Fearless Luke Jones unveils the classics that inspired recent horrors
'They don't make 'em like they used to'. It's a cliché as old as the movies it references, and unfair to the often excellent and daring cinema that has been produced in modern times: Inception, We Need To Talk About Kevin and Senna, just to name a few. Yet there is one genre that seems to have taken a backwards step in the 21st Century: horror. But do not despair gorehounds! Here are a few suggestions for horror classics that should be checked out if you enjoyed their more recent offspring...
The Woman in Black – The Haunting
The Woman in Black has been doing phenomenal business in the UK thanks, in no small part, to the presence of the boy who lived, and effective shocks courtesy of some ghosts that didn't. Yet the definitive ghost story remains 1963's haunting classic, The Haunting.
On-the-nose titling aside, director Robert Wise (in between overseeing West Side Story and The Sound of Music) doesn't put a foot wrong with his less-is-more approach to horror. A basic story (a group of people enter an old house, get haunted) is raised by an unsettling, melancholic tone and chilling set pieces. Plus it is in black and white: ghost stories should always be in black and white.
The Devil Inside – The Exorcist
Even after countless parodies, The Exorcist still stands as the benchmark of demonic possession flicks. Many have praised its performances and direction, and thematic undercurrent of good vs evil that gives it heart even amongst the pea soup vomit. Yet at its core is a horror movie engineered to turn your trousers brown.
The Devil Inside, The Last Exorcism, [Rec]... the shadow of The Exorcist looms large over all as not only one of the finest horror movies ever made, but one of the finest movies, full stop.
Paranormal Activity 3 – The Blair Witch Project
Ok, so Blair Witch is only 13 years old. True, it is also far from the first horror movie to use a found-footage style to give it a sense of authenticity. Yet it was the first horror film to to use the Internet effectively, not only to market the movie, but to expand upon its mythology and keep audiences suspending their disbelief for just a little bit longer than they otherwise might have.
Of course with hindsight it's easy to laugh at the belief that Blair Witch was anything more than a well-designed fake snuff film. But for a viewer watching it for the first time it remains effectively disturbing, and the lack of name actors and late 90s clothing help to make it feel like a document of its time rather than fantasy.
While there have been a lot of Blair Witch copies (Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity, even Chronicle to an extent) none have moved the formula on significantly, and even a sequel failed to re-ignite the magic that made the original so creepy.