Monday, August 26, 2013

A History of Horror with Mark Gatiss (2010)

Directors: John Das & Rachel Jardine

Starring: Mark Gatiss, John Carpenter, David Warner, more stars, directors and writers from classic horror films

More info: IMDb
Plot: Mark Gatiss examies the history of horror from the early, silent days through the Universal pictures, post WWII, the Hammer Studio & British horror, European horror to 70s American slasher pictures.


My rating: 8.5/10

Will I watch it again? Nah.

When you include Gatiss's follow up to the three-part documentary with European horror, you get a total of four and a half hours of horror movie history.  That's a sizable amount of time devoted to just one subject but it's still half as long as it should be in order to really satiate your appetite.  I liked how Gatiss visited the filming locations of some of the classic pictures, some of which are lesser known like THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED (1969) and the excellent WHO CAN KILL A CHILD? (1976).  It got me thinking about taking a few vacations.  He also talks to some of the film makers and actors (or descendants of) that made these films.  For the layperson, there is a lot to gleen but for the horror-phile it's mostly stuff you already know which can be part of the fun.  It's like sitting down with your mates and talking about the greatest hits while listening to the film scores and watching some clips.

I was very pleased to see that Gatiss spent a good chunk of one episode dedicated to the horror films of the Hammer Studio.  Like Gatiss I feel that their output is underrated and they produced some of the best horror for nearly twenty years.  They deserve more respect than what is usually attributed to them.

No mention of JAWS (1975)???  Gatiss pretty much ends with HALLOWEEN (1978). Why didn't he go further?  Probably time restraints as the other two preceding episodes were also 60 minutes.  But then he makes a point to say that he doesn't think there's much worth mentioning beyond 1978 as the genre got worse and there hasn't been anything ground breaking since.  He throws a bone by mentioning some films he thinks that rise to the top like RINGU (1998), THE ORPHANAGE (2007) and THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE (2001) but he thinks the horror output from America and Britain over the past 35 years isn't worth mentioning.  This is my only point of contention with Gatiss.  The show is about the history of horror and it shouldn't have ended without going into a little more detail about the flourishing slasher genre of the 80s, the importance of Wes Craven poking the genre in the arm with SCREAM (1996) and the resurgence that happened afterward, not to mention the more gruesome horror films that followed like HOSTEL (2005) that brought about torture as horror.  Like them or not, they are a part of the genre's history and they should at least get recognized.  Then, on the other side of the coin, it's Mark Gatiss's show and he can do what he he did.

Oh, and I almost forgot.  There are a lot of movies that get spoiled so beware if you want to see these films with virgin eyes and without the endings or twists ruined for you.

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