Growing up Geraldine McEwan’s portrayal of Mortianna the witch in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) haunted my dreams for years. As did my brother’s plastic Dracula mask that – with the benefit of hindsight – I now realise wasn’t particularly frightening at all.
If I did, on the very rare occasion, decide to take the plunge and put one on myself – think something along the lines of Final Destination (2000) and certainly nothing higher than a 15 rating – I made sure that the lights were on and that my dog was there for company (read: back up and security). A cushion was also never far away to hide behind in case I became too frightened.
Dipping a toe
My Letterboxd diary reveals that out of the 1,205 films I’ve logged since 2012, 9% (110) are from the horror genre.
To dig a little deeper into this stat many of the horror films that I’ve watched take place on or in the sea, as anything water-based is a particular pleasure of mine, be it hungry sharks (The Shallows, 2016) or deserted yachts (The Boat, 2018).
Several of the 7% fall into the vampire (Dracula, 1958) and zombie (28 Days Later, 2002) subgenres, and there are a handful of comedy-horrors, including Shaun of the Dead (2004), Warm Bodies (2013) and The Voices (2014).
My highest rated horror is Jaws (1975), with five stars out of five, followed by Alien (1979), Sleepy Hollow (1999), Let the Right One In (2008) and A Quiet Place (2018) with four and a half stars apiece. My lowest rated is Cage Drive (2017) – otherwise known as Open Water 3 – with just half a star.
Taking the plunge
Though I’m familiar with several horror subgenres there are many classic 1960s (and earlier) films that I have yet to watch, as well as the more bloodthirsty human-on-human ones. I’m yet to hear Dr Lecter’s infamous line about Chianti in-situ and while I know the plot of Rosemary’s Baby (1968), I haven’t watched it.
There are many films I haven’t seen on Rotten Tomatoes’ ‘The 200 Best Horror Movies of all Time’ list, including all but two of their top 10. Psycho (1960) is their number 1. It is a film I have wanted to watch for a while, but mostly due to the fact it was released during the Golden Age of Hollywood.
While I’m open to getting to know Messrs Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger, for the sake of my mental wellbeing, ‘torture porn’ films of the Saw (2004) and Hostel (2005) ilk will remain a no-go, as will anything starring clowns or the paranormal. Let’s not be hasty, eh?
- As I take my first tentative steps on the blood-strewn path of the horror genre, what are your recommendations?