I had the good fortune of seeing Guillermo Del Toro’s excellent Crimson Peak last week. It’s very good movie with some great chemistry between Loki, Alice, Jax, and the grown-up Murph; stunning set design, and a taut plot that keeps you moving (if not guessing). If I have one complaint, it was that the special effects team tried a little too hard on the ghosts. They were creative and scary, but so stylistic I kind of wish they would have kept them off-screen and stuck to shadows and jump cuts. Still, I think it has the potential to be considered a classic someday, something people still want to see 20 or 50 years later. And I almost missed it, because today’s express-lane movie release schedule had it relegated to one screen a mere three weeks after it opened.
My ‘movies I’ll watch someday’ queue approached infinity a long time ago, so if I didn’t catch Crimson Peak in the theater, God knows when I would have finally watched it. And that got me thinking of all the horror movie classics I’ve missed over the years. You can commence mocking my horror creds after the break.
The Amityville Horror (1979). I think there are a lot of people who would argue against calling this a classic, but there’s no doubt that when this movie came out it became a cultural touchstone that launched a slew of copycats, sequels, and one soulless remake in 2005. Based upon the true(ish) book by Jay Anson, advertisements for the movie were everywhere in 1979, and the movie seemed to be in constant rotation on cable throughout the eighties. I’ve read excerpts from the book, I’ve seen the awful straight-to-video sequels, I even watched most of the remake (before falling to sleep). But I’ve never seen the original movie. Why?
That, ladies and gentlemen, is Jody…or at least as close an approximation as 1979 special effects could give us. I made the mistake of reading an excerpt from the book, where Jody is described as a pig-like entity with glowing red eyes that hangs outside the window. At age 11 I was fascinated and terrified (fascified? terrifated?) by all things red-eyed and demonic and that little glimpse of glowy-eyed horror in the trailer was enough to keep me away. Over the years, I’ve built up the associated terror level for the movie so much – arguably much more than the movie even warrants – that I’m uncomfortable even looking at the house. And I’ve been known to skirt around any houses that have those pie-shaped 3rd story window…just in case it was the architecture that drew the ghosts to Amityville.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). I hate slasher movies. Unless they have something unique and compelling to drive them (Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream) or have moved so far into ridiculousness they become self-parody (Friday the 13th parts II through ∞) I’m just not interested. Which is sad because Tobe Hooper’s original low-budget slasher film really is the grandfather for the all the Michaels, Jasons, and Ghostfaces to follow. I just can’t bring myself to watch it, not out of fear, but out of ennui…it’s been done so many times, and I’ve watched so many knockoffs, I just have no desire to watch it.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve watched parts of it, maybe half the movie in bits in pieces; and have seen all the clips (the first murder scene – where Leatherface quietly and efficiently clocks Kirk with the hammer, drags his thrashing body away, and slams shut the steel door – is one of the most realistic and horrifying movie murders I’ve ever seen); but every time I try to watch the movie all the way through, I get bored and the next thing I know I’m doing something I find more fascinating, like cataloguing and alphabetizing my collection of toenail clippings and bellybutton lint. I’m just a philistine.
Psycho (1960). This one is simply unforgivable. I love Alfred Hitchcock and Psycho is arguably the forefather of the modern horror movie. But I was a really stupid youth, and until I was about 23, I associated anything in black and white with boring movies my grandparents watched. And even after I learned better (maybe the best thing I discovered in college), I just haven’t gotten around to watching it.
What’s funny is whenever I happen upon it playing midstream on the magic talking box in my living room, I immediately skip past it because I don’t want to watch just some of the movie…it’s got to be all or nothing. It doesn’t help that I’ve seen so many clips and read so much about it (including a godawful sequel that turns Norman Bates into every other 80s serial killer and may have cost Robert Bloch his soul), I feel like I’ve actually watched it already. Maybe that’s something I should rectify tonight?
The Night of the Living Dead (1968) Not only did I never watch this movie because of my youthful black & white prejudice – as I’ve written about over at Biff Bam Pop – until 2002, I thought zombies were just plain stupid. It certainly didn’t help that zombie movies in the 80s and 90s, including many by George Romero himself, were godawful cheesefests.
And the truly ridiculous thing is this film is plain terrifying. I’ve seen the clips, I know the story, and it captures EVERYTHING that makes zombies scary: their implacability, their numbers, their appetites. This one goes on the New Year’s resolution list too.
The Exorcist (1973): I like to think I don’t scare easily. Granted, I screamed like a little girl at The Conjuring, nearly hyperventilated watching The Silence of the Lambs, and have nightmares about murderous, mutant babies…
… but I just cannot watch the Exorcist. I can’t even watch clips of the Exorcist. If one comes on, I leave the room. I’ve seen Reagan’s head spin once. I’ve never seen her levitate from the bed, spit pea soup, or masturbate with a crucifix. And it’s all my mother’s fault because when I was five years old, I heard her talking about the movie, about how it was so scary it drove people crazy. That’s all it took…that plus the aforementioned fear of demons. Forty-two years later, that conditioning sticks so much, I can’t look directly at the picture I posted below.
So there it is….my list of shame. What horror classics have you missed? What will it take for you to watch them?