With his new feature THE DARKNESS hitting screens this week, we were curious as to what kind of horror films might have inspired the work of director Greg McLean, who first shocked audiences worldwide with the extreme-horror hit WOLF CREEK and followed up with the excellent killer-croc thriller ROGUE.
Both of those films are based on actual events, but as THE DARKNESS proves, McLean is just as comfortable in the domain of supernatural fantasy as he is with gritty realism.
Case in point: Greg just revealed to us his five all-time favorite horror films, and as you can see, they span the entire spectrum of the genre.
Naturally, we love the hell out of these movies too, so we’ll take any opportunity to talk about them… and if you haven’t watched each and every one of these flicks at least once in your lifetime, then you’ve got some catching up to do before you can play with the big kids!
The arrival of “Alien Day” (April 26, as in the planetoid LV-426) this year triggered a huge resurgence in the popularity of the ALIEN film franchise, and also revived the same old debate: which is your favorite — Ridley Scott’s ALIEN, or James Cameron’s 1986 sequel ALIENS? That argument is best settled elsewhere, but no one can dispute the tremendous impact Scott’s film had on the cinematic landscape: essentially a “B” monster movie plot with a blockbuster budget and some of the best production design ever seen on screen (thanks in part to the horrific brilliance of artist H.R. Giger), ALIEN single-handedly rewrote the book on both the science fiction and horror genres, and it still packs a horrific punch today.
THE SHINING (1980)
As much as we adore the collective works of Stephen King, we’re gonna agree to disagree with Big Steve when it comes to the merits of Stanley Kubrick’s masterful adaptation of his 1977 bestseller. Stripped down to its most basic elements, the central horror of King’s story is forced inward, as the massive expanse of the Overlook Hotel reflects the increasingly twisted and darkening corridors of one man’s rapidly-unraveling mind… and what a mind it is, exposed with career-defining mayhem by the one and only Jack Nicholson, who provides some of the most-quoted lines of dialogue in motion picture history.
Speaking of rewriting the playbook… Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece of shock and suspense still manages to generate shudders more than half a century after its release. Scaling down the expansive widescreen canvas of his earlier classics, Hitch took a cue from the run-and-gun production style of his TV series to keep his budget low… which worked to his benefit, because the studio was pretty nervous about kicking in the coin for such grim and violent subject matter. The legendary filmmaker also broke ground in terms of horror storytelling, not only by murdering the supposed protagonist halfway through the film, but by attempting — and even succeeding — to switch the audience’s sympathy to her killer!
Here’s another film landmark which changed the game in a major way — not just in terms of horror, but also the way movies were made, sold and marketed to audiences. While there has been a downside to the studio blockbuster mentality, we can’t lay the blame at Steven Spielberg’s doorstep. JAWS is a brilliantly directed, superbly acted, lean and relentless thriller that managed to turn a potential failure into its best feature: since the mechanical shark didn’t function very well, Spielberg wisely kept it off-camera for most of the film — which helped ratchet the suspense level to 11 for two solid hours, as viewers waited in agony for the shark to poke its head above water.
THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974)
McClean’s WOLF CREEK has deep roots in Tobe Hooper’s classic of boundary-pushing horror, which is less of a straightforward story than a simple nightmare scenario into which our hapless protagonists are dropped. Audiences had no idea what hit them when Leatherface and his “family” had their way with poor Sally Hardesty and her clueless hippie pals. It’s a testament to the potency of Hooper’s vision that there is practically no graphic violence depicted in the film; its level of ferocious intensity is so impossibly high that viewers filled in the blanks with their imaginations.