Horror flicks aren't made the way the old scary movies used to be. Older movies were written to do just that ... scare viewers. Horror films as of late are more about being as violent and gory as possible. Is this an era whose time has passed?
Elements of a Good Scary Movie
There are certain telltale signs in a good scary movie, and those things aren't found often in more modern movies. The two major elements in all of the better scary movies are a buildup of storyline and suspense. These are the ones that make viewers watch through spread fingers, afraid to look at the screen, and the ones that have the audience huddled together in their seats.
This contrasts greatly with the newer scary movies that are more or less slasher films. They lack a decent plot or storyline. The only suspense in movies like Saw is when the next person will get killed and how bloody or gory it will be.
Iconic Old Scary Movies
Fans of the old scary movies have no shortage of films to watch, films that will give them everything they're looking for such as an engaging storyline and plenty of suspense. These are the horror flicks that have become iconic. These are the films that were frightening to viewers in their original release, and continue to do so. They are often still watched in reruns on cable and have inspired sequels and remakes.
Directed by Alfred Hitchcok, Psycho was adapted from a novel that was based on the true crimes of serial killer Ed Gein from Wisconsin. Janet Leigh stars as Marion, who embezzled funds from her employer, and stops in the Bates Motel while hiding out with the money. While it appears to be the mother of motel owner Norman Bates who sneaks in and stabs Marion while she's in the shower, it turns out to be Norman himself impersonating his dead mother. Psycho is such a classic; it's been honored with two sequels, a prequel, a remake, and a television movie. Hitchcock also directed several other scary movies including The Birds and Rear Window.
Janet Leigh wasn't the only scream queen in the family. Her daughter, Lamie Lee Curtis, made her film debut in the classic Halloween. The film revolves around Curtis' character, Laurie, a teenage girl. On Halloween, she and her friends are followed by Michael Myers, an escapee from an institution who killed his older sister when he was six years old. He systematically moves about on Halloween night wearing a mask and killing all Laurie's friends. Halloween went on to spur several sequels and a few remakes.
The Exorcist (1973)
Like Curtis, Linda Blair also fired up her career in the horror movie genre. The Exorcist wasn't her first film, but it was the earliest movie she is widely remembered for. The film was adapted from a novel and also based on the exorcism case of Robbin Mannheim. Blair played a young girl whose mother (Ellen Burstyn) believes her daughter is possessed by the devil and orders up an exorcism from two priests. The film had a handful of sequels. Additionally, two other films released within five years of The Exorcist dealt with the theme of demonic children, Rosemary's Baby and The Omen.
The Shining (1980)
The Stanley Kubrick-directed The Shining is such a classic that it's brought certain quotes into our vernacular, including:
- "Red rum"
- "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"
- "Here's Johnny"
The film revolves around a writer (Jack Nicholson) who assumes the job of a hotel caretaker in the winter. He brings his wife (Shelly Duvall) and young son with him as they set up residence in the large, empty compound. Strange happenings begin to affect the family and hotel, and eventually the writer begins to go a little crazy. The film is based on a novel written by Stephen King, and inspired a TV miniseries and parody on The Simpsons.
A Genre that Can't Be Killed Off
It's the lack of great storylines and suspense that leaves viewers scanning the dial in October searching for the older scary films. They are so classic that movie studios often remake them to tap into the same magic. It's these films that will keep the genre alive.