With his crime-thriller PITFALL set to launch July 22, John Robinson (aka Cameron Bane) has taken the time to compile a comprehensive list of the iconic gore and horror films. Just don’t watch these before bed…
It started with Luis Bunuel, and the slow, agonizing slicing of a living woman’s eyeball with a razor. Or did we really see that? The year was 1929, the film was a sixteen-minute short entitled Un chien andalou, and the co-writer was Salavdor Dali. Today the argument still rages as to how Bunuel achieved the shot, but in the end, it doesn’t matter. The effect was visceral, and paved the way for horror films for decades to come. Oddly enough, the year of 1929 would also herald the birth of a man who would come to be known as the father of the “splatter film”, Herschell Gordon Lewis. Lewis received his start in such nudie-cutie grindhouse fare such as Goldilocks and the Three Bares, but he hit pay dirt—and truly secured his fame—with the 1963 shocker, Blood Feast. The film stuck a nerve, and upset more than a few stomachs, when it was unleashed on the American public. Gordon’s success was quickly followed by Two Thousand Maniacs (1964), and Color Me Blood Red (1965). Made for drive-in audiences, the works blew a hole through the country’s 1950’s morality, and set the tone for even gorier fare. In 1973 director William Friedkin, who had given us such diverse offerings as The Night They Raided Minsky’s (1968), The Boys in the Band (1970), and The French Connection (1971) unleashed upon a not-quite-ready American public a nightmare of his own: The Exorcist. Someone once said you never forget your first (although I don’t think they meant gross movies), and with The
Exorcist, one couldn’t. The film was an event, a happening (to use a term from the era), an “oh-my-God” moment few people would ever forget. Within a week of its release (unleashing?) The Exorcist was the dry-mouthed talk across water coolers and backyard fences around the country. The question wasn’t ‘have you seen it?”, but more along the lines of “what did you think?”, and more tellingly, “did it make you puke?” Because make no mistake, Friedkin got exactly the effect he was after: shock, dismay, animal fear, and projectile vomiting (and not just from the film’s young star, Linda Blair). In the years following the film generated two sequels, but for sheer, unadulterated gore, the first is still considered the best. Since then we’ve seen shock-and-awe generators of other types, mainly with science fiction roots, and with varying success. Films like the Alien franchise, Event Horizon, 28 Days Later, Silent Hill, the Saw movies, John Carpenter’s underrated In the Mouth of Madness, and others—oh, so many others—have made us blanch and turn away. So why do they succeed, these gut-tightening, colon-releasing tributes to the special effects art? I don’t know. That’s my honest answer. Do they meet a felt need in the film-going public, an affirmation that “my life may stink, but at least I didn’t get my arms torn loose this morning by a deformed madman”? Could be. All I know is, the things make bucks. And as long as dead presidents are the currency of the realm, someone will still (excuse the term) grind them out.
Now where’s my chainsaw?