credit where credit is due. Without these girls smashing out the scenes horror wouldn’t be what it is today.
But I really think that we need to tone down the CGI… And a couple of busty maidens wouldn’t go a miss every now and then… For old time sake.