Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)

On Film / The Daily — Oct 31, 2018
Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977)

Horror is the only genre with an annual holiday all its own, and here we are: happy Halloween. Last week, I pointed out that contributors to both Slant and IndieWire had drawn up annotated lists of the greatest horror films of all time, and, perhaps tiring of the usual suspects, IndieWire’s David Ehrlich has now asked thirty critics for a few words on their favorite “terrifyingly under-appreciated horror movies.” You’ll find twenty-five more unsung freak-outs at RogerEbert.com.

And the list-making rolls on. Open Culture has reminded us today that Martin Scorsese spoke about eleven of the scariest movies ever a few years ago, and designer Dilara Findikoglu talks to AnOther about five more. Michael Atkinson recommends fourteen titles available to stream right now, and for the BFI, Adam Scovell has selected ten, one from each decade, from 1928’s The Man Who Laughs, Paul Leni’s silent classic with Conrad Veidt, on through this year’s Hereditary, Ari Aster’s feature debut, which offers “some of the spookiest visuals produced this side of the millennium.” Writing for Vulture, Bilge Ebiri presents a primer on postwar Japanese horror, which naturally includes Ishiro Honda’s Godzilla (1954), “one of the saddest, most bluntly brutal monster movies ever made.” And in the South China Morning Post, Elaine Yau writes about five Chinese ghost movies that are “surprising not only for having slipped through the net of censors, but also for showing the macabre creativity of Chinese directors.”

2018 marks the two hundredth anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, and for the New York Times, Mekado Murphy looks back on ten cinematic riffs on the tale. In the video below, MoMA Film curator Anne Morra, focusing on the Frankensteins from the Hammer Horror series, asks, “Who is the real monster,” the doctor or his creature?


This past week has seen the rollout of the thirteenth edition of Reverse Shot’s excellent Halloween series, “A Few Great Pumpkins.” Selections this year range from Walter Forde’s The Ghost Train from 1941 (“terrifying, very much despite itself”) to a 1960 short by Shirley Clarke to Karyn Kusama’s “sinister, rattling” The Invitation (2015), which “gets at the tenor of contemporary American life better than any other recent horror film.”

And there have been plenty of contenders. Horror has been on the rise over the past several years now, and the hosts of the podcast TIFF Long Take discuss the genre’s “ever-increasing legitimacy” with Faculty of Horror podcast cohost Alexandra West. “Thanks in part to the overwhelming critical praise for films like Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook, Robert Eggers’s The Witch, David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows, and Jordan Peele’s Get Out,” writes the TIFF Review in its introduction to the episode, “the perception of horror has changed over the last decade, from a beloved but relatively niche genre to one that cinephiles feel they should pay attention to.”

The industry loves horror, too, of course. David Gordon Green’s Halloween has topped the box office for two weekends in a row now. As for the other horror movie of the moment, Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria, the Guardian’s Guy Lodge suggests that it “looks set to join a run of recent art-horror experiments that have been major events on the festival circuit, attracting a fierce if not unanimous critical following in the process, only to struggle, once unleashed into the real world, to find much of an audience beyond that.” That said, he likes it. “In a genre overrun with workmanlike-or-worse remakes, revivals, reboots and retcons of classic horror properties,” writes Lodge, “Guadagnino’s slow-and-loose spin on Argento’s original comes about as close as it can to being an original itself.”

The New Yorker’s Richard Brody, though, does not like it. He deems it “sordid, flimsy Holocaust kitsch, fanatical chic, with all the actual political substance of a designer Che T-shirt.” Whatever you think of the 2018 version, Rolling Stone’s David Fear urges us to revisit Dario Argento’s 1977 original, “a sacred text of Italian horror, the sort of grandiloquent Grand Guignol gorefest that inspires both hushed whispers and earsplitting screams . . . There may be pound-for-pound scarier movies, though this supernatural tale makes for a strong Top Ten contender.”

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