The History of Horror Films
He knows a hell of a lot about horror films!
We all enjoy a good horror film here at AVForums but none of us comes close to Chris McEneany's encyclopedic knowledge.Over the years Chris has written dozens of articles about the classic horror films of the past and reviewed hundreds of scary movies, so in this article we'll celebrate Halloween by using this wealth of wonderful insight to provide a history of the genre. Chris himself had a stab at creating an effective history of the horror movie by choosing the twenty films that he considered the most important. Chris decided that the year 1968 was a seminal year because, as he himself explained, it was the breakthrough year for practically every genre. It was when tastes changed, societal acceptability altered and cinematic trends and styles irrevocably veered into darker, more controversial territory, and this most specifically affected the horror film. So let's start with Chris's choice of the twenty most important horror films, each one a classic in its own right.
If one studio defined horror in the early years it was Universal Pictures who, during the 1930s and 1940s simply had a roster of the most famous monsters in cinema history. Universal's films during that period included Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Wolf Man, The Invisible Man and The Phantom of the Opera. When Universal released their Essential Monsters on Blu-ray, Chris took the opportunity to review his favourite three films from the collection.
By the 1950s another studio had become synonymous with horror and this time it was British. Hammer was the dominant studio in the horror genre for decades and their two main stars became household names. Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee both had long and distinguished careers, playing a multitude of different roles but it's their films with Hammer for which they will always be remembered. Cushing played both Professors Frankenstein and Van Helsing, whilst Lee appeared as Dracula, The Mummy and Frankenstein's monster. In these two articles, Chris takes an in-depth look at two of his favourite Hammer horror movies.
The Wicker Man is not only one of the best British horror films ever made, it is quite simply one of the greatest British films of all time. Robin Hardy's tale of the clash between Christianity and paganism remains as powerful today as it did when it was made. When it came to casting Lord Summerisle there was only one actor for the role, the incomparable Christopher Lee. When Lee died last year, Chris was the only AVForums writer who could do the legend justice in his touching obituary..
In the 1970s and 1980s there was one directed who stood like a colossus over numerous genres but especially horror and that was John Carpenter. In a career that includes Dark Star, Assault on Precinct 13, The Fog, Escape from New York, Starman, Big Trouble in Little China and Christine, it's hard to choose a favourite. However as Chris mentions in his choice of the ten best horror films made since 1968, two of them were directed by John Carpenter – Halloween and The Thing. However it was for one of Carpenter's lesser known films that Chris decided to write an appreciation but then, the 'Prince of Darkness' wouldn't be a bad nickname for the man himself.
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