What to say if you liked it
The perfect Halloween TV treat – an exploration of the formulae behind the world’s most successfully scary movies.
What to say if you didn’t like it
In methodically revealing the tricks and psychological ploys that ensure the perfect horror film, this programme inadvertently rids them of their power to fright.
What was good about it?
• The programme was certainly comprehensive in detailing the legacy of horror: it guaranteed all genres were dealt with by encompassing old-school vampires in Nosferatu to killer ants in Them!, zombies in The Evil Dead to cannibals in Texas Chainsaw Massacre
• Camp as knickers Richard O’Brien doing an unnecessary but gloriously over the top introduction, only to then have his throat cut.
• The rather original and bizarre premise behind 8190s hit Shivers, which saw helpless victims turn into sex-crazed monsters and kill through fatal copulation.
• John Carpenter’s seminal Halloween, arguably the finest and most enjoyable scary movie of all time, with a brilliant performance from Jamie Lee-Curtis and enough jumps and tension to last a hundred viewings.
• The 1950s American government film Duck And Cover, a supposedly educational programme preparing the nation for a nuclear attack and probably one of the scariest things ever released due to its roots in terrifying reality. See also Britain’s When The Wind Blows and Threads.
• That final scene in The Wicker Man, still shocking and disturbing even after repeat viewings.
• Robert Englund AKA Freddy Krueger – as charismatic and energetic as his horror alter ego.
What was bad about it?
• The truly disgusting Cannibal Holocaust, the perfect example of horror trying too hard and putting everyone off in the process.
• The programme forgot to mention that some of the finest horror movies are also masterpieces in black comedy – eg Halloween’s feisty heroines, Scream’s postmodern references and Romero’s satirical Living Dead series.
• Although the unexpected tongue-in-cheek bumper sections – where our talking heads met grisly deaths or became horror monsters – began as rather amusing (Hammer Horror siren Ingrid Pitt being shot in the head was particularly funny), they soon grated and became predictable.
• There was rather too much reliving of certain scenes but a lack of exclusive behind the scenes info. It would have been great to learn more about these movies’ inspirations and filming process.
• Why was there no inclusion of Scream or The Ring, two recent examples of effective and influential horror?