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Horror show

What makes a good horror movie? No one really knows, although many books have been filled trying to explain the visceral kick that’s inherent in a truly good horror movie. This fortnight, we step back and review three classics which have been re-released as DVDs in recent months.

Bibek Bhattacharya        Print Edition: April 20, 2008

What makes a good horror movie? No one really knows, although many books have been filled trying to explain the visceral kick that’s inherent in a truly good horror movie. This fortnight, we step back and review three classics which have been re-released as DVDs in recent months. 

Halloween (1978)

The mother of all slasher films (horror films). Though many contend that Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho was the first, this John Carpenter murder-fest truly brought home our fear of dark corners and what might lurk there. As with most films in this genre, the plot itself is razor-thin and if you’re looking for character development, you’re better off looking elsewhere. At its core, it is the story of a psychopathic killer who emerges from his decadelong schizophrenia to go on a murderous rampage. On the other hand, it is also a deft creation of the “monster-in-a-mask”, which has since been used in countless other films. Many of the slasher films that followed hiked the gore fest and cut down on the suspense, but Halloween balances the two ingredients quite brilliantly. Though not as successful as its successors, Halloween has influenced more horror movies than any other film in that genre.

Starz/Anchor Bay
Price: Rs 1,199

Friday the 13th (1980)

The most popular slasher film ever. After noting Halloween’s success, director Sean S. Cunningham decided to make a slash-fest to top everything that had been done before. Although not as nuanced as Halloween, Friday the 13th managed to scare viewers pretty well. The story is set in a summer camp around a large lake that is apparently cursed. Till very late in the movie, the killer’s identity is not known. And even when one of the survivors comes face to face with the totally unexpected killer, viewers are left wondering whether there is one murderer or two. In the end, it doesn’t really matter. What does is the number of times it makes you jump out of your chair, which is a lot. Of course, the movie went on to become a smash hit, spawning 11 sequels and spurring countless tributes. There’s a remake being directed as you read this. Be afraid.

Paramount
Price: Rs 399

A nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

This classic concluded the triptych of genre-defining horror movies. By the time maverick horrormeister Wes Craven began filming the movie, slasher films had turned into big business in Hollywood.

And so, it was only a matter of time before the genre went looking for a uniquely supernatural villain. Welcome then, the nightmare Freddy Krueger, the ghost of a serial killer.

Since its theatrical release, A Nightmare on Elm Street has been awarded various distinguished honours. In 2003, the American Film Institute awarded the film’s villain Freddy Krueger a place, at #40, on the list of AFI’s 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains.

New Line Home Video
Price: Rs 799

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