Thursday, 30 September 2010

Generation | Film | For No Reason, Let's Compile Some Lists

What an interesting article from Totalfilm. ‘Horror Icons on their Favourite Horror Movies!’ Admittedly towards the final third, the top ten lists are no longer by horror icons so much as by journalists who make a living out of things like compiling lists of their top ten horror movies. But still.

The list delighted me specifically because the icons’ stated preferences confirmed ingrained snobberies I already hold. Smart and ironic filmmakers like Joe Dante and Edgar Wright enjoy smart and ironic films like Don’t Look Now and Night of the Demon. Eli Roth plumps for dim-witted gorefests that are cool because nobody’s heard of them except him, Quentin Tarantino, and losers who actually ask themselves, “Hey, I wonder what’s on the Horror Channel tonight,” like me. Kane Hodder picks an upcoming movie of his as his second favourite, and consequently comes across as a self-publicising boor, whereas Robert Englund speaks passionately about the sound and cinematography of Turn of the Screw adaptation The Innocents. In terms of overall votes, John Carpenter goes all-out with a two-by-four on the craven Wes Craven. Nobody voted for Saw. (Oh, hang on – oh, no. They did. And for Hostel. Damn you, Kane Hodder!)

I probably couldn’t have predicted that the writer of Slumber Party Massacre 2 would admire the cinema veritie style of Texas Chain Saw Massacre. In fact, in spite of their names, I might not have considered that the two films had a great deal in common. But still.

                                                               Pictured: horror.

What was more interesting was the preponderance of films from the late Seventies up to 1980 – I guessed the final punch-up must have been between Turner Classic Movies Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Alien and The Exorcist. A golden age for the genre, certainly, but so very dominant? Note the lack of love for films that were only, relatively speaking, very slightly earlier – 1963’s The Haunting is only mentioned once or twice. And films that came later – Blair Witch Project, for example. And, thinking about it, I don’t think this is simply a question of the era these film-makers and film-stars were informed by. It’s also an issue of generational cool in a genre that prides itself on being outsider-ish. Blair Witch/The Descent/Let The Right One In are too new to be considered classics, and certainly too new and too mainstream to be considered cool for real horror connoisseurs. The Exorcist, in its own way, was an exceptionally mainstream movie, but it gets far, far more votes than Poltergeist, which is still tainted with the mark of the mainstream period of Steven Spielberg. Jaws gets a pass because it was his breakthrough film. Freaks is old enough and cultish enough to be cool. Carnival of Souls is maybe too cultish for its own good. The Thing, to my surprise, gets more votes than Halloween – because it’s still an outsider’s movie, perhaps? Because it remains under-acknowledged by that mainstream, passed aside, un-remade? At least until that prequel comes out, that is. But still.

So I decided to generate an enormous, utterly meaningless flow-chart, to document the various peaks-and-troughs of horror opinion, making use of this vast new repository of information.

As with all statistics, I made some fairly arbitrary distinctions; I would only include the lists that were being made by someone chosen for actually working in the business, rather than commenting on it, no matter how knowledgeable they may be. So the guy who did make-up on Scream is in. Nigel Floyd is out. If someone didn’t bother to put their votes in order, only their first vote counts (sorry, John Landis. But for God’s sake, play the game! I don’t care how restricting and pointless it is!). And, to make the generated chart even more meaningless, all of Rob Zombie’s votes count as minuses. Not really. But to add a further note of randomness to the equation, I’m not particularly good at maths.
Each film gets a score out of ten depending on where it stood in the top ten list. First place gets ten points, tenth place gets one point. Bon? Bon.

Most Popular Horror Movie

1) The Exorcist; 182. The run-away victor. 22 appearances on the lists, almost always in the uppermost regions.

2) Alien; 119. Less-often picked than TCM – fifteen times - but more highly-rated.

3) Texas Chainsaw Massacre; 110. Sixteen votes.

4) A tricky tie at 101 between Jaws and The Thing. Thing gets more votes (eighteen), but Jaws is more highly rated amongst those who’ve picked it.

Lone Defender: Highest Rated Horror Movie picked by only one participant who wasn’t being hipsterish and ironic, or trying to promote his forthcoming sequel Hatchet 2

With a 10 from George Romero, the original Thing From Another World clinches it, beating Wes Craven’s lone 10 for Nosferatu because I don’t care for the films of Wes Craven. Soon after come the Twin Peaks movie, with a 9, and Inferno, also with a 9 (curiously, Steven Shiel, who voted for it, didn’t include Suspiria on his list; I’d like to hear his argument.)

Best Overall Average

Peeping Tom; two nines.

Least Favourite Most Favourite: Lowest Rated Horror Movie Overall

Cult of the Cobra (Romero again), Who Can Kill A Child?, The Other, Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Seventh Victim, Duel, Braindead, Fright Night, Son of Frankenstein, Martyrs, 10 Rillington Place, Friday 13th Part VII (HODDER!), and Day of the Beast all manage a lowly one.

Most Questionably An Actual Member of the Genre

Scanners, at one vote of four. Exploding heads don’t make it a horror film. Points go to those who correctly identified Picnic at Hanging Rock as a horror film.

Most Likely to Get Bullied By The Other Participants

Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula, score of two? Not Dracula, not Nosferatu?Get out of here, Larry Fessenden, director of Wendigo, you prissy Twilight lover.

Most Intriguingly Overlooked

Silence of the Lambs and Blair Witch scrape a couple of votes each, but Hellraiser and Les Diaboliques are the winners here, managing only four and three respectively, with a single vote. Hm. Intriguing.

Pictured: horror.

My point is, we’re obsessed with this sort of thing. On the Internet in particular. You could actually speculate about how the mechanical processes of the online world are turning us into obsessive-compulsive automatons, forever making lists and comparing statistics and telling ourselves that this stuff actually means something objective. I’d do it myself, but I’m far too busy. As an addendum to this article I’m planning to make a new flowchart that only compares the preferences of the people whose opinions I happen to personally agree with. Kane Hodder will be nowhere in sight.

Jon Ware
Fiction Editor Strolling Briefly And Recklessly Out Of His Remit

p.s. The full 121-film flowchart is available to anyone who wishes to see it, providing they first put their signature to some documents I happen to have lying around.

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