Christopher Lee, Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr, Claude Rains, and Basil Rathborne were some of my favourite horror movie actors. They transferred the written word to the silver screen imbuing us with a sense of terror.
I adored the tones of the movies, they relied on your imagination as they gave you shades of light and dark, the creeper in the shadows, and the sensation of being watched in the dark.
Old fashioned movies gave you a narrative, they alluded to the dark horrors within the stories and in that way they are a vast improvement from the gore fests we are inundated with today.
When Frankenstein bustled around his lab concocting potions and using electricity to reanimate his monster you were there with him. You felt his trepidation and the elation of seeing his creation come to life. You felt the heart-stopping moment when you saw the cruelly constructed face of the monster. As he lumbered around the screen you were with him, your heart pounding.
That was fear. That was fear based on your own interpretation of what you were seeing. The monster couldn’t escape the screen and come for you but … maybe… what if…. there was that creaking sound from upstairs earlier… Nothing scarier appeared on the screen that was more powerful that your own imagination.
Which is why, even though I do like them, the modern gore fest films just can’t rate. Instead of relying on your own thoughts and feelings as you watch the movie it is all there in front of you with more blood spraying out than is actually in a human body.
Not to mention that we know the pretty blonde is going to fall over within reach of the chainsaw killer, that the dumb jock is going to think he can fight him and end up his next victim, that locking the door and running up the stairs never works out. They are clichés that have been done to death…
I adored the ‘Hammer House of Horror’ films. Mass produced horror with a dubious quality. They gave you an hour of a story where your heartbeat would quicken and for a writer with the imagination we are imbued with we’d wonder ‘what if’ as soon as we lay in our beds aiming for a good nights sleep.
Bela Lugosi peering at you through the screen as he portrayed Dracula and the director lit his eyes up so all you focused on was that intense hypnotic stare. You were mesmerised by his gaze as he moved towards you. It was all you could focus on and then it was too late to scream because Dracula had you. That moment was more intense than knowing Jason had his chainsaw and was coming after you.