Despite whatever negative connotations the term “exploitation cinema” might bring to mind, it is a concept which, at its heart, is really much more benign than you might think. Basically, an exploitation film is one which focuses on an element simply for the sake of luring in the audience – sex, blood, a specific ethnicity, or even Megan Fox and giant transforming robots. And, in the parlance of Hollywood, exploitation was a way for the major studios to distinguish the “low brow” fare of the little guys from their own “important” movies. More to the point, exploitation cinema was, and remains, a way for people without marketing budgets to compete in a lopsided marketplace. Take, for example, “The Human Centipede” – for which, I’m sure, you’ve never seen a poster or a television commercial but about which you’ve certainly heard and formed an opinion.
By Lars Theriot
What scares you?
It’s an intensely personal question, and the answer changes drastically from one generation to the next. There is a story, perhaps mere urban legend, that during the first screening of Jaws, an audience member was so horrified by the scene where the shark eats young Alex Kintner, that he ran into the lobby and vomited into an ashcan. No doubt the moviegoers who made the Saw and Hostel franchises so popular would fall down laughing if they heard that story, but it’s exactly these kinds of generational shifts in perspective that would leave us petrified with indecision at the thought of writing a book called The Top 100 Horror Movies. Not Gary Gerani — but then Gerani really knows what he’s talking about, having written both Roger Corman’s Vampirella (1996) and Stan Winston’s Pumpkinhead (1988), the latter of which ranks high on the list of horror movies that most petrified me in my formative years.
Add all ingredients to a mixing glass
Shake with ice and strain into a coupe
By Lesley Jacobs Solmonson
Fear is a universal archetype — no matter who we are or where we are from, when things go bump in the night, we all jump. For me, my own childhood fears are deeply rooted in the foreign horror film thanks to a chance viewing of the 1922 German film Nosferatu when I was six. Directed by F. W. Murnau and adapted (without permission) from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Nosferatu is beyond tame by any modern standard. Yet, its iconography – Count Orlok’s hulking shadow on the staircase – was so vivid to me that I slept with a blanket covering my neck until I was almost twenty.
When we talk “genre”, horror is the one that pops up in every filmmaking country the world over. Be it India or Japan, Italy or France, fear crosses borders. Take, for instance, the recent Swedish vampire film, Lat den rite von komma en (Let the Right One In). Languid and almost romantic, the story explores the bleak life of a pre-teen loner who befriends a “young” vampire; it’s one of the most original takes on the blood-sucker mythos that I’ve seen in years. Likewise, the not-for-the-faint-of-heart Japanese film Odishon (Audition) manages to outdo Hostel in its truly gag-inducing exploration of torture and its disturbing emotional underpinnings. Whether it’s the language, the unfamiliar locations, or the sheer sense of otherness, these films hold a distinct appeal for me because they are so uniquely un-American. While there are exceptions, foreign fright films – the modern ones specifically – tend to be far more subtle and more rooted in psychological terror, especially when compared to the typical American dependence on monsters or gruesome special effects. Read More…
Since we’re talking horror films, I think it’s only appropriate that we talk Scooby-Doo. Like most adults my age, the misadventures of the Mystery Machine were my first exposure to ghosts, ghouls, and things that go bump in the night (at abandoned amusement parks). It’s safe to say that, as a kid, Scooby-Doo was by far my favorite cartoon (until that punk Scrappy came along, that is), but when the live action movies arrived, I was at a loss. Despite a nostalgia-fueled desire to want to want to see the Scooby-Doo Movie, I had an even greater urge to avoid it. At the time, Lars summarized this succinctly by observing that the film “wasn’t made for me” – that I simply wasn’t its target audience. I had grown up; Scooby hadn’t. Point conceded. Read More…