Monday, August 26, 2013

My years in horror: 1979

AS of today, I am starting a new series that will discuss what I believe to be the best horror movies of every year that I've been alive, including 2013. The series will conclude before my upcoming birthday in October. In other words, we have just over two months to talk about 34 movies. We'll go chronologically, which means we begin with 1979.

There are some good contenders for best horror movie of 1979: the Frank Langella-starring Dracula, Cronenberg's The Brood, The Amityville Horror, Phantasm, Werner Herzog's Nosferatu the Vampyre, and Lucio Fulci's Zombi 2. We have some franchise openers in there and a franchise opener is my pick for the best horror movie from the year I was born.

With it's claustrophobic sets and utter darkness, Ridley Scott's Alien put the finishing touch on the disco decade. Released when the world was still buzzing about Star Wars and friendly, helpful outer space beings such as Christoper Reeves' Superman, Alien served as the reminder that we really don't know what is OUT THERE. For all we know, there might be THINGS out there that want to destroy us in nasty, gut-busting ways.

Think about it: what could be worse than having a spidergina attach itself to your face and impregnate you with  its outer space hellspawn? And when that first gut-buster bursts out of John Hurt's torso... There's a reason the scene has been parodied beyond rationality. Because it's frightening and the way we cope with utter terror is to turn it into a joke.

The H.R. Giger-designed aliens in Alien are no joke. We'd see more and more of them as the series continued but part of the horror of this sci-fi epic is not seeing the creature until absolutely necessary. Director Ridley Scott mastered the shadows for this movie and -- as much as I love many of his films -- has only come close to being this good once (Blade Runner).

The late 1970s was also the perfect time for a female action hero and star Sigourney Weaver delivers. The great part is SPOILER ALERT how long it takes us to realize she's the star of the movie. OK< at this point we all know she's the star but imagine seeing Alien for the first time in 1979. YOu probably didn't even know who Weaver was.

Alien, for a first-time viewer, is full of surprises. For a returning viewer, the film holds up remarkably well. As previously mentioned, the difficulty is getting someone from our pop culture-saturated society to sit down and watch it for the first time without thinking they know exactly what's going to happen.

Next up: the 1980s!

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