Horror Movie Maven

Lover of all things that slash, gash, bleed, and otherwise terrify.

Category: Featured

Conrad Veidt: A King of Horror

Sometimes you see an actor in a horror film and that person just gets to you. Their acting alone makes them crawl out from the screen and whisper terrifying things in your ear. Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger, Gunnar Hansen as Leatherface, and Doug Bradley as Pinhead are just few that spring to mind.

But even rarer are those actors whose surpass a single character and become a name of their own. Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, Lon Chaney. These are a handful of the kings of horror cinema. Conrad Veidt stands among them.

Conrad Veidt (pronounced like the word white starting with a v) was a German actor who starred in movies throughout the rise of the silent film and into the 1940s. During that time, there were a lot of top actors in horror films and in German cinema. Why does he stand out?

  • He starred in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. This 1920 German film was called “the first true horror film” by Roger Ebert. Veidt plays Cesare, a somnambulist who controlled by the devilish and diabolical Dr. Caligari. Somnambulism is a fancy word for sleepwalking, and Veidt somehow
    Veidt as Cesare

    Conrad Veidt as Cesare in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

    manages to breath life and character into a someone who is, in effect, a zombie.

  • He made hands scary long before Bruce Campbell cut off his hand in Evil Dead II. In the silent 1924 film The Hands of Orlac, Veidt played the leading roll as Orlac. His character is a famed musician who was brutally injured in an accident. A surgeon replaces his hands with those of a murderer, and Orlac’s hands seem to take on a life of their own. Veidt manages to bring true terror to his own hands and uses them to express a range of emotion throughout he film.
  • He inspired the Joker. Conrad Veidt’s makeup and look in The Man Who Laughs inspired the creation of the Joker in the Batman comic book. In The Man Who Laughs, Veidt’s character has been surgically deformed and his face is permanently frozen in a terrifying smile.

    the man who laughs

    Veidt inspired the Joker in The Man Who Laughs.

  • He worked against the Nazis. In real life, Conrad Veidt worked openly to oppose the Nazi regime. After Hitler came to power, he and his Jewish wife moved to England, where he starred in anti-Nazi films. He also donated a large part of his fortune to the British war effort. When he moved to America in 1941, he even made sure his contracts included a provision requiring that he play the villain if cast as a German. It is no surprise then to see him appear in Casablanca as Major Strasser, the film’s leading and utterly unlikable Nazi.

While Conrad Veidt was famous in his day – so famous that the Nazis tried to cut him a deal to keep him working in Germany – he has largely been forgotten with time. If you have not seen one of his movies, I highly recommend getting your hands on one and seeing his acting first hand.

With his silent films, a lot of them are available online. However, if you are going to watch The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, try to find a decent copy. The new Blu-ray edition fills in a lot of gaps and allows you to see the striking set design more clearly than free copies online.

Watch the Book: 60 Movies Watched

I’m almost halfway through watching all of the movies in the book Studies in Terror. I’ve watched nearly 60 movies. I say nearly because there are still some movies I’ve been unable to find. I’ve still got about 70 movies to go.

So far, I’m really happy I’ve been doing this. I’ve seen some great movies, some mediocre movies and some downright terrible films. But each one I watch makes me feel that much more smug and knowledgeable in the realm of horror. I highly recommend it.

I decided to continue and edit the list I created after I watched 30 films. It’s split into three sections: movies you should see, movies only die-hard fans of the genre need to see, and movies you can skip. Movies I was unable to find are listed at the end. It is in descending order; my favorites are higher on the list.

Here goes:

Movies You Should See

  1. Psycho: If you haven’t seen this movie, go see it. Right now. I’m not kidding.

    psycho house

    The house from Psycho is utterly iconic.

  2. The Curse of Frankenstein: This is the film that skyrocketed Hammer Films to the top of popularity, with good reason.
  3. Island of Lost Souls: Charles Laughton is phenomenal in this movie, and it is a really fascinating take on the H.G. Wells story.
  4. Diabolique: A sinister tale that keeps you on the edge of your seat with suspense.
  5. The Old Dark House: I’ve already rewatched this movie for fun since I first posted about it. It’s a hokey but good creepy house movie.
  6. The Hands of Orlac: Conrad Veidt can somehow act out whole emotions with his hands. It’s excellent to watch a master actor at work. Plus, the story is nice and scary too.
  7. Quatermass Xperiment: This is an early Hammer Horror film, rich with science fiction scares.
  8. La Main du diable: Bargains with the devil make for good stories and this one is a whole lot of fun.
  9. Frankenstein: This is a true classic of the monster movie genre that every fan of horror absolutely must see.
  10. Nosferatu: If you like vampire movies, you have to see this original spin on Stoker’s masterpiece.
  11. Invasion of the Body Snatchers: Solid science fiction story that isn’t ruined even if you have seen later versions.
  12. Dracula (1957 version): Christopher Lee as Dracula and Peter Cushing as Van Helsing. Need I say more?
  13. Devil Doll: I will never own a ventriloquist’s doll. Ever. All due to movies like this one.
  14. Eyes Without a Face: An interesting story about the lengths a father will go to for his daughter and for science.

    eyes without a face

    That mask creeps me out.

  15. The Return of Doctor X: It’s got Humphrey Bogart in it, so I’m pretty much going to include it here due to that fact alone. It’s also a good mad scientist story.
  16. Daughter of Darkness: The leading lady in this film is eerily enticing.
  17. The Unknown: Lon Chaney is an actor who put up with a lot of pain for his art. This movie does a great job showcasing it.
  18. The Wolf Man: Lon Chaney, Jr., is not as great as his father, but he does a good job in this movie all dolled up in full werewolf makeup. It’s also a core Universal monster picture that must be seen.
  19. The Body Snatcher: It’s got Karloff. It’s got Lugosi. And it’s basically about Burke and Hare. How can you go wrong?
  20. The Monster Maker: It’s a ripoff of other films but is still a lot of fun to watch.
  21. White Zombie: This is only low on the list because I did not like it the first time I watched it. However, now that I’ve seen lots of Bela Lugosi, this is definitely one of his better roles.
  22. Werewolf of London: I really liked the werewolf lore in this movie, even though it doesn’t have the great makeup that The Wolf Man has.
  23. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari: I’m going to admit that I didn’t like this movie much when I first watched it. Having watched 29 subsequent films, however, it is easy to see what a huge influence it was. Plus, it has Conrad Veidt, who was in The Hands of Orlac and Casablanca.
  24. The Brides of Dracula: This sequel to Hammer Films’ Dracula continues the story with more vampires and more Peter Cushing.

    Peter Cushing in Brides of Dracula

    Peter Cushing is a badass vampire hunter.

  25. Onibaba: Scary Japanese story about two women doing anything to survive set in the days of the samarai.
  26. Tales of Terror: It’s got Vincent Price, Peter Lorre and Basil Rathbone in three Poe-inspired tales.
  27. The Horrible Dr. Hichcock: I don’t know how this story about a necrophiliac slipped past the censors.
  28. Haxan: This movie is slow to start but has some utterly creepy scenes in a documentary style.
  29. The Cat and the Canary: A really good, Clue-style mystery.
  30. The Plague of the Zombies: Classic zombie film from the days when they were still steeped in Caribbean lore.

Deep Cuts for Hardcore Horror Fans

  1. Cat People: This movie is a very subtle film with psychological scares.
  2. Castle of the Living Dead: Taxidermy, Christopher Lee and some murders make up this hodge-podge movie.
  3. Castle of Blood: This is a classic Barbara Steele vehicle.

    Castle of Blood

    Barbara Steele in Castle of Blood.

  4. The Whip and the Body: Italian horror film with Christopher Lee as a whip-brandishing rapscallion.
  5. Curse of the Demon: An interesting early satanic cult film.
  6. The Dark Eyes of London: If you like Bela Lugosi, this is a good one. Otherwise, it is just a pretty basic thriller.
  7. Mad Love: If you liked The Hands of Orlac, check out this remake.
  8. The Mad Ghoul: It’s a good ghoul/zombie film that is fun to compare to other films in that subgenre.
  9. Mystery of the Wax Museum: Classic wax horror movie with a fast-talking 1930s reporter to boot.
  10. The Black Cat: This was Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff’s first film together.
  11. The Wind: This is not strictly a horror film, which is why I do not include it above. I loved it, but I don’t know if all horror fans would enjoy this strange silent film.
  12. The Most Dangerous Game: This is here as a deep cut only because my husband liked it. I was not much of a fan.
  13. The Skull: What happens when you dig up the skull of the Marquis de Sade? Bad things for Peter Cushing.
  14. The Masque of the Red Death: Watch this one if you like Poe stories and Vincent Price. You’ll get plenty of both here.

Movies You Can Skip

  1. The Brain That Wouldn’t Die: It only makes it to the top of the bad list because it is so terrible, it becomes funny.
  2. Blood and Black Lace: An Italian movie with a bit of gore (but not enough to hold my interest).
  3. Nightmare Castle: If you have seen other Barbara Steele movies, you’ve seen this one.
  4. Macabre: It has an interesting premise, but the gimmicks don’t make it worthwhile.

    macabre

    Macabre: it looks scary, but it really isn’t.

  5. Waxworks: This movie is a bit too hokey for my liking and not particularly scary.
  6. Kill, Baby…Kill!: Only slightly redeeming factor is that the child ghost is creepy. Other than that, not worth it.
  7. Mill of the Stone Women: If you like hot Italian women, then that might be the only redeeming thing about this film for you.
  8. Vampyr: This one is too avant-garde without enough discernible plot.
  9. The Ghoul: I got very bored watching this.
  10. The Awful Dr. Orlof: The title is basically my review. It’s awful.
  11. The Maze: It’s just got a stupid plot and a worse ending.
  12. The Lodger: This Jack the Ripper story has far too much singing in it and not enough killing.

Movies I Was Unable to Find

  1. The Night Has Eyes: I only watched the first half; the rest of the online video was corrupted. It’s unfortunate, because it was a pretty good first half.
  2. El fantasma del convento: I was only able to watch this in the original Spanish, and I know no Spanish.
  3. The Silent HouseI couldn’t find this movie at all. Let me know if you know where to find it by leaving a comment.
  4. Ladron de cadaveres: Don’t let Amazon fool you; the copy they sell does not actually have English subtitles.

 

The Face of Frankenstein’s Monster

We have grown so used to the classic visage of Frankenstein’s monster. It’s plastered on Halloween-themed goods every year, and it is so common that we could barely imagine him looking another way.

frankenstein's monster clipart

Clipart of Frankenstein’s monster. Not every image is so iconic that it gets its own clipart.

But the flat-topped skull and neck bolts were once an innovative and entirely new way of presenting the monster from Shelley’s classic tale.

The look for Frankenstein came from a variety of sources. First, was Boris Karloff himself. Karloff’s unique features and wide brow inspired much of the look.

Karloff

Karloff without makeup: the face that inspired a monster.

Second, the makeup was created by Jack Pierce, a master in the art of makeup. He went on to create some of the most famous monsters in the Universal lineup, Bride of Frankenstein and the Wolf Man among them.

According to the book The Horror People, by John Brosnan, Jack Pierce spent weeks preparing for the first makeup test. And he certainly did his research. Pierce said:

“I discovered there are six ways a surgeon can cut the skull, and I figured Dr. Frankenstein, who was not a practicing surgeon, would take the easiest. That is, he would cut the top of the skull straight across like a pot lid, hinge it, pop the brain in, and clamp it tight. That’s the reason I decided to made the Monster’s head square and flat like a box.”

Pierce and Karloff

Jack Pierce (right) doing Karloff’ monster makeup, flat top and all.

Lastly, sources disagree on how heavy a hand director James Whale played in the final makeup design. While Jack Pierce never admitted Whale’s influence, many contend that he played a role in making the monster we know today (source: The Monster Show by David J. Skal).

Regardless, the makeup was certainly effective. The first time he wore it, Boris Karloff ran into a prop man in the hall. Karloff said:

“He was the first man to see the monster — I watched to study his reaction. It was quick to come. He turned white — gurgled — and lunged out of sight down the corridor. Never saw him again. Poor chap, I would have liked to thank him — he was the audience that first made me feel like the monster.” (source:  The Monster Show by David J. Skal)

The frightening look of Frankenstein was so popular and effective, that Universal took great pains to protect its intellectual property in future non-Universal films. When Hammer Films created the Curse of Frankenstein more than 20 years later, Universal threatened to sue if Hammer used any elements that were unique to their movies (source: The Hammer Story: The Authorized History of Hammer Films by Hearn and Barnes). This included Jack Pierce’s famous makeup. This is why subsequent, non-Universal pictures look so different from the monster we expect.

curse of frankenstein

Christopher Lee as the monster in Curse of Frankenstein (1957).

Which is your favorite version of Frankenstein’s monster?

Watch the Book: 30 Movies Watched

I’ve been watching movies in the book Studies in Terror for weeks now. As you may recall, I’m trying to watch every movie listed in that book so I can learn more about horror. I’m calling it “watch the book,” just like those recipe blogs that try to “cook the book” by cooking every recipe in a cookbook.

I just finished the 30th movie in the book, and I can’t believe I’ve only watched 30 movies. I still have 100 movies to go. This is more work than I thought.

So far, I’ve seen some good movies and I’ve seen some bad movies. So, I thought I would break it down for you. I’ve split up the list into three sections: movies you should see, movies only die-hard fans of the genre need to see, and movies you can skip. Movies I was unable to find are listed at the end. I also ranked the movies; my favorites are closer to the top.

Here goes:

Movies You Should See

  1. Island of Lost Souls: Charles Laughton is phenomenal in this movie, and it is a really fascinating take on the H.G. Wells story.

    Island of lost souls

    That’s Charles Laughton on the left, as the creepiest mad scientist I have seen so far.

  2. The Old Dark House: I’ve already rewatched this movie for fun since I first posted about it. It’s a hokey but good creepy house movie.
  3. The Hands of Orlac: Conrad Veidt can somehow act out whole emotions with his hands. It’s excellent to watch a master actor at work. Plus, the story is nice and scary too.
  4. La Main du diable: Bargains with the devil make for good stories and this one is a whole lot of fun.
  5. Frankenstein: This is a true classic of the monster movie genre that every fan of horror absolutely must see.
  6. Nosferatu: If you like vampire movies, you have to see this original spin on Stoker’s masterpiece.
  7. The Return of Doctor X: It’s got Humphrey Bogart in it, so I’m pretty much going to include it here due to that fact alone. It’s also a good mad scientist story.
  8. The Unknown: Lon Chaney is an actor who put up with a lot of pain for his art. This movie does a great job showcasing it.
  9. The Wolf Man: Lon Chaney, Jr., is not as great as his father, but he does a good job in this movie all dolled up in full werewolf makeup. It’s also a core Universal monster picture that must be seen.
  10. The Monster Maker: It’s a ripoff of other films but is still a lot of fun to watch.
  11. White Zombie: This is only low on the list because I did not like it the first time I watched it. However, now that I’ve seen lots of Bela Lugosi, this is definitely one of his better roles.
  12. Werewolf of London: I really liked the werewolf lore in this movie, even though it doesn’t have the great makeup that The Wolf Man has.
  13. The Cat and the Canary: A really good, Clue-style mystery.
  14. Haxan: This movie is slow to start but has some utterly creepy scenes in a documentary style.
  15. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari: I’m going to admit that I didn’t like this movie much when I first watched it. Having watched 29 subsequent films, however, it is easy to see what a huge influence it was. Plus, it has Conrad Veidt, who was in The Hands of Orlac andCasablanca.

    cabinet of dr caligari

    The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari has very strange set design and Conrad Veidt fits right in.

Deep Cuts for Hardcore Horror Fans

  1. Cat People: This movie is a very subtle film with psychological scares.
  2. The Dark Eyes of London: If you like Bela Lugosi, this is a good one. Otherwise, it is just a pretty basic thriller.
  3. Mad Love: If you liked The Hands of Orlac, check out this remake.
  4. The Mad Ghoul: It’s a good ghoul/zombie film that is fun to compare to other films in that subgenre.
  5. Mystery of the Wax Museum: Classic wax horror movie with a fast-talking 1930s reporter to boot.
  6. The Black Cat: This was Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff’s first film together.
  7. The Wind: This is not strictly a horror film, which is why I do not include it above. I loved it, but I don’t know if all horror fans would enjoy this strange silent film.
  8. The Most Dangerous Game: This is here as a deep cut only because my husband liked it. I was not much of a fan.

Movies You Can Skip

  1. Waxworks: This movie is a bit too hokey for my liking and not particularly scary.
  2. Vampyr: This one is too avant-garde without enough discernible plot.
  3. The Ghoul: I got very bored watching this.
  4. The Lodger: This Jack the Ripper story has far too much singing in it and not enough killing.

Movies I Was Unable to Find

  1. The Night Has Eyes: I only watched the first half; the rest of the online video was corrupted. It’s unfortunate, because it was a pretty good first half.
  2. El fantasma del convento: I was only able to watch this in the original Spanish, and I know no Spanish.
  3. The Silent HouseI couldn’t find this movie at all. Let me know if you know where to find it by leaving a comment.

 

Like AHS Freak Show? Try Tod Browning’s Freaks.

If you have been enjoying this season of American Horror Story (AHS) as much as I have, you may not have the patience to wait until Wednesday for more freakiness. I certainly don’t. And while I have been pouring over old horror classics in my attempt to become an expert in horror, I keep seeing reference to Tod Browning’s Freaks. I finally watched it and found an amazing number of parallels between the two stories.

About the Movie Freaks

Tod Browning was a director at the top of his game when he directed and produced the feature film Freaks in 1932. Just the year before, his movie Dracula starring Bel Lugosi had swept the nation with amazing success.

Browning had worked in the circus before becoming a director. He even performed daring acts himself, including being buried alive in order to be “resurrected” before a paying crowd.  With Freaks, he wanted to represent the true world of circus-folk in the 1930s. He used real freaks and performers from the era, seeking out performers from freak shows across the United States.

Unfortunately, audiences and censors couldn’t handle the grotesque nature of the plot and the deformities of some of the characters. Freaks was banned in many countries, including the UK. It was also banned in many cities across the U.S. Many copies of the movie were actively destroyed, including the original cut of the film.

Similarities Between AHS and Freaks

 

It is strange that what was banned just over 80 years ago is now fine for a TV program. Times certainly change. Just like American Horror Story: Freak Show, the movie Freaks includes:

1. Siamese Twins

In Freaks, the Hilton sisters played themselves. Daisy and Violet Hilton were twins conjoined at the hip and were popular stars on the vaudeville circuit.

Violent and Daisy Hilton, conjoined sisters, in Freaks.

Violent and Daisy Hilton, conjoined sisters, in Freaks.

Right now, on Netflix instant watch, there is a terrific documentary about the lives of these two sisters, who were exploited throughout their lives. It is called Bound by Flesh, and it cast a new light on the types of issues freaks had to face as entertainment changed in the middle of the 20th century.

2. Little People

Much of the plot of Freaks centers around a couple of little people, Hans and Frieda. That pair, while engaged in the movie, were actually real life brother and sister. The were part of a quartet of midget siblings who were known as the “doll family” given their small stature.

hand and frieda in Freaks

Real life brother and sister played a central role in Freaks.

3. Pinheads

Microcephaly is a real neurodevelopment disorder that causes an enlarged cranium, stunted intellectual development and shorter lifespan. In Freaks and in AHS: Freak Show, the characters are known as pinheads. Tod Browning’s Freaks showcased one of the more famous pinheads of the day, Schlitzie. He even gets talking time on-screen, though it is difficult to understand what she is saying.

Schlitzie

Schlitzie the pinhead in Freaks.

4. A Hermaphrodite

Like Angela Bassett’s character in AHS, there was also a hermaphrodite in Freaks. He/she was known as Josephine Joseph and claimed to be half man/half woman. There is no known evidence that this was actually the case, but his/her makeup was quite convincing:

josephine joseph

Josephine Joseph: half man and half woman.

5. Legless People

In AHS, the legless individual is a woman, but in Freaks the legless character was played by real-life freak Johnny Eck. Eck had a condition that left his legs and feet tiny and useless. As a result, he only grew to be 18 inches tall. He hid his legs and feet under his costume and billed himself as the “Half-Boy.”

johnny ecks

Johnny Eck as the half boy in Freaks.

Freaks also steps it up a notch, with Prince Randian, aka The Living Torso.  With no arms or legs, he does everything with his mouth. Watching him light a cigarette is downright fascinating.

prince randian

Prince Randian (on the left) with his inexplicably lit cigarette in Freaks.

Freaks also had a bearded lady, strong men, a circus owner who sounds a bit like Elsa Mars, and a variety of other performers. As a result, it is hard to take your eyes off the screen while watching Freaks.

If you like AHS: Freak Show, I highly recommend that you go watch the original Freaks. It can help tide you over until next Wednesday.

How to Survive as a Zombie

Face it. If a zombie outbreak occurs, odds are that you will become a zombie. It’s okay. We can’t all be Rick Grimes from The Walking Dead or Alice from Resident Evil.

Zombie hunters love arguing about the essentials of their bug-out bag and the weapons they need to defeat poor little zombies like yourself. You should be equally prepared. You need a plan so you can stay undead and keep eating brains for years to come.

Items a Zombie Will Need During the Apocalypse

1. Good sneakers.

shoes

Comfortable, quiet shoes are essential.

As a member of the undead hordes, you are going to be doing a lot of shambling. You will need comfortable shoes to keep your rotting feet intact for as long as possible. Otherwise, you could have trouble catching up with those pesky humans who are always running away from you.

You are also going to want quiet shoes. The loud smack of those expensive leather-soled shoes is going to give you away to humans hiding nearby. With a good pair of sneakers, you can ensure it’s not your shoes that give you away.

2. Super glue, duct tape, or better yet, taxidermy adhesive.

You are dead and rotting. Things are going to fall off. You are going to need some sort of adhesive to keep those body parts attached. Taxidermy adhesive, like caulk, is the best solution for dried out and desiccated zombie parts, but super glue or duct tape will work in a pinch.

3. Portable bonesaw.

bone saw

This bone saw oscillates!

Skulls are hard, and as your limbs limbs decay, it might become harder and harder to smash open those craniums to get at the delicious brains inside. A portable bone saw can help you cut right through skulls and other pesky bones to get at that tasty flesh you crave.

4. A helmet, preferably bulletproof.

Your head is your weak spot. You want to give as few opportunities as possible to the humans. Get a good, high-quality helmet to protect yourself from those pesky head shots and double taps.

5. The book How to Win Friends and Influence People.

As a zombie, there is safety in numbers. As part of a zombie horde, you can overtake small groups of human survivors with ease. So, you are going to want to make friends with other zombies as quickly as possible. While geared toward humans, this book can still provide you with lots of good tips for making other zombies like you. For example, don’t argue or fight over the brains; you can make friends by limiting confrontation. There is plenty of flesh to go around and lots of humans left to kill.

6. A hearing aid.

hearing aid

Better hearing = more delicious brains.

Your hearing is our best hunting device. Why not heighten it? With a hearing aid, you can hear humans and other living creatures from a distance, so you can shamble after them.

7. Athletic Attire.

In addition to good shoes, you are going to want clothing that allows for maximum movement and breathes well to vent the reek of decay. If possible, get clothing that is stain-proof and water-proof. Blood stains are hard to get out.

Is there anything essential that I have missed? What do you think is necessary to be a successful zombie?

How to Host a Horror Marathon

Every year, I invite a bunch of friends over to watch some horror movies. That idea alone seems simple enough, but I put a lot more thought and planning into the ordeal than most people realize. And over the years, I have learned some things.

Start Planning Early

The earlier you start planning your horror movie marathon, the better. Not only will this give you time to prep and think out all of the logistics, it will also give you time to hunt down copies of the horror movies you want to show.

I host my marathon in October. I usually start planning out the date and theme around mid-August. That allows me to give my guests a chance to get it on their calendars. This segues nicely into my next point…

Pick a Good Horror Theme

There are so many horror movies I love and it can be hard to pick which ones I want to show. Basically, my natural instinct is to play movie after movie, telling my guests that, “You HAVE to see this one.” I also want to blurt out the exclamations that annoys my husband to no end: “You haven’t seen that!? Are you serious?!”

That is exactly what I did during my first horror marathon. I started out strong with The Shining, but ended up jumping all over the place with Tucker & Dale vs. Evil and Nightmare on Elm Street. There were a bunch of other movies in there that I don’t even recall. By the end, my guests were glassy-eyed and worn out. I learned my lesson.

By picking a theme, you can keep yourself focused and give your guests an idea of what to expect. Last year, I did horror through the decades. I picked a movie from each decade that I thought was good. I started with Rosemary’s Baby from the 1960s, next was The Exorcist from the 70s, the 80s was Poltergeist, and for the 90s, I had a selection of 90s movies for guests to pick from.

poltergeist

Plan well and your horror marathon will suck people right in.

This year, I chose to focus on supernatural/ghost films. It all stemmed from my renting Oculus and falling in love with it. I wanted to force others to watch it and that was the start of my theme. The movies included:

  • The House on Haunted Hill (Vincent Price version, of course)
  • The Ring
  • Beetlejuice (to keep the crowd happy)
  • Oculus
  • The Conjuring

I’ve already got ideas for future themes too: slasher movies, monster movies, classic horror, demon horror, and Hitchcock films.

Think About Your Audience

Are your friends horror junkies who have seen everything? Would they find the movie Audition or Cannibal Holocaust boring?

Or are your friends the type who only occasionally watch horror movies? Maybe they saw the latest blockbuster but if you start talking the finer points of Argento’s catalog their eyes glaze over?

The types of people you invite should guide your decisions. I would not show High Tension to my friend who asked me if I would show Ghost and Casper this year at my marathon. Think about who is coming and try to find movies that suit everyone’s interests. That isn’t always possible, but it’s worth considering.

Food for Your Horror Marathon

You are going to want snacks while you watch those horror movies. Some fun things I have made over the years:

I also usually buy a bunch of chips, stuff for a meat & cheese platter, nuts, candy and other goodies.

But this is just the stuff that sits out throughout the movies. When you are watching (and presumably drinking) several movies, you are going to need real food. To make it easy, we usually order pizza. We have also picked up boxes of tacos from Taco Bell and the wonderfully gluttonous Crave Case from White Castle.

Decorating to Scare

I plan my horror marathon around Halloween. It just makes things simpler. I have all sorts of creepy, horror-themed decor at the ready this time of year. I like to hide fake bugs around the house and replace all my real art with creepy art like this:

creepy halloween art

Yep, this is hanging on my wall right now.

One year (and I always plan to do this but hardly find the time; another reason to plan ahead), I cut out black silhouettes of rats and crows and taped them all over my apartment. The rats were pasted all along the baseboards and in the dark corners. The crows hovered on top of frames and shelves. I got a lot of compliments on those.

Spider webs, fake skeletons, candelabras covered in wax all help the atmosphere and set the marathon apart from any other evening watching movies with friends. It’s not necessary, but it helps make it more fun.

Test Your Movies

While it’s fun to wait until the marathon to watch the movies, you are going to want to watch the movies at some point in advance of the event. If anything, you don’t want some technical glitch to kill the mood. Trust me. It can happen.

This year, I had ordered a new Blu-Ray version of The Ring to show. Of course, it froze halfway through the movie. I’m lucky it only froze once, but it totally killed the mood and irked me. In the future, I’m going to test all media in advance.

Enjoy Yourself

If it’s not fun, why do it? I’ve said a lot of things and given a bunch of advice about horror marathons, but make sure you don’t forget to have fun hosting your marathon. Pick some movies you love and want to share. When you care about something, it’s contagious. Your friends will have fun too.

Happy horror watching!

Watch the Book: Studies in Terror

I often see blogs and posts where a foodie “cooks the book.” In other words, they try to make every recipe in a book and review them. I’ve always liked the idea, but I am a very lazy chef.

I can, however, watch horror movies. I never seem to tire of them. So, I thought I would do something similar to those “cook the book” posts. I plan to “watch the book” instead. The book is Studies in Terror by Jonathan Rigby.

studies in terror

Cover of the book Studies in Terror by Jonathan Rigby.

The book covers 130 landmark horror and suspense movies. In the introduction, the author points out his choices don’t always align with the best films of the period. He admits that some selections may simply indicate his “own preferences.”

When I bought the book, I was embarrassed by how few of the films I had actually seen. I have seen a lot of “classics” of horror cinema, but one quick flip through of this book and I knew that my knowledge was lacking. So, I have decided to watch every film listed in this book (and I’ll post about each one in turn).

The book goes in chronological order, so I will too. Starting with The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari in 1920 and ending with Outcast in 2009.

I’m a bit worried that I may not be able to get ahold of some of the films. If that happens, I will have to skip ahead. Hopefully youtube or Amazon can come to my rescue in those situations.

Have you read any good books about horror movies? Any classics that I should be careful not to miss during my journey?

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