Andy is a contributing writer, occasional interviewer, surrogate Schnaars, and co-host of the Sophisticult podcast. He might not be as funny as Joe, rich as Jon, strong as Casey, adorable as Mark, or surly as Eric, but damn does he give great hugs.
The stylistic aping of 70s and 80s horror has become just as much a genre staple as possession films and found footage. More so prominent in so-called “indie” horror (or the more terribly termed “mumble-gore”) you’re now likely to encounter a pleasantly orchestrated synth soundtrack or the possible appearance of wood paneling that reminds you of getting real messed up on Mountain Dew and playing Nintendo Track & Field with your pals until 6:00 AM. Though you just used your hands instead of actually running in place because why wouldn’t you?
For much of Brian De Palma’s ten-year run from Sisters to Scarface he was positioned as the exemplar Hitchcock acolyte. Championed by Pauline Kael and rigorously appreciated by Robin Wood this run of nine films (plus or minus) has the reputation of some sort of magical constellation of New Hollywood technique, narrative pastiche, and “classical” film appreciation. Trading in improvisational comedy, raw suspense, sexual awakenings, criminality, and slashers, De Palma’s work was something to incense or inspire admiration.
The chameleon tones of John McNaughton’s films are the stuff of cult-moviemaking in progress. From his first feature debut, the incredible Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, to his comedic efforts, Mad Dog and Glory and Speaking of Sex, to the Holy Grail of late night movie rentals you hope your parents never watched with you. That’s right, Wild Things. At best McNaughton’s tones and diverse genre record draw comparisons to Paul Verhoeven.
First, there was Scream. Kevin Williamson’s brand of self-aware, pop culture savvy teens quickly found itself replicated or intimidated to varying effect. Suddenly posters featuring brooding, pursed-mouthed pretty people stared at passers-by while a splash graphic of an obscured slasher figure filled the background. It’s the sort of trend that got tiresome within a few years as it became apparent the resurgence of slasher films couldn’t hold a candle to Scream’s fun and complexity.
Unlike the vampire and zombie genres of the new millennium the werewolf film hasn’t had an entry that stands as a true genre revolutionary since, arguably, An American Werewolf in London. There’s no Let the Right One In or 28 Days Later for the werewolf. Instead the character seems to appear in one of three persistent forms, as genre window dressing in an already fantastic atmosphere populated with vampires, as an antagonist with a hidden identity, or as a sort of amateur detective resembling a grimmer Peter Parker.
There is a joke in Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno that relies on the audience’s familiarity with one of the possible side effects of smoking pot. Now being of the horror-loving sort around the BGH offices we’ve seen our fair share of slack-jawed, lovable burnouts that often stand in as a sort of audience surrogate. But pot jokes and cannibal films each have steep points of entry. Even if you are aware of what the iconographies of these things are there’s not much inherent in them that will convince uninterested parties to appreciate the delicacies of graphic rending and blunts.
The year was 1993. A pale, chubby, awkward, nerdy boy with nary a whisker in sight was visiting the Universal Studios Orlando Resort with his family. While there said boy witnessed none other than “Ghostbusters Live” and traveled down a dinosaur’s gullet in the “Back to the Future” ride, both of which that now bearded still awkward man remembers clearly. But the pièce de résistance was a Horror themed makeup show in which two hosts vying for Penn and Teller level displays of misdirection and illusion demonstrated a variety of special effect techniques.
Videodrome is one of the best critiques of cat videos before cat videos were a thing. In David Cronenberg's follow-up to “Scanners” the writer and director solidified his cinematic voice addressing similar themes with a breadth of scale and a visionary perception of the place of new technologies in the public and private. Where in his previous feature a climatic sequence represented some sort of proto-internet telepath hack, Videodrome takes for its very focus the intrusion of malicious programming in domestic spaces and a collective consciousness.
Eclipsed by countless cultural references to a certain erupting cranium, Scanners seems to have transformed from movie into punch line. With a plot that’s part 1970s conspiracy theory, man-on-the-run flick and part new age pseudo-science exploration it’s possible to think Scanners might have been forgotten to a soup of generic ripoffs, carbon copies, and pastiches. But David Cronenberg’s follow up to “The Brood” gives us our first clear indication of the social scale Cronenberg begins to tackle as a filmmaker.