With my birthday only a few days past I look upon all the great swag I received from my ever so thoughtful friends. They know me well as I look upon stacks and piles of books and horror DVD’s. Seeing these movies reminded me of the films that inspire me to be a better filmmaker. And so, I give you a tiny sampling of those flicks… Anyone who knows me will notice the sampling and the obvious laziness that went into this list…
The Bride of Frankenstein. Released in 1935 and directed by James Whale, The Bride of Frankenstein reunited Boris Karloff with the role that made him famous. No longer the lumbering monster from the previous film, Karloff breathed life into the role of the Creature. Like all the early Universal Monster films from the 1930s and 40s, The Bride of Frankenstein has an image and look that few modern horror films can compare to. The grand sets and costumes set the tone for the film. Any filmmaker looking to create a gothic look for their movie needs look no further then The Bride of Frankenstein. The film’s inspiration upon me came in the treatment of the Creature himself. The Bride of Frankenstein was the first time the audience felt a connection to the “monster.” Granted he had done some terrible things, but it was hard to hate him. This was the first movie where the lines between good and evil were blurred ever so slightly. The film also works as a study in character-acting through Ernest Thesiger as the delightful Dr. Pretorious!
In 1979 Ridley Scott created one of the most frightening films of all time, and arguably the greatest “Lovecraftian” movie ever! Alien creates a sense of tension and dread that few filmmakers have ever been able to recapture. Many horror fans complain that the monster is not seen enough and that the pacing is far too slow. It’s those very facts that make alien the inspirational genius that it is. Alien was also one of the first films where the audience didn’t know who was going to die next. In this modern age of big name stars carrying horror films, it’s nice to see a movie where celebrity status doesn’t guarantee your survival through the end credits. Just ask Tom Skerrit or John Hurt, both far bigger names then Sigourney Weaver at the time! Like most of you, I never got to see this film on the big screen. Thankfully that was changed when Alien was released to the big screen in October of 2003! Shame on you if you missed it!
Okay, so it’s not a straight horror film. But, Sam Raimi’s 1987 masterpiece Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn has had more influence on me then any other horror film of all time. And, I know I am not alone in this thought. Just ask Bill Paxton who was woken up at 2 am by James Cameron to catch a late night viewing of the movie while filming Titanic! This movie inspired me to do more then just set the camera up and get people to walk and talk. The camera in this film is more like a wild animal running around torturing the actors on set. Although played more for laughs, Evil Dead 2 is still able to drum up some descent scares. Besides Raimi’s impressive camera work, Evil Dead 2 is emotionally inspirational to many moviemakers; myself included. Evil Dead 2 wasn’t a studio movie, as we know them now. Evil Dead 2 was born from a group of friends who had busted their humps and were still making movies together and years later still are. A very noble and inspirational goal indeed.
The prime example of how to make a zombie movie is in George Romero’s classic, Dawn of the Dead. Released in 1978, Dawn of the Dead is the second film in the Romero “Dead” trilogy and, in this humble writer’s opinion, the best of the three. There’s nothing better then seeing a group of everyday folks trapped in an environment surrounded by the walking dead. Less for the gore and horror, Dawn of the Dead is inspirational to me as a character study. The characters in the film act in a realistic manner to the horrors that surround them. Too often many writers (myself included) create characters that act a little too “heroic”. Whether we want to admit it or not, most of us are going to work to save our own butts rather then “save the day” and few movies express this better then Dawn of the Dead. This movie was also inspirational in that it exposed me to the greatness that is Tom Savini. I urge anyone who has never seen this exceptional film to go out and rent a copy . . . Better yet, buy the newly restored version, just don’t watch the theatrical remake. The line must be drawn!