July 28, 2010

Special Effects in Horror Movies ©

I grew up in an era when black and white television was the norm, and when most of the movies we got to see on our television were at least 20 years old, as a result of a small country TV station with very little budget. For one half of the year our Saturday night movie starred John Wayne, and it seemed the remaining half of the year starred Elvis Presley. The station then usually closed about 10.30pm.

So in the few short weeks when they gave John Wayne or Elvis movies a rest (thank goodness we'd all shout), we'd occasionally got to see a classic B-Grade horror movie. I can recall hiding behind my mother's couch watching them, peering out from behind the chair every now and then and being frightened by the fake creatures, but mostly by the suspense which is what usually made these movies so successful.

There were several movies in this genre that remained firmly fixed in my mind as some of the best including: "The Blob" which was Steve McQueen's first starring role; "Them" with giant mutated ants; "Frankenstein" the original; "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" the original; and "War of the Worlds" in all it's colour glory (though I didn't get to see the colour version until we had a colour television much, much later.)

In the 1970s I had the chance to see slightly more modern B-Grade horrors including several Vincent Price movies (House of Wax and The Abominable Dr Phibes) which had me convinced that Price was a genuinely creepy guy in real life. And I also saw several Hammer movies that I wished I hadn't bothered wasting my time on. Unfortunately

there are quite a number of movies in this category. Wouldn't it be nice to get back all of that time we've wasted on pathetic movies and use them for a better purpose? ...like watching better movies?

Tonight I saw a movie that I skipped through in about 15 minutes. I knew it was going to be bad when I saw it was a movie from "The Asylum" team. Our household usually avoids these movies because they are simply trash. Not only is the acting, story-lines and special-effects pathetic, they seem to be aimed at men because they're simply an excuse to make a soft-porn movie filled with naked women having sex, usually with each other. YUCK!!!!! I even checked the movie to see if it was an Asylum Production, and it wasn't written on the cover. 

One of the things I enjoyed about the old classics were the special effects they used. I still think the originals I mentioned earlier are still pretty darn good, considering when they were made.  The atrocious movie I saw tonight had meteors heading towards earth. Turning to my flatmate I said, "Must have had a bad budget - they've used pistachios for meteors." 

I think that was probably the most interesting part of the movie. Really I should have stopped watching right there.

So what other bad special effects do you like in horror movies? I recall being gripped by fear when the blob began eating up the old man's arm or oozed through the vents into the picture theatre. Or the monstrous ants in Them with their crushing mandibles.

But for me, possibly the most memorable thing about these horror movies was the music and their sound effects. Even now when I watch "Them" for example, the sound of the ants still gives me chills.

During the past few years I've managed to purchase most of my favourite horror movies for my growing DVD collection including one of my later favourites, "The Time Machine" which was not strictly a horror.

Aahh, the good old days when movies used to scare me. Now, none of them do. 

I've never found gory movies particularly entertaining, unless they're meant to be funny, like  "Zombieland" or "Shaun of the Dead." What's the point of so much blood, guts and gore? It's not scary - it's just revolting. If the film-makers have a good story, they don't need lots of yucky stuff, because the story should be enough.

I always hated those generic horror stories that just went on and on with sequel after sequel. What's the point of watching them because you know it never ends anyway.

In the 90s I was surprised to see the resurgence of the 1970s style of horror movies such as Halloween. They're so predictable. YAWN!

And don't get me started on zombie movies. They are all the same as well. Why not have an accidentally released substance that has different effects on people rather than just turn them into zombies? After all, we are not all the same - our physiology is different, so shouldn't the effects be different?

Hollywood seems to get infected by a bug that sees the producers and movie-makers having an overwhelming desire to release a whole bunch of similar movies. It all becomes rather ho-hum and I feel like they're treating us like a bunch of idiots who are happy to swallow the same old schtick!  Please! Give us something different. Hell, give us something good for that matter.

Presently I'm working on a story about a vampire race with a totally different approach than anything seen so far. Most people will probably hate it because there's no soppy teenage girl, no throat-ripping scenes and no turning people into blood-sucking monsters. Funnily enough, it's a very human story and much more realistic. 

One of these days, I'm going to find the time to write it down. ©

Link: "Them" film trailer
Link: "Them" film trailer 2
Link: "The Blob"
Link: "Frankenstein" movie trailer
Link: "War of the Worlds" movie trailer
Link: "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" movie trailer

Link: The Wilhelm Scream

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