Everyone’s got a favourite horror, even Standard Issue. Here, three of our contributors tell us theirs. Be afraid, be very afraid.
An American Werewolf in London
To say I’m a wuss is an understatement. From the age of seven, having ill-advisedly watched Stephen King’s Creepshow in an attempt to impress some older friends, my poor ma put up with a sad, nightmare-ridden, shit-scared-of-the-dark child convinced her grandma’s head was going to end up on a cake, clambering into her bed every night. For two years. To this day, show me a horror film and I’ll run away clucking.
Unless it’s got a werewolf in it. A kindred spirit with all creatures great and small, from rescuing spiders to attempting to befriend EVERY SINGLE CAT OR DOG I PASS, means that somehow lycanthropes have made it through. My favourite is John Landis’s 1981 horror-comedy masterpiece An American Werewolf In London. It’s proper scary and laugh-out-loud funny, it’s got a huge heart and an amazing soundtrack, and, yes, I’d like to pet David Kessler – before or after transformation.
It still looks bloody impressive, too: a new Academy Award category for best makeup was created just so Rick Baker could win it, and David’s man-to-wolf transformation scene is powerful stuff, knocking modern day CGI into a cocked hat.
From the moment the two cocky American backpackers wander into The Slaughtered Lamb pub and are warned by Brian Glover (as Rik Mayall watches on) not to go out on the moors, Landis ratchets up the gore and humour in equal measure, while creating characters you really give a stuff about. Even when they’re a wolf. Or rotting. On which note: I still watch all the bits containing zombie Jack through my fingers. Wuss.
I don’t do gore. Or blood. At ante-natal class I went for a curry instead of watching the birthing video and I nearly puke at splinters. Consequently I don’t watch many horror films. I’m over people being disemboweled for my fear kicks. If I want to be really scared these days I just watch the news.
There is one exception – Alien.
It’s a strange choice for somebody who avoids the grisly as it contains one of the most iconic and bloody death scenes in cinema – the beast bursting from John Hurt at the dinner table. Alien is so much more than that one scene though – it’s a masterclass in scaring you senseless while you see hardly anything at all. Cast members are grabbed and snatched, with just glimpses of who the abductor is. Your imagination fills in the gaps and when you know something has acid for blood and gestates its young in human intestines, those gaps are terrifying.
But the thing that makes Alien so wonderful is its heroine. Horror films are usually littered with screaming cheerleader types who die because they are stupid. Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley is a bona fide icon. She’s tough, smart and human AND she risks her life to save her ungrateful bastard of a cat. Now that’s a woman I can identify with and a film I can love forever.
The Blair Witch Project
My early experiences with horror films are expressed in the following equation: one mum works at night + one Dad likes a bit of horror x one VHS boom = one terrified child lying rigid at the bottom of the stairs refusing to go any further.
I’ve no idea what he was thinking, because I was already scared of everything. E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. My parents had to turn the TV down if a Castrol GTX advert came on because that creepy music was all a bit much for me.
Oddly, very little scares me now and I say that as someone who doesn’t have a pension. But, The Blair Witch Project? Holy humanoid stickfigures, it’s terrifying – and the only film I’ve seen as an adult that led to me sleeping on a sibling’s bedroom floor because I was too frightened to be alone.
It thrives on exactly that fear I felt at the bottom of the stairs. Fear of what might be up there, lurking in the dark, waiting to get me. Fear of unexplained noises and something, possibly the cat but more likely a supernatural entity of some kind, breathing under your bed.
So what if there’s no gruesome centrepiece, nothing with a drooly mouth, or knife fingers, or even a bell and free lollipops (although, for the record, the Child Catcher is also piss-your-pants scary).
The lack of a tangible threat is what makes The Blair Witch Project so effective. Anything could be out there, just biding its time. And that’s the scariest thing in the world.
Man, I need a pension.
Aged five, Mickey Noonan shoved an apple pip up her nose to see what happened. Older, wiser but sadly without a nose-tree, Standard Issue's editor remains curious about the world. Likes running, jumping and static trapeze.