::Literate Blather::
Thursday, December 04, 2008
5 Questions About: Horror Movies

An Interview with Fangoria Magazine Editor

Tony Timpone

(When you want to talk horror movies then its best to pick up your ice pick and the severed head of your boss and head over to Fangoria Magazine. That's where "if it bleeds it leads" has a whole new meaning. Tony Timpone is the editor (don't believe the serial killer rumors). He's produced horror documentaries and horror movies starring Bruce Campbell, Rob Zombie, Karen Black, and Elke Sommer. Lucky bastard! He's done radio, print, web, TV, DVD, podcasts, and written books. The guy is extremely busy helping America scare the living crap out of itself. You can read more about his lengthy accomplishments here (he's the geek with the headphones). As you probably know, DaRK PaRTY digs horror flicks -- and sometimes really bad ones. So we decided we had to touch base with Tony so he could give us the lowdown on the good ones. He was kind enough (or maybe mental unstable enough) to answer a few of our horror movie questions.)

DaRK PaRTY: What makes a great horror movie?

Tony: It has to be have three things: an original, exciting story; good characters, who we care about and can relate to; and it must be scary, disturbing or at least unsettling.

DP: What do you consider the best decade for horror movies and why?

Tony: The 1970s were most memorable for me. That was when I was
growing up and seeing such great films as “The Omen,” “Jaws,” “Phantasm,” “Dawn of the Dead,” “Alien,” “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “Halloween,” and many others in theaters.

DP: What single horror movie do think has had the greatest influence on the genre and why?

Tony: Probably Alfred Hitchcock's “Psycho,” which took horror into the modern age and brought terror into a human, psychological and "horror-next-door" arena and away from the Gothic.

DP: Name one popular horror movie that you think is overrated and why?

Tony: The
original “Last House on the Left.” I never found the film particularly scary. Shocking, yes, scary no. Also, the comic relief stuff never works and dates the movie. And overall, the film is just ugly (though that was Wes Craven and company's stated intention).

DP: What three horror movies should every fan see and why?

Tony: “Bride
of Frankenstein” (1935): the finest of the Universal monster movies. Much loved for the great Boris Karloff, the black humor, James Whale's direction and the fairy tale atmosphere.

“Psycho” (1960): the best horror film ever made, perfect in every way: directing, acting, music, art direction, etc.

“The Exorcist” (1973): the scariest horror film ever made, and also a triumph on all technical and artistic levels.

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Blogger Flickhead said...
Whatever became of Bob Martin?

Blogger GFS3 said...
Who is Bob Martin?

Blogger ILoz Zoc said...
I have to disagree a bit with what makes a great horror movie. While characters we care about and the emotional impact is a given, not every film can be original, or should be. What really counts here is creativity; either with an original concept, or with building on and exploiting those cliches that are an integral part of the horror genre. We would see more great horror movies if only care were given to more solid, good directorial and script use of the standards that scare us. Unfortunately, and this is a problem with horror cinema especially, much of the film output is substandard and amateurish: it seems this is the one genre that every kid with a camera thinks he can tackle seriously.

I agree that Psycho is an important and influential film but my vote would lean more toward Night of the Living Dead as having more impact on American horror cinema. Romero took monsters out of the Carpathian mountains and placed them next door. While you can argue that Psycho does the same thing, I'd counter with the type of monster portrayed as being the significant criterion here. For the most part, up until gut-munching zombies started feasting on our innards, we, given the Universal/1950's gallery of monsters, were happy bystanders to the mayhem. NOTLD changed that focus. It brought monster-horror closer to us; instead of gothic enivironments filled with monsters running amok, we now had monsters running amok on Main Street, USA, in my town, on my street, in my home. Whereas Psycho brought us horror on a personal scale, NOTLD brought us horror on a social scale, where no one and no place are safe havens. Here the horror comes to us, but in Psycho, Janet Leigh went to the horror. The scope is very different. This scope marks an important change that has influenced horror movies since then, especially in this decade.

Last, I will give my vote for a popular movie highly overrated: Rob Zombie's Halloween. His updated tale that eliminates the supernatural element and replaces it with yet another "nurtured psychotic" gone wacky destroys any connection the story has to the title. The film lacks the chills of the original, and the skilled performances, too.

Very thought provoking QA, thanks!

Blogger GFS3 said...
Great comments and insight ILoc. I have a different take on "Psycho." I don't believe its a horror movie at all. I'd argue that Hitchcock made a suspense movie using elements of the horror genre. It is, however, a brilliant movie and one of Hitchcock's finest. And it has influenced horror.

However, I'd agree that "Night of the Living Dead" and the sequel "Dawn of the Dead" were bigger influences on modern horror. For the reasons you state, but also for elements such as gore and pushing the envelope of social norms. Both films were grotesque, shocking, and gory for their time. But I'm not sure they were "scary."

I do agree, wholeheartedly, with Tony about "The Exorcist." That is one scary flick. But I'd put "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "Halloween" up there for pure chills, suspense, and scares.

Thanks for adding so much to the post!

Blogger Ruth said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Blogger Flickhead said...
GFS3, Bob Martin was the original editor of Fangoria. He and I corresponded in the late 70s when they ran a couple of small articles I wrote. Martin was a friendly and knowledgeable guy, but his exit from Fangoria was swift and, as far as I know, unexplained.

Blogger GFS3 said...
No kidding? Well, I guess I'll leave that question to Tony. I have no idea of the answer. Has anyone checked under the floor boards at Fangoria? Tony! Can you answer Flickhead's question?

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