Time magazine has named its Top 25 Horror Movies, and for a publication not exactly known as a bastion of all that is hip and cool, the list is surprisingly adventurous. (Fair warning: Time.com has organized the list in such a way that you cannot see the entire list or navigate it easily: you have to click from one film to the next down the list. Sure, I could have daily page views in the millions if I pulled crap like that, too…)
The list starts out an exercise in frustration: Time’s No. 1 horor flick, Shaun of the Dead, a brilliant choice, but that is followed at No. 2 by Brett Ratner’s Red Dragon, a remake of Manhunter, which only makes me wonder how big a bribe Rattner needed to grease Richard Corliss’s palm with. But then it gets interesting. Bambi, from 1942, is on the list. Corliss writes:
Amazing that the first movies parents took their tots to in the 30s and 40s were the early Disney features. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Dumbo all exploited childhood traumas. Parents disappear or die; stepmothers plot the murder of their charges; a boy skips school and turns into a donkey. Kids were so frightened by these films that they wet themselves in terror. Bambi, directed by David Hand, has a primal shock that still haunts oldsters who saw it 40, 50, 65 years ago.
I don’t remember wetting myself in terror when I saw this movie only 30something years ago, but maybe I should ask my mom.
And then there’s the final film on the list: 1896’s “Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat.” Corliss again:
The brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière created the first publicly shown movies, the first documentaries and, with this one-shot, 50-sec. film shot at a Provence railway station, the first horror picture. It is said that as the Paris spectators watched the train chug toward the screen, they believed it was about to crash out of the frame and into the auditorium, and ran out screaming. True or not, the story indicates the power the medium would wield over its audience. The film can be seen on YouTube.
And here it is:
Corliss’s choice of these two films (as well as some of the other choices on the list, which span the entire history of cinema) as being among the greatest horror movies today raise a fascinating question: Should we continue to consider movies scary (or funny, or suspenseful) if they no longer elicit those feelings in us today? Of course they must be considered when you’re talking about a history of horror (or comedy, etc), but if you were recommending a scary movie to an audience today, would you suggest Bambi?
I might just watch Shaun of the Dead again tonight, though…