TCM runs a really excellent movie ‘blog called Movie Morlocks (just from the name you know it’s good), where they post about all sorts of stuff, including, frequently, old horror movies. Today Richard Harland Smith posted a really interesting post about “creeps.” Before I go on, go ahead and read the post here.
He says a lot of interesting stuff in the post, but there’s one thing in particular that I wanted to pull out and examine, which is pretty much summed up in the last paragraph or so. Here’s the most telling sentence:
All of this puts me in a weird place. In denigrating contemporary horror movies in which I find very little to admire (or even remember 24 hours later), I seem to be advocating older genre fare that never actually existed but was instead cobbled together in my brain from looking at pictures of movies I hadn’t seen.
It’s interesting to me because in a lot of ways that’s exactly how I came to the horror genre, as well. Of course I remember reading spooky books as a kid, but some of my very earliest memories of, well, anything include looking through old books filled with black-and-white photographs of old horror movies, and imagining stories to go with them. Filling in gaps, not having any idea what was actually going on, what the movie was actually about. I think that had a huge influence on how I developed, as a horror fan and as a writer.
There was a giant flea market (a “dirt mall”) that we used to go to sometimes, and one of the sellers there peddled old magazines, and whenever I went I’d buy a few issues of MAD or Cracked, specifically the “monster party” issues, which would usually feature old photos from Roger Corman movies or whatever. Weird guys in bad rubber suits. I ate them up.
Though I dearly love old horror movies, more than probably any other category of movie you could name, I don’t really intend to denigrate modern ones. There’s a lot of garbage, but there’s a lot of gold among them too. But maybe it has to do with the difference between practical and digital effects, or maybe with the inherent staginess and theatricality of the old movies, but I just don’t think a book of film stills from modern movies would have quite the same effect.