As we’ve entered the new millennium, a wide variety of modern horror films have emerged which differ from those pre-millennium. Though this article is far from a definitive list, it aims to promote films that heavily influenced the genre that fans know and love today:
Deep Red (1975)
Directed by Dario Argento, Italy’s second coming master of giallo cinema, Deep Red promotes a captivating plot with a beautiful aesthetic that would become Argento’s signature. Otherwise known as Profondo Rosso, the film came after Argento’s animal trilogy (1970 – 1972) in which the first instalment, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970), was his feature directorial debut. However, amongst fans, it is argued that Deep Red is the director’s first major film which comes as no surprise; John Carpenter frequently recalls how the film was one his biggest influences for making Halloween (1978), the influence being blatant in Halloween’s use of a child as a murderer, and not forgetting Halloween II’s (1981) infamous hydrotherapy sequence which is almost identical to a sequence in Deep Red. Although the film never receives as much recognition as its 1977 successor Suspiria, the vibrant horror film with a Disneyesque aesthetic that started Argento’s The Three Mothers trilogy (1977 – 2007), it is definitely worth experiencing in favour of the more mainstream pre-millennium slashers.
Brian De Palma’s adaptation of the novel by Stephen King is a true gem, presenting a divide between both captivating drama and actual horror. This divide also represents how faithful the film is to the source material, and how screenwriter Lawrence D. Cohen uses his own poetic license to steer the story into a different direction. Upon reflection of the novel and its two adaptations since De Palma’s vision (David Carson, 2002 & Kimberly Peirce, 2013), it’s the original 1976 film that tones down the unrealistic chaos in favour of melodrama and believable horror, making the piece a lot more emotionally unsettling following superb character development. If the horrors of puberty and teenage angst aren’t enough to satisfy you this Halloween, the final act of Carrie will rip your nerves to shreds; Sissy Spacek’s wide eyes and Piper Laurie’s religious fanaticism will haunt you long after.
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
In terms of Todorovian theory, for the vast majority of slasher franchises their villain is shown to initially be a fantastic uncanny being. However, Elm Street is one of the first ‘mainstream’ examples to break this convention and immediately realise our anti-hero, Fred Krueger, as a fantastic marvellous entity. However, when it comes to the other wonderful conventions of the slasher sub-genre, such as the final girl trope and elaborate brutality, Elm Street is terrifying perfection with well-deserved cult status. As well as establishing a hugely successful franchise in which the sequels, despite lacking the spooky tone of the initial Elm Street entry, are truly entertaining, the film formed a benchmark for director Wes Craven as well as stars Heather Langenkamp, Johnny Depp and not forgetting Robert Englund who would go on to become horror movie royalty.
Adapted from his 1986 novella The Hellbound Heart, Clive Barker swiftly went on to realise his vision the following year by writing and directing Hellraiser. An exceptionally close adaptation of its source material, despite our sadomasochist Cenobites being given far fewer lines and an even deeper morbidity, the film exemplifies modern gothic horror with scenes of sexuality and explicit death. Although to an unappreciative new audience Hellraiser could be seen as dated, the film still has moments of effective SFX, even in the new millennium, the acting isn’t specific to the era it was made, and it still remains to have an overall spooky and disturbing tone. Since its release in 1987, Hellraiser has spawned 8 sequels and remains to be “in development” for an eventual remake.
Exploring the darkest themes of death and bereavement, the film adaptation of Stephen King’s 1983 novel is a harrowing tale. At face value, Pet Sematary is presented in a somewhat corny B-movie fashion, but if you delve into the layers and look beyond the arguable goofiness, what you have is a deeply disturbing masterpiece that’ll have some form of psychological effect. Horror films are now so famously acknowledged for their feminist traits: the final girl trope in Jamie Lee Curtis or Camille Keaton as the empowered victim. However, from behind the camera, there’s a major lack of female artistic influence. Transcending from directing music videos for Madonna amongst other stars, Mary Lambert directs Pet Sematary which is what helps make it so spectacular. Dealing with heavy and uncomfortable points in the plot, Lambert favours raw emotion and devastation to fully develop her characters, forcing you to feel nothing but sympathy and sadness. In addition to these feelings, however, genuinely horrific supernatural scares are added which will stay with you long after. Again, don’t be fooled by the aesthetic; even if it isn’t until the end of the film, the concluding scene will change your mind about that.
Before he rose to critical acclaim by directing Tolkien high-fantasy epics, Peter Jackson was better known for his work on spectacular B-movies; his works would show aliens with a taste for human brains, horny puppets with guns, and, as Braindead is concerned, zombies. Although stills from the film would suggest that the duration is a petrifying flesh-eating soiree, Braindead is in fact an hour and 40 minutes of entertaining silliness, exceeding levels of gore that would bring a tear to Sam Raimi’s eye. From decomposing grannies to murderous zombie babies, at first glance you’d never believe that Braindead could be host to critical acclamation, but the rave reviews suggest otherwise making this the perfect film to enjoy this All Hallows’ Eve.
Do you agree with the films in this list? Maybe you’d take a few out and replace them?
Comment with your thoughts.