The Cutprice Guignol

The Ninth Year: The Haunting of Swill House

Tag: horror

Movie Marathon #3: A Nightmare on Elm Street

I like classic horror movies. I like movies starring Johnny Depp before he only played one character. I like Robert Englund running around with a spiky glove of death terrorizing sexy youths while they sleep.

No, I’m not suddenly going to turn around and admit to hating another seminal film-I love Nightmare on Elm Street. It’s absolutely, utterly, wonderfully absurd; one of the first movies to employ properly hilarious and creative methods of violent death, in the form of the supernatural kiddie fiddler Freddie Krueger.

The first of the Big Three of Horror I’ll be reviewing over the next thirty days (Halloween, Friday the 13th and Elm Street), Wes Craven’s creepy little horror comes up it around a bit, threw in a pointlessly alcoholic mother, some soft-core sex scenes, and tried to work out what they couagainst one major barrier; the film itself is pretty awful. Now, shut up and let me explain; Wes Craven is a cracking director, and his skill at shooting a gorgeous, claustrophobic chiller is evident even in this, which was one of his earliest movies. But Christ.

It’s clear from the complete lack of skilled actors that the budget went on making this a gory, scary slasher; the idea behind it is fantastic, and the film pretty much relies on the strength of the concept and Englund’s cackle (“DON’T RUN IN THE HELL-WAYS!”). The rest of the acting is pretty shockingly terrible; I know time makes fools of us all, but Elm Street looks beyond dated; it looks like someone took dated, then bashed it wround a bit, threw in an alcoholic mother, some soft-core sex scenes and then worked out what would stick to the wall with a litre of pigs blood. The writing revels in the limitations of the youthful, glassy-eyed leads, and Wes never forgets what he’s trying to do: create a new, violent, scary but ultimately entertaining movie. He’s working from his weird, pretty unmarketable idea in a genre that wasn’t really respected at the time-the peripheries, such as acting, script, characterization, etc, weren’t as important or fun as drowning Johnny Depp in a backwards waterfall of blood. All hail Wes.

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Spectacle: 7
Acting: 5
Script: 6
Entertainment Value: 9
Influence: 9

A Dinner Party with Rob Zombie

I have a long-standing and constantly evolving list of fantasy dinner party guests. There are the obvious ones-Stephen Fry, Sandi Toksvig, Sue Perkins-and there are the pretty ones-Leigh Whannel, Shiloh Fernandez, Christopher Ecclestone (swoon)-and then there are the ones whose brains I’d take great pleasure in picking. These vary from day-to-day (the only constant is Stephen King) but one definite introduction to the table is Rob Zombie.

I know shag all about his music-don’t care, don’t want to-but his films are a different kettle of giblets. He directed the pointless but very good Halloween remake, as well as the House of 1000 Corpses/The Devil’s Rejects duo and his recent release Lords of Salem. Now, House of 1000 Corpses is a film which I can understand issue with-hardcore mega-schlock bordering on jet-black humour is a difficult one to sell, but I loved it (for anyone who has seen it-“BEHOLD! FISH-BOY!”). The balls-to-the-wall energy of Sheri-Moon Zombie, Bill Moseley, and Sid Haig sold it as the Chainsaw-Massacre-y Firefly family, and the greasy, sweaty aesthetic makes your toes curl. Then The Devil’s Rejects happened.

The Devil’s Rejects is one of my all-time top ten movies. It’s a gleeful subscription to every eighties exploitation flick you’ve ever seen and then some, carrying on the story of the brutal Firefly clan and their escape from the enroaching cops. It’s part road movie, part superviolent slasher, part police procedural, part revenge movie, with dialogue so sharp you could hunt deer with it and the sort of visuals Tarantino would piss himself for. The ending, too- no spoilers here, but suffice to say the ending flips the whole damn thing on it’s head and remains to this day one of the most kick-arse shootouts in movie history. Not for the faint-hearted but for those with sturdier cardiovascular systems it’s a riot.

I really loved Lords of Salem too, though I won’t say too much about it here-a much weightier role for the deliciously  husky Sheri-Moon Zombie (Rob’s wife, by the way) but retaining the feeling of having dirt under your fingernails for the whole running time. I have watched every bloody, horrendous, twisted horror movie under the sun (well, the moon) and I can safely say that some scenes in Lords really got under my skin, and so I’d recommend it if only for that.

But what I adore about him most is that he represents a resurgence of dedicated horror film directors. No, not like Eli Roth, who desperately grabs at whatever bandwagon may be trundling by, or James Wan, who (Saw excluded) grabs at whatever bandwagon was trundling by in 1982, but people like Darren Lynn Bousman who nudge the boundaries of horror to test what we can do with the genre. We had a spate of them in the 70s and 80s- John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Sean S. Cunningham- and that set the tone for decades of slashers to come. Zombie is, along with a few other directors, making the films he wants to see, and the audience can either get on board or fuck the hell off. Will he start a horror revolution? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a damn good time of it keeping up with him while he tries.