The Top 10 Horror Films
of the 20th Century

(and the 10 worst movies!) in the humble opinion of Tony Chester

Quick links to below sections:-
Nosferatu, Freaks, Night of the Demon, Night of the Living Dead, The Legend of Hell House,
The Wicker Man, Suspiria, The Howling, The Evil Dead, Sleepy Hollow

and the worst horror films (movies)…
Ghost Story, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Teen Wolf, Underworld, The Lost Boys,
Werewolf, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Wolf, I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Blair Witch Project

 

Picking a 'Top 10' of horror films is, of course, a qualitatively different experience from choosing an SF film top 10. In science fiction, arguably, there are some objective criteria that many could agree on, but horror is much more subjective: what scares you may not frighten your neighbour. Hate spiders? I love them; they fascinate me. As for me, I hate crowds, but I am damned if I know why! And another 'problem' with horror is that I, personally, am much more likely to enjoy a bad horror film than a poor SF film. It's a personal idiosyncrasy, that thankfully others also seem to share, that I can enjoy a film that's "so bad it's good", especially if there is humour, intentional or unintentional. If nothing else, that would make choosing a 10 Worst films particularly problematic: Bride of the Monster (1955) dir. Ed Wood may be awful, but it is entertainingly awful with many a good laugh. I will come back to the worst later, but first my top 10 in chronological order…

Nosferatu (1921) dir. F. W. Murnau. This silent classic is the first film adaptation of Dracula, ordered destroyed after Stoker's widow Florence successfully sued for plagiarism. Thankfully the order was impossible to enforce, so we can still enjoy the film today. Various versions, 'restored' or otherwise, exist with differing soundtracks, tints (or lack of them) and running times from 63mins up to 105mins. An estate agent Knock (Alexander Granach) sends Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim) to Castle Orlok to meet with Graf Orlok (Max Schreck). Orlok turns out to be a vampire, Nosferatu, who heads for Bremen on the ship 'Demeter', killing the crew along the way. When Hutter is reunited with his wife Ellen (Greta Schröder) she reads The Book of the Vampires and discovers that a woman must willingly give her blood to the creature and keep him with her until dawn. This she does and Orlok fades to smoke in the sunrise, but she dies herself. However, depending on which print you see, the characters above may have their names altered to those in the novel, so Knock becomes Renfield, Hutter is Harker, Orlok is Dracula, and Ellen is Nina (for Mina). This is a brilliant film no matter which version you see and, whatever you think of it, it is certainly a milestone in horror cinema. It was re-released in a heavily re-edited version in 1930, with Murnau's work (including unused scenes) 'amended' by Waldemar Ronger, as The Twelfth Hour. This version too has been further butchered and so exists in many versions at many lengths. The film was re-made in 1979 as Nosferatu - The Vampire directed by Werner Herzog but, despite some interesting images of its own, there seemed little point to this as many of the scenes are shot almost frame-for-frame from the original. However, it is still a good version and features Klaus Kinski and Isabelle Adjani. A more off-beat and strange off-shoot is the odd Shadow of the Vampire (2000) dir. E Elias Merhige starring Willem Dafoe as Max Schreck and John Malkovitch as Murnau. The conceit is that Murnau has found a real vampire to act in his film, but the creature is impatient for its rewards.

Freaks (1932) dir. Tod Browning. One year after Dracula Browning made this classic which, in 1994, was selected for the National Film Registry's archive of cinematic treasures but which, at the time of its release, was withdrawn by MGM (effectively banned) for 30 years, which pretty much ended Browning's career. Set in the world of the circus, and attendant sideshows (Browning was himself once a circus contortionist), this is 'suggested by' Tod Robbins' story 'Spurs'. A wealthy midget (Harry Earles) falls for an aerialist (Olga Baclanova). She plans with her strongman lover (Henry Victor) to marry the small man and then poison him to death. The midget's tiny girlfriend (Daisy Earles) can only confide in Frozo the Clown (Wallace Ford) and his girlfriend Venus (Leila Hyams), but they can do nothing to stop the marriage. But when Baclanova puts her plan into operation, the 'freaks' look out for their own, killing the strongman and turning the trapeze artist into a chicken-woman. The use of real freaks was too much for the audiences of the thirties, which is very strange given that one of the points of the film was to confront the prejudice shown to them by 'normals'. Even when we first see the freaks we are charmed by their child-like humanity and the love they show for Madame Petrolini (Rose Dione); and, as the film progresses, it is Baclanova and Victor who are shown to be the real monsters, and the audience's sympathies lie totally with the freaks (no matter how horrible their revenge may be). Thankfully, later audiences, once the film became available, took it to their hearts and it has achieved the status it deserves. In a fine piece of irony, the champions of this film have been punk-rock horror fans, themselves often referred to as freaks by horrified parents and the middle-classes. The band The Ramones particularly adopted the freaks' chant (from the wedding feast scene), "Gabba Gabba, we accept you, we accept you, one of us" as well as performing tracks like 'Pinhead'. At heart this is an EC Comics-style revenge-horror, nearly twenty years before EC came along. There was an exceptionally poor re-make in 1966, She Freak dir. Byron Mabe, which could well be a contender in anyone's 10 Worst horror films.

Night of the Demon (1957) dir. Jacques Tourneur. Also known as Curse of the Demon, this is loosely based on M. R. James' 'Casting the Runes' and is one of the best-loved horror films of the 1950s. Dr Holden (Dana Andrews) is in Britain for a conference 'debunking' the occult. While here he is asked by Joanna (Peggy Cummings) to look into the death of her father (Maurice Denham), a correspondent of Holden's. It seems he fell foul of an occultist, Dr Karswell (Niall MacGinnis in a brilliant performance), who marked him for death by giving him a parchment which summons a demon. After Holden meets Karswell, on the pretext of borrowing a book, events on his estate convince Holden that he has been chosen as the next victim. In a suspensful climax Holden manages to pass the parchment back to Karswell and he becomes the victim of his own malefic spell. The film was slightly marred by the distributor's insistence on the demon's early appearance (it also featured on the poster) but, that caveat aside, this is one of the most enthralling and influential horror film of all time.

Night of the Living Dead (1968) dir. George Romero. The first of Romero's "Dead" films introduces the idea that radiation from a returned space probe brings the dead to life, and seems to give them cannibalistic tendencies also. While that is little enough SF content, that has not stopped people from seeing them as 'invasion' films (zombies instead of aliens), or seen as films about the dehumanizing effects of technology, or any number of other possibilities. Insofar as there is no supernatural element to the re-animation of the dead, all of the above is justified and the viewer can concentrate on the allegorical qualities of the films. In this first film some people take refuge in a farmhouse and are assaulted there. The idea that 'the authorities' still have some control is represented by the bands of armed militias in the countryside, cheerfully shooting zombies in the head. For a more detailed look at this film, its sequels and zombie films in general, I would refer you to the articles 'Zombies Before Romero' and 'Zombies After Romero' on this site. By one measure of success Night of the Living Dead stands out: though it was made for a mere US$114,000 it brought in US$12 million in Worldwide rentals! Far more telling than mere money, however, is the enormous influence this film has had, and continues to have to this day, on zombie films in particular, but also on horror films generally.

The Legend of Hell House (1973) dir. John Hough. Scripted by Richard Matheson based on his novel Hell House (1971). Hell House is the 'Mt.Everest of haunted houses' built by the perverse Emeric Belasco (Michael Gough). An eccentric millionaire hires a team of two mediums (Pamela Franklin and Roddy McDowall) and a physicist and his wife (Clive Revill and Gayle Hunnicutt) to prove the existence of life after death, using the Belasco House as the proving ground. For the physicist it's all about 'mindless' energy, but for the mediums it is 'spirit' that is the key. In the end they are both proved right, after a fashion, when Emeric Belasco's body is discovered inside a Faraday cage. This excellent shocker is one of the best ghost films of all time, to my mind but, in over forty years of watching horror films, I have never found anyone who agrees with me! In other Top 10's it is usually conspicuous by its absence…

The Wicker Man (1973) dir. Robin Hardy. Though butchered on its initial release, this has long since been restored to its full glory. Sargeant Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) of the police goes to Summerisle in the Hebrides to investigate an anonymous tip about a missing girl, Rowan Morrison (Geraldine Cowper). There he finds the locals practising a pagan religion, horrifying him as a Christian, especially in the school of Miss Rose (Diane Cilento). The island's inhabitants, including the registrar (Ingrid Pitt) and even the missing girl's family (Jennifer Martin and Irene Sunters), seem curiously unconcerned about his investigation and offer him little help. This extends to the Lord of the island, Summerisle (Christopher Lee in what he considers his best role - it is!), though a young woman in the inn where Howie is staying, Willow MacGregor (Britt Ekland), is more than friendly, attempting to seduce the uptight Christian policeman. He resists her explicit temptations. Discovering that Rowan was the Harvest Queen the previous year, when the crops failed, he fears that she is to be sacrificed in the celebrations to come. Infiltrating the islanders' ceremony in the costume of a Fool, he finds that Rowan is alive and well and in no danger. It is he, an adult male virgin, come to the island of his own free will, that is to be the sacrifice. At the film's climax he is burned alive in the giant effigy of the title, alongside livestock and crops. Nearly everything about this film is perfect, not least the excellent story and script by Anthony Schaffer, who also wrote Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy (1972) and Joseph L Mankiewicz's Sleuth (also 1972). The Wicker Man was re-made in 2006 dir. Neil LaBute, starring Nicolas Cage. It was awful pointless rubbish. Stick to the excellent original.

Suspiria (1976) dir. Dario Argento. This was planned from the beginning to be the first in a loosely connected trilogy of films about three witches. The first of these is Mater Suspiriorum (the Mother of Sighs), also known as the Black Widow, the unseen Head of a ballet school mostly run by Madame Blanc (Joan Bennett) and Miss Tanner (Alida Valli). New student Suzy Banyon (Jessica Harper) is quickly drawn into paranoia when the other students start to die or go missing, slowly uncovering the existence of a coven of witches. This is an excellent film and one of Argento's few excursions into supernatural territory, as opposed to his usual giallo. The second in the trilogy was Inferno (1980), and featured the second witch, Mater Tenebrarum (the Mother of Darkness), in New York. The film is generally considered a disappointment, but it still has a few noteworthy moments, and so is worth seeing. And then there was a gap of 27 years before the third film was made, Mother of Tears (2007), which features the final witch, Mater Lachrymarum. This last is very good, but is bound to disappoint some after so long a wait.

The Howling (1980) dir. Joe Dante. Taking its name, and not much else, from the novel by Gary Brandner, this is one of the best werewolf films of all time and a horror buff's dream. Many of the characters are named after well-known horror film directors - George Waggner, Terry Fisher, Fred Francis, Erle Kenton, Sam Newfield - Dick Miller's character is named after his role in A Bucket of Blood, there are appearances by the likes of Roger Corman and Forrest J Ackerman, and any background TVs are usually playing something appropriate. Not that it's all jokes; far from it. An American Werewolf in London (1981) plays its material much more for laughs than this does, and while that film has the better soundtrack, this one has the better werewolves (Rob Bottin took over after Rick Baker left to do Landis's film, but Baker does still get a credit). Karen White (Dee Wallace (Stone)) is a reporter who helps to trap serial killer Eddie Quist (Robert Picardo) who is shot dead. After this traumatic incident, on the recommendations of her station manager (Kevin McCarthy) and Dr Waggner (Patrick Macnee), Karen and her husband Bill Neill (Christopher Stone) spend some time in a retreat, a colony set up by the doctor. Karen's colleagues Chris and Terry (Dennis Dugan and Belinda Belaski) follow up on the Eddie Quist story only to find that his body has gone missing from the morgue. Eddie's artistic side leads the reporters to the colony, where Karen's husband is finding comfort with Marsha (Elisabeth Brooks) who turns out to be Eddie's sister! It quickly becomes apparent that the colony is a nest of werewolves (including John Carradine and Slim Pickens); Karen is in danger and Neill has already been turned. When Chris hears Terry being murdered by Eddie (in the film's most powerful scene), he buys silver bullets from Walter Paisley (Dick Miller) and speeds to Karen's rescue but, as they escape, she is bitten. She breaks the story on live TV, changes and is shot by Chris. Sadly this ending is blown when, after so many great werewolves, Wallace turns into a cute Pekingese - apparently the blame can be put on her since she refused to turn into a monster, possibly through a belief that sympathy for the character would be lost if she appeared as horrible as the others. That tiny caveat aside, this is a great film. It’s a pity that the same cannot be said of the numerous sequels. Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf (aka. Stirba - Werewolf Bitch) (1986) dir. Philippe Mora stars Christopher Lee and Sybil Danning and is chiefly only watchable for Danning's breasts (sorry, but it's true) and Babel's great song. Howling III: The Marsupials (1987) dir. Mora is utter rubbish; Howling IV: The Original Nightmare (1988) dir. John Hough is even worse - in both cases this would seem to be due to the greater involvement of Gary Brandner! Howling V: The Rebirth (1989) dir. Neal Sundström is pretty much a replay of The Beast Must Die (1974, dir. Paul Annett); Howling VI: The Freaks (1990) dir. Hope Perello is the best of all the sequels, and easily the most watchable. The Howling: New Moon Rising (aka. Howling VII: Mystery Woman) (1994) dir. Clive Turner and Roger Nall is an appalling piece of vanity filmmaking, largely for the benefit of Turner's ego. Given the nature of these serial films, so popular from the 80s onward, the variable quality hardly comes as a surprise.

The Evil Dead (1982) dir. Sam Raimi. This low-budget (US$90,000) film was one of the more inventive offerings of the early-80s and launched the careers of director Raimi and star Bruce Campbell. It is also one of the many films cited in the video nasty debate which, considering the Monty Pythonesque and plasticine special effects, is nothing short of amazing. Five students go on a holiday to a deserted cabin in the woods. They discover a weird old book and some tape recordings; when played these conjure up evil spirits and give them leave to possess the living. Ellen Sandweiss is the first to go, after being raped by a vine in the woods, she mutates and is locked in the cellar. Campbell and Hal Delrich then have to chop up Sarah York after her transformation, dismemberment being the only way to stop the possessed. To cut a long (and pleasingly dumb) story short, by the end of the film Campbell is the only one left, having decapitated his girlfriend, Betsy Baker, and it looks like he's in for it. Which didn't stop him coming back for the sequel/remake, Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn (1987), an even more comedy-oriented affair. Sarah Berry turns up as the daughter of the archaeologist who made the original tape recordings, along with more cannon-fodder for the 'deadites'. By the end of this film, Campbell has had to cut off his own hand and replaces it with a strapped on chainsaw instead! Then he falls through a 'time-hole' for the concluding part of the trilogy, Evil Dead III: Army of Darkness aka. Army of Darkness: The Medieval Dead (1992). After battling 12th-century deadites, this film has two endings for Campbell: one in which he returns to the present for a supermarket shoot-out (boring), or one which would have left the way open for a further sequel in which he ends up in a post-apocalyptic future. This is the weakest of the three films, and the original, warts 'n' all, is still the best, providing a masterclass in how to do a hell of a lot with very little money and resources.

Sleepy Hollow (1999) dir. Tim Burton. Loosely based on Washington Irving's story. Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) is sent to Sleepy Hollow by a vindictive judge (Christopher Lee) to investigate a number of beheadings. Once on the scene he is told that the killings are being done by the headless spectre of a Hessian Horseman (Christopher Walken). Ichabod's attraction to Katrina Van Tassel (Christina Ricci) also gets him unwanted attention from her former suitor (Casper van Dien). It turns out that the horseman is under the control of the wicked stepmother (Miranda Richardson), wife of Katrina's father (Michael Gambon), and is being used to secure an inheritance. With a brilliant cast and stunning set-piece decapitations, not to mention great sets, a great script and a wonderful director, this is very nearly the perfect horror film - light enough to enjoy its own humour, but dark enough not to be a mere fantasy. This is essential viewing for the horror fan.

 

Coming up with a 'ten worst' was surprisingly difficult for me. As with the worst 10 SF films, I am unwilling to condemn a film just because it has poor production values (so long as there is a clear intent to make a good film), or because critics and the like would prefer to condemn any film that relies on sex and gore (why? Who are we supposed to be being respectable for? An audience that has no interest in seeing these films in the first place?). I would rather put down a film which promised much and delivered little, or one which was poor in its execution, despite the advantages of a good budget (or good cast, or good director). In other words, it's the 'disappointment value' of a film which makes it one of the worst for me. But I have to say that even I was surprised when I came up with the final list of ten worst films - I really hadn't been paying any attention to when they came out, anymore than I had for the ten best, but where the best were spread across the century, the worst confined themselves to the last two decades of that century! Oh well… Here, then, are the films I think the World could do without:-

Ghost Story (1981) dir. John Irvin. Based on Peter Straub's excellent 1979 novel, this film fails to deliver on even a fraction of the chills, despite some inspired casting. The Chowder Society, a group of old men (Fred Astaire, John Houseman, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks jr) who tell each other ghost stories, are haunted by the ghost of a girl (Alice Krige) they all courted in their youth and accidentally drowned. Unfortunately that's about all that scriptwriter Lawrence D Cohen could get from the book which, though it would certainly have had to be simplified for the screen, is a crying shame. This should be about an eruption of horror and the repressed sexuality of a former age, but what little atmosphere there is is barely sufficient for a TV movie and falls well short of expectations.

Something Wicked This Way Comes (1982) dir. Jack Clayton. Based on the 1963 novel by Ray Bradbury, itself expanded from his earlier short story 'The Black Ferris'. Two boys (Vidal Peterson and Shawn Carson) are initially excited when the Pandemonium Carneval comes to town, but they swiftly fall foul of the enigmatic Mr Dark (Jonathan Price) and realise that the show is stealing the souls of the locals. Luckily one of the boys' fathers, a librarian (Jason Robards) is on hand to help out. Though scripted by Bradbury, it seems he is no better at adapting himself than other writers have been. Despite decades of interest from many parties, this ended up being made by Disney and, unfortunately, leans more in the direction of fantasy than horror.

Teen Wolf (1985) dir. Rod Daniel. This is an appalling teen horror comedy, one of many from the mid-eighties, and greatly inferior to Larry Cohen's Full Moon High (and even, some would suggest, inferior to I Was a Teenage Werewolf). Michael J. Fox is the teen who learns about his lycanthropic curse from his father, James Hampton, just in time to become good at basketball, break-dance and become the most popular boy in school. Nonetheless this film did inspire a cartoon series spin-off, as well as a sequel, Teen Wolf Too (1987) dir. Christopher Lietch, in which Jason Bateman is Fox’s cousin and is similarly afflicted.

Underworld (1985) dir. George Pavlou. Aka. Transmutations, this oddity is based on a Clive Barker story about a drug that lets its users experience fantasies, but which also mutates them. The mutants kidnap a hooker and hold her to ransom for more of the drug, but the chemist/gangster who originated it decides to kill everybody off. This features Denholm Elliott, Roy Bain and Hugo Motherskille, but is of little interest, but for the fact that this is the first time Barker's work was adapted for the big screen. My own hastily jotted note says: Crap can be charming, but sometimes crap is just crap!

The Lost Boys (1987) dir. Joel Schumacher. In a cruel twist of fate, this rather poor film completely overshadowed a much better vampire picture, Near Dark dir. Kathryn Bigelow, released at roughly the same time. Jason Patric moves to Santa Clara with his mother Dianne Wiest and kid brother Corey Haim. He falls in with a bad crowd, vampires, including Kiefer Sutherland, Alex Winter and Jami Gertz, but his brother hooks up with vampire-hunting comic book store dudes Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander. Meanwhile mom is falling for Edward Herrmann. Surprise surprise, he is the head vampire, whaddaya know. This piece of rubbish could only appeal to MTV teens since only they would have the lack of an attention span necessary to bother with the style-over-substance plot. The film enjoys a good, but undeserved, reputation. Personally, I have never seen a good Joel Schumacher film, and I have no idea why anyone ever bothers with the man!

Werewolf (1987) dir. David Hemmings. This was the pilot for a short-lived TV series (27 half-hour episodes 1987-8). Eric Cord (John York) is bitten by a werewolf and must track down and kill the progenitor of the bloodline, Janos Skorzeny (Chuck Connors) - also the name of the vampire in Kolchak the Night Stalker - in order to end his curse. At the same time, both of them are being stalked by a 'bounty hunter', Alamo Joe Rogan (Lance LeGault). This plods along until the climax which features a fight between the two lycanthropes, and the best that can be said about it is that at least they got Rick Baker in to make the beasts.

Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) dir. Francis Ford Coppola. This has been hailed as a classic and condemned as a stinker in equal measure, with the latter view holding out over all. It is not that Gary Oldman is bad as the Count – heis quite good – and it's not the campy performance of Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing, though that's certainly irritating; it is not even that Keanu Reeves is woefully miscast as Harker, or that Winona Ryder is equally poorly miscast as Mina; it is not even that Tom Waits is one of the worst Renfields ever. Nor is it the effects, which are quite good, nor is it a poor adaptation, notwithstanding that it does take some liberties. The real problem is that at no point does it actually deliver on its promise. This was to have been the definitive Dracula, absolutely faithful to the novel, with a dream cast and director, etc. In fact, it's barely competent; Coppola can't seem to forget for one moment that he is The Director, so he ends up playing stupid games with film at the expense of the story. With the poster's tagline reading "Love Never Dies" it is perhaps unsurprising that Coppola thinks he's making an epic romance picture, but he completely forgets that Dracula is a horror character. Consequently, even when the Count changes into some weirdo werewolf being, the film never engages with the audience's fear. This was a shameful waste of a big budget.

Wolf (1994) dir. Mike Nichols. What prompted the choice of Nichols as director is a mystery - this is just not his kind of film - and the two hour long, US$70 million budgeted film quite rightly flopped. This is awful. Publishing executive Will Randall (Jack Nicholson) is bitten by a wolf, and so begins his transformation. He loses his job when Raymond Alden (Christopher Plummer) takes over the company, and loses his wife, Charlotte (Kate Nelligan), to the yuppie Stewart Swinton (James Spader) who gets his old job. Randall falls for Alden's daughter Laura (Michelle Pfeiffer), but when Swinton also gets hairy, there is a showdown. To be avoided at all costs.

I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) dir. Jim Gillespie. Julie James (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and Ray Branson (Freddie Prinze jr) and a couple of friends (Sarah Michelle Geller and Ryan Phillippe) accidentally run over a fisherman and cover up the crime. But he is not dead and comes back for revenge with his t-rusty boathook. This inane teen cannon-fodder movie, made in the wake of the success of Scream (1996), is appalling and you'll want all the teenagers dead, preferably as quickly as possible. Sadly you'll not get your wish as the film suffers from that late-twentieth century disease, trilogy-itis. I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998) dir. Danny Cannon brings back Hewitt and Prinze along with more cannon-fodder for more of the same. Any hope that there wouldn't be any more of this crap was dashed in 2006 with Sylvain White's I’ll Always KWYDLS with Brooke Nevin and David Paetkau. The fact is that You'll Never Care What Any of These Morons Did Ever. This was unmercifully parodied in the first Scary Movie (2000). Quite right too.

The Blair Witch Project (1999) dir. Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez. This was a surprise hit at the end of the century, proving once again that studios, big budgets and special effects can be outcompeted by inventiveness and originality. This is about as independent and low-budget as you can get, with the whole thing filmed on camcorders by the three leads (Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael Williams) while they are scared to death by their directors. The plot has a bunch of students on the trail of a local witch legend, finding more than they bargained for. Sadly this film is also a triumph of hype over substance but, of course, where there's a buck to be made, there's a sequel. Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000) was directed by Joe Berlinger and has a further bunch of students on the trail of the first three. The new lot lose five hours of their lives and awake covered in strange markings. Both these pieces of crap are recommended to insomniacs; they are so dreary.

 

Of course, there's much more. Urban Legend (1998) dir. Jamie Blanks and its two sequels fall into the same category of rubbish as I Know What You Did… There's absolutely nothing wrong with this type of film, but if you're going to do it, do it well! And, perhaps we really are into my personal likes and dislikes now, but I would be inclined to add into the 'worst' category nearly every English-language remake of a foreign film if the only reason for making them is to pander to the laziness and stupidity of anglophone audiences. A slightly different class of 'worst' would be remakes of good films in general, though I accept here that the poor filmmakers are in the position of "damned if you do, damned if you don't" – by which I mean, if they're faithful to the original (in some cases so faithful that it is scene-for-scene and frame-for-frame) then what on Earth was the point of doing it at all? And if they change something, beyond a general updating, then they're condemned as unfaithful to the material. It seems you can't win (so stop bloody doing it!). Did the world really need remakes of, say, Psycho, The Omen or The Wicker Man?

As a final note on idiosyncrasy, I leave you with a quote taken from Ghastly Beyond Belief (1985) by Neil Gaiman and Kim Newman, attributed to Stephen King, which speaks to my own love of a 'bad' movie: "If you love horror movies, you've got to have a love of pure shit. You turn into the kind of person who would watch Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957) four times. You know how shitty it is, but there's something that appeals to you. It doesn't mean you don't want to do better."

Tony Chester is one of the Science Fact & Science Fiction Concatenation's founding co-editors.


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