Is This the Greatest Horror Movie of All Time?

I have remarked before that I love the “horror” genre in film but think about 99% of actual horror movies are complete and utter crap. (Yes, I know that violates Sturgeon’s Law. Shut up.)

For me, the ability of film to evoke particular emotions is fascinating, and that includes feelings of fear or dread. It’s just that very few movies do it effectively, and a few might do it too well in one way or another. To give an example, I find movies like Hostel and Wolf Creek to be terrifying, not because they actually evoke a feeling of fear in me personally, but because it scares me that people actually made those movies and that others found them entertaining enough to warrant sequels.

I am mostly talking about the “slasher” genre here, which may have started with 1974’s Black Christmas, a genuinely creepy movie. The genre has a few highlights, at least in an iconic sense, such as Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street, but they mostly fall into the old, tired tropes that were parodied (not very effectively, in my opinion) in the Scream movies. The one truly great slasher film is almost never even considered to be part of the genre at all: Alien, in which a killer picks off the crew members of a ship one by one until only one woman is left (as it happens, in her underwear.) It’s just that the movie is phenomenal, with a good story, well-written characters, and superb actors; the killer is an alien creature; and it all happens in outer space. Plus, if you pretend the ending hasn’t been spoiled for the entire universe, it’s not at all clear throughout the film who’s going to make it. Continue reading


Highlights of Friday the 13th

If you don’t follow John Kenneth Muir’s blog, you are doing yourself a disservice. In honor of today being Friday the 13th, he has a list of 13 reasons why he loves the venerable slasher franchise.

For my part, I do not “love” the Friday the 13th movies in the slightest, nor would it be entirely accurate to say I “like” them. It’s more that I recognize their cultural impact and importance.

Mr. Muir makes a couple of observations that stood out to me. After noting multiple instances of hidden, surprisingly brainy references, like a child reading Sartre’s No Exit during a throwaway scene in Part 6, he devotes a whole item of his list to Ginny Field from Part 2.


Ginny Field (played by the awesomely-named Amy Steel) was perhaps the only character to genuinely outsmart Jason—which shouldn’t be that hard, one might think, but whatever. A Nightmare on Elm Street‘s Nancy probably owes her level-headed handling of Freddie Krueger to Ginny Field’s clever ruse against Jason.

I would hardly call the Friday the 13th series a triumph for women in film, and a few Ginny Field-type characters really don’t make up for the hordes of stupid these movies throw at the screen. It’s also unfortunate that Ginny Field stands out as one of the few heroines who doesn’t get killed in a sequel (like Alice from the first Friday the 13th or the aforementioned Nancy).

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