Michaele Jordan was born in Los Angeles, bred in the Midwest, educated in Liberal Arts at Bard College and in computers at Southern Ohio College. She has worked at a kennel and a Hebrew School and AT&T. She’s a bit odd. Now she writes. Her previous novel, Blade Light, a charming traditional fantasy, was serialized in Jim Baen’s Universe and is now available as an ebook at Amazon or at iBooks. Her next novel, Mirror Maze, is available for pre-order from Amazon.
Don’t you just love Halloween? When I was a kid, it was only one night-but such a glorious night! I was out there alone in the dark (it would never have occurred to my mother to go with me) and anything could happen, especially since I was in disguise and could never be identified if something cool did happen. By the time I reached high school, kids were showing up twice; once for Halloween and again for ‘Penny Night’ (whatever that is). Now Halloween lasts a whole week (plus a month of prep.)
This gives us so much more time to watch horror movies! I started this year with The Island of Lost Souls. What a genius Charles Laughton was-somehow underplaying while simultaneously going over the top. (They say H.G. Wells disavowed the film-not socialist enough. I’ve read some Wells. He should have worried less about social consciousness and more about creating a good, scary story.)
I am told young people won’t watch black and white movies, but surely this can’t be true-young people love horror. Yes, the modern horror movie has evolved into something very graphically bloody and brightly colored, but all those wonderful creaky old black and white monster pictures are still all over the TV. It’s not merely that no real horror fan can dispute their place in the canon; come Halloween, no American with a TV can even avoid them.
And who wants to avoid them? Surely, the original Boris Karloff Mummy is an all time great film (not the I didn’t enjoy the Brendan Fraser version). Kids still love King Kong; I’ve seen them. (Yes, that remake is fun, too. But the original remains a classic). Even The Old Dark House is still fun.
Cultural anthropologists insist that Dracula, Frankenstein, The Invisible Man and the above mentioned Island of Lost Souls are actually about the horrors of the Great War. But you know-the Great War turned out to be not so great as they thought, and we’ve developed a whole new range of social angst, yet the old horror movies are still with us and still scary. I may roll my eyes now at the inadequate special effects and heavy handed dialogue, but back then I had to peek at them through my fingers because I had my hands over my eyes. Kids still do that at the movies.
Of course, not every old movie is a classic, not even every old horror movie. Boris Karloff or not, The Ape, Before I Hang and The Vampire Bat are not much watched any more. There’s a reason for that. (Although I do have a soft spot for The Black Room.) Their places have been filled by Creature from the Black Lagoon and The House of Wax which was not improved by being remade in color with Paris Hilton. Nor does the remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers hold a candle to the original. The Haunting of Hill House and Psycho may be the best horror films of all time; I do not roll my eyes over them; I still have to peek through my fingers. Also Repulsion, which was made deliberately in black and white, well after color had become the norm. Apparently color isn’t everything.
Not that I’m against color. Come the sixties, when Roger Corman and Vincent Price came into their own, color was the medium in which they worked. (Although by then I wasn’t just watching Masque of the Red Death for the horror; I wanted a look at Paul McCartney’s girlfriend.) I delighted to The Abominable Doctor Phibes and cowered in my seat during Rosemary’s Baby. The Frank Langella Dracula used color very artfully. In 1982, they finally did a horror remake that was better than the original; The Thing from Another World was an excellent old horror movie, but The Thing was REALLY scary. (I’m still nervous about this new remake. How could it possibly be better than the John Carpenter?)
I admit I’ve lost touch with the later horror films. It’s not a value judgment, but during the era of Friday the Thirteenth, Nightmare on Elm Street and Final Destination, I’ve drifted away, busy making a living and trying to break into writing. My husband (heavy, heavy sigh) does not share my love for horror. (I did catch the wonderfully chilling Let the Right One In. I didn’t dislike the American remake, Let Me In, but neither did I see it as an improvement.)
All in all, no matter how long they extend the Halloween holiday, there’s enough delicious horror movies out there to last as long as it takes. Although, if you’re bookish, you might prefer a scary costume novel. May I suggest my occult thriller Mirror Maze?