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June 17, 2011

Horror is everywhere (3) - '80s Horror Month Edition (Guest Post by Andreas of Pussy Goes Grrr)

(Note from The Mike: Our last guest host this week is Andreas, an excellent young film fan who covers all genres - and does so quite well - over at Pussy Goes Grrr. Andreas decided to use '80s Horror Month as a chance to continue his "Horror is everywhere" series from his site, and I'm excited to have him on board.  Check out his thoughts below, and head on over for more from Andreas!)

Last October, I wrote a couple of posts over at Pussy Goes Grrr about how "horror is everywhere." As I'm sure you Midnight Warriors know, some "serious" cinephiles look askance at horror, as if it's the ugly cousin of the movie world. These so-called film lovers will embrace Luis Buñuel or Michael Haneke, then act like slasher movies are beneath them.

Well, we know better. Those great, depressing art films and those great, disturbing horror films share common DNA that goes beyond artificial barriers of genre or high vs. low culture. Art and horror filmmakers have bounced off one another throughout history, building on each other's ideas and techniques. They engage the same themes: fear, mortality, the problem of evil.

To prove my point (and stay relevant to 1980s Horror Month), here are five highly respected, acclaimed classics of the '80s that aren't exactly horror movies per se, but aren't nearly as far removed from Friday the 13th or The Fly as some authorities would have you believe...

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Steven Spielberg is no stranger to the horror genre. The guy made Duel and Jaws, for chrissakes. But even when he journeys into prestige territory, whether with a sobering period piece like Schindler's List or with crowd-pleasing schmaltz like E.T., he brings that scary background with him. Raiders may be a nostalgic, imperialist adventure yarn, but that doesn't mean it lacks for horror. Yes, we've got Indy's "Why'd it have to be snakes" moment, but how about that gross-out climax? Those melting Nazis are a straight shot of splattery goodness. Tom Savini would be proud.

The King of Comedy (1983)
Although it's ostensibly a black comedy, watching The King of Comedy was one of the most traumatic experiences I've ever had with a movie. Robert De Niro's Rupert Pupkin is so painfully awkward and maladjusted that it's difficult to even watch him cross the screen. Furthermore, the film is basically Fatal Attraction if you replaced Glenn Close with Sandra Bernhard. You'd be hard-pressed to find a pair of stalkers more delusional and obsessive than this not-quite-horror film's main characters, as they track, kidnap, and fawn over a big-shot TV host played by Jerry Lewis.

Blood Simple (1984)
Horror really is everywhere in the Coen Brothers filmography, from their friendship with Sam Raimi to the recurrence of horror motifs in everything from Barton Fink to No Country for Old Men. Their debut feature Blood Simple is, on the surface, a James M. Cain-influenced neo-noir set amidst the boiling Texas heat. But after one double-cross leads to another, bodies start piling up, and we reach a grisly conclusion in which sleazy private eye Loren Visser (M. Emmet Walsh) gets his hand nailed to a window sill with a knife. It's nightmarish imagery worthy of the best '80s horror—from two guys who, by now, have a Palme d'Or and a Best Director Oscar under their belts.

Ran (1985)
Shakespeare's King Lear is already a pretty bloody play, but Kurosawa decided to amp up the violence and apocalyptic gloom for his film adaptation. Ran's post-battle sequences frequently look like the aftermath of a joint Freddy/Jason killing spree, with blood splattered like paint across one splayed-out corpse after another. The film has its own monster in the form of Lady Kaede, an icy puppetmaster who gets all of her family's enemies to engineer their own gruesome destructions. Few films of the 1980s are as expressionistically nihilistic or as full of pointless death as Ran.

Blue Velvet (1986)
David Lynch is typically pegged as a surrealist filmmaker, translating dark dreams into weird, confusing art. But let's face it: he makes horror movies. From Eraserhead's how-did-he-do-it monster baby to Mulholland Drive's Man Behind the Dumpster, he's forged some of the ickiest, most horrific movie moments this side of Cronenberg (the other creepy David). His Blue Velvet is one of the best and scariest movies of the '80s, and stars Dennis Hopper as a foul-mouthed gangster so unapologetically sadistic he'd make Pinhead blanch. Between scenes of fellatio at knifepoint, Blue Velvet even manages to pervert the legacies of Bobby Vinton and Roy Orbison. That is horror.

5 comments:

Syrin said...

Great theme and choices!

I sort of found out these things myself over the last couple years. I used to think I didn't care for horror films at all, but once I started to watch horror movies, I started to realize just how many movies I had already seen with horror elements. It's also a large part of why I chose the theme for my guest post earlier this week - Horror really is everywhere!

bloodler said...

awesome ill be checking out blue velvet. it looks nuts

Marvin the Macabre said...

Glad you mentioned E.T. As a kid, what could be scarier than you and your best friend being on the verge of dying while faceless government agents manhandle you through yards of plastic tunnels?

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

"Horror is everywhere" is a fantastic theme! And so true, too! It makes so much sense that the more artsy film directors would borrow a lot from Horror, the only genre which is consistent in exploring the universal themes of morality, tragedy, and even religion. Yes, more consistent than even "art films."

It has been a while since I've seen Raiders of the Lost Ark, so I thought that first screencap was from Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. Some age-appropriate Horror for kids that ties into Syrin's guest post! ;-)

The Mike said...

Thanks much, Andreas! This is a fine list (except that I haven't seen Ran, sadly). That Raiders scene has always repulsed me, and - as I said on your site - I dig the Blue Velvet and Blood Simple stuff.

Great stuff!