Monday, October 10, 2011

Halloween Festival Of Lists: October 10: TEN Of My Personal "True Heroes of Horror"

Over at From Midnight, with Love, The Mike is compiling a list of 'True Heroes of Horror", and has asked fellow bloggers and friends to help him out.  Basically, you pick ten of the people you consider to be your own personal horror heroes:  the people who have influenced you the most in your life and have been what you consider the 'best' the horror genre has to offer.. 

Being a compulsive list-maker (as you can obviously tell by this month's theme and the countless other lists over the years here at Fascination with Fear), I was psyched to hand over my list to be added to his compilation.  HOWEVER...when I started actually assembling my list, I was utterly dumb-founded.  When I looked at the names I jotted down, I had 22 people.  Twenty-two!  And so the cuts began.  And they were painful.  Hence the honorable mentions at the end. Gah! 

In addition, I have placed them in alphabetical order because I couldn't decide how to rank them.

1) Dario Argento
No list I'd come up with could be without the "Italian Hitchcock".  Though I started with Fulci as a teen, I ended with Argento as an adult, if that makes sense. I think one must come to the realization that Fulci is great for a gaggle of gore, but Argento is high style and beautiful death.
My favorites of his are Tenebrae, Profondo Rosso, and not surprisingly, Suspiria.
I have reflected on Argento quite frequently over the last several years.  On this blog and with guest posts and podcasts on others.  I'm as big a fan and as big a defender of Argento as you will find.  That being said, he was quite literally the first person on my list of personal True Heroes of Horror, regardless of the fact that he's first alphabetically - he'd probably be first either way.  So there.

2) Sure, The Ward isn't exactly a good reason to have John Carpenter on a list like this, but any horror fan worth their salt knows his total body of work more than makes up for that blunder.  In fact, Halloween (1978) alone could put this horror icon on the list. 
Writing, directing, producing, there anything this man can't do?
Besides the granddaddy of all slasher films, some personal favorites of mine are probably some of yours too, including The Fog, Escape From New York, Christine, and The Thing
Oh, and he was married to Adrienne Barbeau.  Ka-Ching!

3) Yep, no way in hell was Johnny Depp not going on my list.  As someone who tends to favor the darker side of film roles, he's been in quite a few genre films, and seemingly has no intention of switching to rom-coms any time soon.
Sleepy Hollow, The Ninth Gate, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, From Hell, Secret Window, The Corpse Bride, hell- even The Astronaut's Wife - are all firmly planted in the horror genre, and he plays darkish characters in Edward Scissorhands, Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland, and the Pirates of the Caribbean films. 
Next up:  Dark Shadows, with Depp as Barnabas Collins.  Bring it!

4) Susan Hill made my list for one reason. 
The Woman in Black.
Currently writing a series of crime novels featuring Detective Simon Serailler, the British novelist's most famous aforementioned story is achingly suspenseful and probably the most chilling, atmospheric ghost story I have ever read.  It's the only book I can remember my hands feeling glued to in the wee hours of the night, unable to put it down until I finished it. 
This is to say nothing of the unnerving 1989 UK film adaptation I consider to be one of my favorites, or the upcoming remake starring Daniel Radcliffe.
This book speaks for itself, so obviously the author does too.

5) Alfred Hitchcock. 
Not sure I'd need any reason whatsoever to put him on a list of horror heroes. He'd have to be on quite a few lists, if not all!
Hitch is, simply put, heavenly.  He transcends straight-forward film making and scores miles higher than his counterparts. 
My first Hitchcock film was, of course, Psycho.  Soon following that, The Birds.  And that was that.  I wanted to get my hands on everything he'd done.  I love Strangers on a Train, Rear Window, and Rebecca all equally - but my forever love is always going to be that little film with the neurotic motel owner.
Thanks Hitch, for making my life.

6) Stephen King
Oh hell, yeah! 
When I was eleven, I read a book that got me hooked on horror for the rest of my life.  Before my inaugural viewing of Friday the 13th...before my first excursion to a cemetery after dark...I read The Shining.  It changed my life.  Though Peter Straub's Ghost Story remains the best horror novel I have ever read, no author takes up more space on my bookshelf than 'ol Stevie.  
With titles including Pet Sematary, Misery, Christine, and It, King has caused me more frights in reading than anyone else I have ever read.  I have all his tomes in hardcover, with a lot of them first editions as I've been collecting them since I was a young teenager.
And when you think about all the films made from his stories, I think his contribution to horror is pretty much unsurpassed.  And I thank him for his warped brain and poison pen.

7)  Once again, I cannot deny I am in love with Norman Bates.  This is a well known fact about me and I don't have any way to express my deepest thanks to Anthony Perkins for creating my favorite character in all of horror (and that is saying a lot!) 
It's well known that Perkins had difficulty securing film roles after his turn as the charming (!) motel owner.  But if I can put an author on this list for writing one book, I can certainly secure Perkins' place here with one character.
Norman Bates is a perfectly frightening role, one Perkins played with fearless gusto.  The turn from nervous to unstable is done with such subtlety, such flair, that you don't even realize he's mad until he uses the word himself.
And with that, he's made the grade.
Psycho, along with Psycho II, are two of my favorite films, ones I reach for again and again and consider "comfort horror".  Anyone else playing that role (I'm talking about you, Vince Vaughn!) just can't cut the mustard. 
It is truly one of the most superlative roles in all of film, and should have won the actor an Academy Award.  He has one in my book.

8) Vincent Price
It would be nearly impossible to list all of Vincent Price's contributions to horror.  Besides his countless film roles in the genre, he did television, radio, stage, narrated several spooky albums, and did voice overs. (Most notably, he performed a 'rap' at the end of Michael Jackson's Thriller.)  With such a vast catalog of works, Price is a shoe-in for anyone's 'most important in horror' lists.
Just the man's voice...that's all you need to set you off.  I love so many of his movies, but probably my favorites would include Theater of Blood, The Last Man on Earth, The House on Haunted Hill, The Abominable Mr. Phibes, and The Pit and the Pendulum.  I have very fond memories of watching his films on the Saturday afternoon TV matinees.  I also got a big kick out of his final film role in Edward Scissorhands. It was great to see him again...

9) Anne Rice
I've always been a voracious reader, and when I was a teen I got my hands on Interview with the Vampire.  My life was forever changed.  It was when my love affair with the vampire began.
Rice has (or at least had) such an incredible way with words, her stories jumped off the page and begged you to stay up till 2am reading, even though you had an Algebra final the next day.  Between her and Stephen King, it's amazing I was even able to graduate. 
My favorite book of hers is The Vampire Lestat.  I'm also quite fond of her character of Armand. 
It's my understanding that she got fairly eccentric a decade or so ago, pushing aside her vampires and getting all religious.  I've read that she has since renounced Catholicism but remains religious.  How you do that I'm not sure.
Either way, she made my life worth living when I was sixteen, so props to her for that!

10) George A. Romero
No horror fan that hails from Pittsburgh such as myself could leave the guru of zombies off such an important list. 
While I can't say I enjoyed George's most recent journeys with the living dead, I can count his first film as my absolute favorite zombie film.  Night of the Living Dead does it for me.  More than any other 'Dead' film.  I love everything about it.  The hero, the black and white picture, the primitive sound, the music...damn.  It's a film I watch more than just one time a year at Halloween.  I throw that thing in the DVR several times a year, turn out the lights, and get my zombie groove on.  While I do like his primary trilogy of living dead flicks, I also have great affection for Martin, Creepshow, and The Crazies
Face it, the man is a god.

Honorable Mentions:  Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Bram Stoker, Mario Bava, Clive Barker, Boris Karloff, Bruce Campbell, Adrienne Barbeau, Peter Straub, Roger Corman, David Lynch, M.R. James

*Because it seems weird to call any of these people (particularly Poe) a runner up, I had to list them simply so they got the recognition they so richly deserve.  Again, especially Poe.

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