Each day in October, three brave souls from our gang of Groovy Goolies (co-editor Paul Childs, Boardgames Master Aaron Nash and Ultimate Movie Geek Nathaniel Jepson) are watching horror films from around the world and across a wide spectrum of the horror genre, so expect slashers, ghosts, cultists, demons, vampires, cannibals, zombies, kaiju, aliens and more!
Paul’s Choice – Black Narcissus (1947)
A slightly leftfield choice for my second night – many would argue that Black Narcissus is NOT a horror film. So why did I watch it? Well, a couple of reasons.
Firstly, it’s a major influence on the next generation of filmmakers – Coppola, Romero, Scorcese – you can tell watching it that it’s an important body of work in the history of film. Many shots and camera tricks which we have become accustomed to, and even regarded as cliche, over the years were used here for the first time. And it is a gorgeous looking film. Watching it in HD in all its technicolour glory you can hardly tell it from a modern film. The use of colour is spectacular – especially (like Don’t Look Now) red, which here represents repressed desire.
Secondly, there is an equal number of people who will vehemently argue that Black Narcissus absolutely IS a horror film – albeit a slow burning one. What, at first glance, seems to be an almost whimsical drama about a group of nuns setting up a school in the Himalayas slowly turns into a study in desire, jealousy and mental illness. The final act is as tense as any of your Halloween or Scream movies.
And my goodness, that shot of Kathleen Byron’s troubled Sister Ruth standing in the doorway, her eyes consumed with madness, sent a chill down my spine and all the hairs on my arm stood up!
Thirteen years later co-director Michael Powell would go on to use many of the same techniques he pioneered here in his infamous, yet no less influential genre-defining slasher progenitor, Peeping Tom.
If you’re looking for a jump-scare laden terror-fest then this is not the film for you but if you’re after a sumptuously filmed drama which plays on your mind long after watching then I can’t recommend this highly enough.
Aaron’s Choice – Halloween (1978)
Who’d have ever thought a film about a masked killer stalking a babysitter would end up being a pivotal film in cinema while spawning 7 sequels (6 not including the stand-alone number 3), 1 remake with a sequel itself and soon a sequel that wipes out all of the prior sequels from the continuity.
I would argue that Halloween is perfection in the slasher genre as unlike the films that followed it doesn’t focus on the actual killings, the focus is the sense of dread and terror as seen in the shots that linger slightly longer than expected and the atmospheric synth score. The feeling that Michael could be absolutely anywhere is what is terrifying. It’s a relatable fear as it’s not some alien or indestructible monster (at least not in the first film) it’s just a mentally unstable man, killing for almost the same of it.
I have loved this film ever since I first watched it. No matter how many times I watch it, I still get that unsettling feeling and get drawn into dread and desperation the victims are going through. This is the silver fox of the genre and hasn’t aged a day since release.
Just remember that wardrobes are not the safe places you might imagine when being chased by a killer with a knife.
Nathaniel’s Choice – Friday The 13th Part 2 (1981)
Our resident YouTuber is going to be sharing his thoughts via a video every day – you can read more about that (and find links to the video) here.