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  • Our Favourite Horror Movies

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    Posted on: 31/10/2014

    While our American counterparts beat the concrete trick or treating and throw debaucherous dress-up parties, for a long time the best way to enjoy Halloween in Australia has been to hibernate with your favourite horror movies.

    In honour of this awesome celebration, we asked around ACMI to see what films our staff bunker down with on All Hallow’s Eve.

    Let the Right One In / Låt den rätte komma in (Dir: Tomas Alfredson, Sweden, 2008)

    Let the Right One In is not your typical run-of-the-mill vampire film, it could almost be described as a displaced love-story. What makes the film interesting is the relationship between the film’s two young actors, which is quite touching and rare when you consider how horror tropes generally play out. It deals with ‘otherness’ almost delicately, the vampire theme is secondary.

    Let the Right One In is set in Stockholm and perhaps unsurprisingly, it snows a lot. The film is imbued with a muted colour palette which lends itself to the hauntingly bleak northern European weather. Incidentally, it was dark and threatening to rain the day I went to watch it.

    This might have been just before the glut of Nordic dramas that crashed television and film screens the world over (at least back then I wasn’t so familiar with the grey skies of Sweden, Denmark and Norway). I actually remember Let the Right One In as a beautiful film with a warm core, out-of-character with most other films of its genre, and in stark contrast to its location and at times dark and tragic themes.

    - Chris Sullivan, Digital Producer

     

    Night of the Living Dead (Dir: George A. Romero, USA, 1968)


    Night of the Living Dead on VHS. That golden period in the '80s of "video nasties" as they were tagged by the British tabloids introduced me to the likes of Blood Sucking Freaks (1976), Driller Killer (1979) and I Spit on Your Grave (1978). Much to the chagrin of the moral majority, rather than turning me into a depraved pervert, any of my friends can vouch that I have become a fine, upstanding citizen. Just ask them…

    The reason I mentioned these fine examples of cinema is to point out that I was pretty much game for anything. When my brother and I wacked in the VHS of George Romero’s now much-lauded classic, I wasn’t expecting much from a film made in 1968, and black and white, no less! Which is part of the film’s brilliance and lasting impact. What Night of the Living Dead does so effectively is completely subvert and destroy any notion you hold dear about horror and the world around you. Suddenly once-safe movie ideals like the bond of family or the virtue of heroism were all fair game. Let’s just say it totally freaked my brother and I out. It’s a big call but the final images that play over the end credits are some of the most haunting moments committed to celluloid.

    - Spiro Economopoulos, Film Programmer

     

    It (Dir: Tommy Lee Wallace, USA, 1990)


    The root cause of Generation X’s collective fear of clowns, the 1990 miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s novel still affects me irrationally to this day. When I was entirely too young, my sister and I had a friend with alarmingly permissive parents who let us stay up late to watch Tim Curry as Satan Incarnate Pennywise carve this particular childhood trauma into my psyche. These days, I won’t exactly sob and cower when confronted by a clown, but I will locate the nearest tall person and surreptitiously position them between myself and said clown.

     

    The Blair Witch Project (Dir: Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sánchez, USA, 1999)


    I distinctly remember David Stratton express his disdain for The Blair Witch Project’s shaky first-person camera way back in 1999. The film was a harbinger for the digicam aesthetic that became more common throughout the noughties. I did start to feel nauseous at certain points, but all great horror provokes a visceral gut-churning reaction, right? I have to admit spending most of the film examining the palms of my hands at close range though.

     

    Cabin in the Woods (Dir: Drew Goddard, USA, 2012)


    Cabin in the Woods
    is the geek connoisseur’s horror film. Written and co-produced by Joss Whedon – ‘nuff said. What looks like teen horror at the start takes a delightfully Whedonesque turn by the third Act. Much was said about the film’s meta-approach to the genre telegraphing a re-boot horror. Full of pop-culture references and it’s very own (moribund) Scooby Gang, it brought back memories of Buffy, so I was happy.

    - Justin Ong, Web Team

     

    Alien (Dir: Ridley Scott, USA, 1979). 

    When I first saw this film, I was far too young to be watching it but I watched it anyway. And, of course, its big WTF moment scared the living bejesus out of me. I mean, WTF?! In space, no one can hear you scream, but one night in the '80s in middle-suburban Melbourne, everyone heard me scream. 

     

    28 Days Later (Dir: Danny Boyle, USA, 2002) / 28 Weeks Later (Dir: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, USA, 2007)

    From Cillian Murphy’s wanderings through a deserted London to Robert Carlyle’s transformation from normal dude to mega-angry killer zombie (think Begbie to the power of 1,000), the 28… films are post-apocalyptic visions filled with supremely horrifying moments. Forget Ebola, you’d better hope we don’t come down with the mother-fucking Rage, otherwise we might all have to face the ultimate ‘What would you do’ scenario: 

     

    Candyman (Dir: Bernard Rose, USA, 1992)

    I like to think of myself as a mature adult, but say "Candyman" in front of the mirror four times while I’m around and I turn into a blithering mess. Legend has it, you see, that if you say his name five times, Candyman - who has a bloody hook for a hand - will appear and pretty much slice and dice you. This film wins points on many fronts – roots in a Clive Barker short story, an urban legend, a beautifully creepy score by Philip Glass and bees. 

    Honourable mentions: The Blair Witch Project (thanks for ruining the great outdoors for me, you fuckers), The Ring (my TV is my best friend, it CANNOT be used for evil) and The Shining (particularly The Simpsons' version). 

    - Su-Ann Williamson, Marketing Coordinator

     

    Halloween (Dir. John Carpenter, USA, 1979) 

    Call me unimaginative, but Halloween was a game-changer for horror that ushered in the blood-soaked '80s and cleaved the way for Jason Voorhees and Freddy Kruger. From the dreadful tinkling of director John Carpenter’s score to the eerie distance Carpenter framed Michael Myers in, Halloween not only birthed an iconic psychopath, it slashed open cinema and burst forth the slasher genre. Halloween At A Distance Preview1

    Part of its beauty is its simplicity – an escaped mental patient stalks babysitters on Halloween. Ostensibly, Michael Myers is looking for his sister, Laurie Strode, played by Jamie Lee Curtis in her breakout role, but who really cares? Though Hitchcock started it in Psycho (1960), Carpenter put shots from the killer’s POV into the mainstream and also provided the prototype for the silent psycho you can’t reason with or trust to stay dead.

     - Matt Millikan, ACMI Web Team

     

    The Blob (Dir: Irvin Yeaworth, USA, 1958)

    It may not be my favourite horror film, but it’s one of my favourite horror film memories. So, the 1958 version of The Blob has a special place for me.

    I remember around 1973 going with my sister to the local picture house – the Bondi Junction Star Theatre where it was screening with The Son of Blob (aka Beware! The Blob in 1972). I was 11 (but felt older) and she was 12 and the double bill cost 99 cents. The Bondi Star was an enormous 2,000+ seat art deco cinema, dress circle, stalls, club lounges, dim lights, plush carpet – the real thing. But it was in its twilight and so was trying all kinds of tricks to get the kids in – and the 1973 trick was to call itself the Hoyts Horror House.

    So with 99 cents jingling in our jeans, off we went for our first big-screen horror experience. Ready for anything, my sister and I perched ourselves at the front of the dress circle. You can see the very seats in the photograph of the theatre.

    At the front of the stage there was a coffin. I’d never seen a real coffin before. Spooky!

    In the dress circle the foyer lights were low and there was some fantastically realistic (and very large) wax dummies of The Wolfman, The Mummy, Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster, arms outstretched at patrons very scarily. I think there might even have been some creepy swampy/batty/creaky/owly sound effects being pumped into the foyer. The matinee was pretty quiet though and my sister and I seemed the only ones in the huge theatre.

    We got through the first picture fairly well – how can you not enjoy Steve McQueen playing a goofy teenager in The Blob? I actually enjoyed this film very recently with my 9-year-old son – who found it quite curious but went right along with it despite its wonderfully weird 50s drive-in special effects. I forgot how fantastic the opening credits are.


    It was during The Son of Blob though that things started to unravel for my sister and I.

    About a third of the way into the picture, my sister said, “feel my hand”. She put it in mine and was shaking uncontrollably. She was scared out of her mind. Even back then I found that mildly amusing but I wasn’t exactly feeling secure. A short time later though I felt the call of nature and had to make my way to the lonesome toilet. “Don’t be long,” my sister pleaded as I left her alone.

    What a walk that was! I reached the completely deserted upstairs foyer only to be confronted by the huge leering wax figures of those infamous movie monsters, with the corridor to the toilet seeming like a tunnel leading straight to Hell.

    That was it. I couldn’t move. It was way, way too scary and I was way, way too alone. I was really freaked out. I think I stood frozen to the spot for a while during which time I had to weigh up whether I could make it to the toilet, what might the result be if I held on and which monster would grab me first.

    It was all I could do to creep back to my seat in a backwards fashion lest the hideous creatures notice me. It was about that time I started to wish I hadn’t had that second Passiona.

    Suffice to say I didn’t enjoy The Son of Blob that much.

    - Richard Sowada, Head of Film Programs

    What are your favourite horror films?

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