It’s rare that a film from the early 1980s is remembered fondly as a genuinely scary and artistically satisfying piece of horror history; most of what we remember from the 1980s is marred by cheesy lines or effects, and the clothing or music immediately pull us out of the story. That’s one of the reasons why “The Changeling” is such a pleasure to revisit.
Some horror filmmakers are lovers of the medium who desire nothing more than to simply share a tense psychological moment with an audience, to do whatever outrageous surprise necessary to elicit that prized reaction, the scream, from the people who have rewarded their films with their hard-earned money. One such driven filmmaker was gimmick king William Castle.
More often than not, the subject of a horror film will tap into some outlandish, otherworldly, or supernatural elements, eschewing the fears of the real world for the more heightened terror of fantasy. There are the rare occasions (and rare filmmakers) who are resolutely planted in the world of real-life horror, frightening stories that may not have happened, but certainly could. Director David Cronenberg is the reigning king of this type of film.
In the realm of Italian filmmaking, there are generally three big names that come up again and again in conversations about innovation, style, and universal appeal: Dario Argento, Mario Bava, and Lucio Fulci. Argento is still alive and making films, and Bava had a very successful career as a cinematographer before coming into his own as a visual director. But it is the staggering variety (and prolific career) of Lucio Fulci that is the focus of this week’s column.
It’s rare that a male filmmaker, working in a genre known for its unenlightened views of the female experience, would build an entire resume of films that were mature and thoughtful observations of the horror genre from a woman’s perspective. In celebration of his upcoming film release “All Cheerleaders Die,” this week’s article covers the career of filmmaker Lucky McKee.
Because literature and filmmaking are different disciplines that utilize different skills in order to create fear and dread in audiences, it is rare that a skilled artisan from one field can effectively transition into the other (anyone remember Stephen King’s directing on “Maximum Overdrive”). A rare exception to the case is that of novelist/screenwriter/director Clive Barker.
Making horror is challenging; making comedy is difficult. Making horror-comedy is an unenviable task. So many things can go wrong, because the balance is so delicate that the entire filmic house of cards can collapse in on itself with the slightest misstep. Occasionally, filmmakers will make one or possibly two decent entries into the sub-genre; however, only one filmmaker has made an entire career out of the precarious high-wire act, and that filmmaker is Joe Dante.
It goes without saying that John Carpenter, the composer, writer, and director of some of the most well-known and well-received films in the horror and science-fiction genres, is a horror icon. There is dispute, however, on which films people would consider to be included in his classic or iconic canon. Though “Halloween” and “The Thing” are readily mentioned, with occasional nods to “They Live” and “The Fog” included by real fans, often the rest of his body of work is overlooked or discounted.
One of the most common circumstances in the horror industry is for technicians from one aspect of the genre to cross over to the directing chair, bringing their unique expertise and expanding their influence on the final product. Cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld worked with brilliant filmmakers like The Coen Brothers and Rob Reiner before directing the “Men In Black” and “Addam’s Family” films.
Some horror filmmakers are gifted in making great horror films because they have a unique perspective and an undeniable talent, regardless of the genre in which they are working. A drama, a romantic comedy, and a horror film by the director can be equally entertaining in different ways because the filmmaker has the skill to work intuitively within any genre he is given. Brad Anderson is an example of that kind of director.