Ninjas Chat… Horror!

HalloweenWelcome to the second edition of the HDN exclusive ‘Ninjas Chat’ column. This month, we’ve gathered some members from the forum to chat all things Horror (’tis the season, after all). 

Joining in on the conversation is Ann (Scary Hair), Mathew (mlmaier84) and Erik (Hooch). Each member chosen is a fanatic of the genre and were picked due to their involvement throughout Horror-related threads on the forum.

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Obvious question first: what was the first horror film that you ever watched?

ANN: Not the best introduction to horror, but my sister who is ten years older dared me to watch THE HOWLING for a fiver. Back in those days, that was a lot of money. I loved it until the end when Dee Wallace-Stones’ werewolf was more like a cute teddy while all the others had been claws and teeth.

MATHEW: The first horror flick I can recall seeing is the 1988 reboot of THE BLOB starring Kevin Dillon. I was 3 or 4-years-old when that movie was released and if I remember correctly, I was 6-years-old the first time I saw it. It scared the s**t out of me!

ERIK: That’s a tough one… it was the late ‘70s and on the TV, there was a disaster movie with some kind of virus and lots of men in white protective suits and dead people. I’ve been researching this and I think it could have been THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN. Going to bed that night, my mum checked that I brushed my teeth and then all of a sudden my dad opened up the door with a scuba mask on his face. I was terrified and cried my eyes out, while hearing my mum cursing dad. You were always on my side, mum, and I miss you!

Every horror fanatic’s love for the genre came from somewhere. Which film made you love horror? 

ANN: There was two that made me love horror. George A. Romero’s DAY OF THE DEAD was uncompromising; you had no idea if and who was going to make it out alive. THE THING was so well constructed in both movies; the make-up made the difference. 

MATHEW: I’m not entirely sure that I can definitively say that there is only one movie that defined my love and infatuation for the horror genre. The genre is split into many sub-genres and within each one of those sub-categories, different movies inspired my initial passion for them. A few titles that I remember seeing first from specific sub-genres — and some of my all-time favorites — include THE LOST BOYS, CANDYMAN, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, JAWS and POLTERGEIST.

ERIK: As an old-timer, it was more the fascination of VHS (Video Home System) and the ability to roam the video rental shop for horror titles. Renting the Moviebox (compact VHS player) and a bunch of films in the early ‘80s made me fall in love with the horror genre. I can’t pick out a single title, but these made an early impact: DAY OF THE DEAD, MADMAN, FRIDAY THE 13TH, HALLOWEEN, JAWS, RE-ANIMATOR, THE EVIL DEAD, THE BURNING, THE SHINING, THE FOG, AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON and CREEPSHOW. Note that some of these were banned and/or heavily censored in my country, so you had to resolve to friends sending you tapes from abroad or renting tapes that were “hidden under the counter.”

HellraiserWhich horror film do you think defines the genre? 

ANN: From a movie goers point of view, I’m going to have to say that choosing one movie that defines a genre is hard as horror has now become such a wide range. I am going for the one that made me most unnerved: POLTERGEIST. You thought the family was safe at the end and then pooper scooper needed. Also, it has not dated that much.

MATHEW: Again, due to the fact that there are a plethora of sub-genres in the realm of horror, I’m uncertain that there is just one film that does (or even can) pinpoint the genre in its entirety. I believe that there are multitudes of epic horror flicks that epitomize what ‘horror’ is, but none that you could express as ‘defining’ the genre as a whole. When I think of what ‘horror’ means to me, it’s more the characters in certain films (rather than the films themselves) that define it for me. Some characters that I consider to be the epitome or the ‘poster children’ for horror films include (but are not limited to) Leatherface, Freddy Krueger, Hannibal Lecter, Norman Bates and Samara Morgan. On the other hand, there are also characters that come from other genres of film (e.g. not horror) that can be utterly terrifying and are the exact definition of what ‘horror’ is as well. Some of these include the Joker, John Doe (SE7EN) and Anton Chigurh.

ERIK: Another tough one! If I am to pick only one, it would be PSYCHO by the Master of Suspense, Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock. My reasons are that Hitchcock broke some serious new ground in the horror genre. With this film, the audience was puzzled as it didn’t follow the ‘rules’. Here we had a new kind of violence, deviant behavior and a fantastic use of the camera. The audience could — from the shots — really feel the fear and anxiety on a whole new level. The most famous scene is the shower scene. It’s only three minutes long, but it consists of seventy-seven different camera angles and fifty cuts. The scene took six days to shoot! We are talking devotion here, folks!

I also love the statement he made that no hero/heroine is safe in a movie and that you might not even find one of those in his films. It could just be an everyday person getting caught up in some serious trouble.

Speaking of defining the horror, which filmmaker or writer do you think has done the most for genre? 

ANN: Has to be between George A. Romero and Robert Rodriguez. FROM DUSK TILL DAWN is a total masterpiece with its cool writing and a flowing story. The mix of comedy with gore is just genius. George A. Romero took horror to a new level that people were not ready for — no one being safe. Actually, Clive Barker is an unsung hero of horror. He is so underrated. LORD OF ILLUSIONS, NIGHTBREED and HELLRAISER were so far ahead of their time. I think he has suffered as we can only now fully understand the visions that he was trying to create. TWILIGHT amongst others owe their dues to him and his creations.

MATHEW: As the reader can see, I’m terrible at narrowing things down to just one option. I’m extremely deficient when it comes to making a decision on what/who that one thing/film/person is and in this question, it is no different. (Laughs) I have a list of several people I would like to mention here. I think it is arduous and, to an extent, unfair to say that one person did more for the genre than anyone else. I do have a list of directors/filmmakers who I believe each and every one did his part in making horror films what they are today. 

NotLDThat list includes (in no particular order) James Whale/Terence Fisher (these two guys were responsible for some of the Classic Monster movies), Alfred Hitchcock/George Romero (the “Master of Suspense” and the King of the Living Dead), Wes Craven/John Carpenter/Clive Barker (these are the people that made the most impact on me personally), and Dario Argento/Lucio Fulci. I know I don’t need to mention anymore about those last two. They are the two I know the least about. I have researched some and am watching movies of theirs multiple times a week.

ERIK: Going by my last entry, Hitchcock would be my easy #1 choice. He has influenced so many of today’s filmmakers in so many ways. Other worthy mentions are George A. Romero as his Trilogy of the Dead was groundbreaking. The guy shot a great zombie movie in 1968 (!) and I have enjoyed many movies of his since then. Another fantastic director is Dario Argento. The part of his work (until 2001, in my opinion) that I am fascinated with is his horror movies. Smart, creepy stories with superb twists and mad killers… what is not to like? Lucio Fulci would be my next choice and not because of his westerns, but because of his grim and bleak horror movies like THE BEYOND, THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY, ZOMBI and THE NEW YORK RIPPER. I also need to mention these guys at least: Fisher/Whale, Wes Craven, John Carpenter, Mario Bava and David Cronenberg.

Is there any up-and-coming horror filmmakers that you think will be remembered for their work for the genre in the future? 

ANN: The team that did INSIDIOUS. That is the first horror in ages that had me guessing. The use of music was so intimidating and added so much to the feel of the situations. Old-school movie-making while using all the best of the new technologies. 

MATHEW: In recent history, there are three gentleman I can think of who I feel have made the most significant impact on the horror genre. First there’s Oren Peli. Whether you like the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies or hate them, there’s no denying that Peli has made his mark on the paranormal sub-genre. He made cinematic history with the first instalment as the “highest grossing (percentage wise) movie of all time.” Next would be Darren Lynn Bousman, the director of SAW 2-4. Everyone knows the SAW movies, whether you’ve seen them or not. They’ve single-handedly redefined and modernized the torture sub-genre and have paved the way for a number of subsequent films. Finally, there’s the co-creator and director of the first SAW, James Wan. Since then, he’s directed DEAD SILENCE, INSIDIOUS 1 and 2, and THE CONJURING. I think after it’s all said and done, Wan will be most remembered and revered for his influence on horror films.

ERIK: Hmm… the first that come to mind have been around for 10+ years and that’s James Wan (SAW, INSIDIOUS 1 & 2, THE CONJURING, etc.) and Eli Roth (CABIN FEVER, HOSTEL 1 & 2 and THE GREEN INFERNO). The ‘torture porn’ part isn’t my cup of tea, but I can’t deny the influence on the genre that both men have had. Alexandre Aja came on my radar in 2003 with his amazing SWITCHBLADE ROMANCE and has since then delivered other worthy contributions like P2, THE HILLS HAVE EYES, MIRRORS and the upcoming HORNS. He is currently directing and producing a lot, so I have hopes for more. I also love the work of Scott Derrickson (THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE, SINISTER, DELIVER US FROM EVIL). DELIVER US FROM EVIL was a solid story with a nice creepy ‘exorcism’ feeling mixed in with superb acting from Eric Bana.

PoltergeistOut of all of the horror sub-genres — slasher, creature feature, torture porn, horror/comedy, etc. — which one do you prefer most?

ANN: Creature feature without a doubt. I adore a good creature  — POSSESSION, LEVIATHAN, SLITHER and THE THING are firm favourites with me. The fact that you can’t see it until the big reveal makes your mind work overtime trying to piece together what the motives are. Then when the creature lives up to worse than you had thought, it’s bang bliss.

MATHEW: Slasher movies were the genesis of my fascination with horror films. However, my obsession has now evolved into many other sub-genres. Right now, I’m heavily intrigued with the psychological and paranormal sub-genres of horror.

ERIK: That would be creature feature and slasher films and I blame the golden era of horror films (70s-80s). With so many great releases during that period, it set a mark for my taste, but like Mathew, I am a bit ‘wider’ in my taste today. I even enjoy non-horror movies every now and then! (Laughs)

Which character do you consider to be “the face of horror?” 

ANN: Freddy Krueger — his image is totally recognizable. The way his glove has been integrated into the human psyche is a master stroke. Yes, the films went south after number 3 which was the best in my lowly opinion. Looking behind the jokes and puns and a child killer coming back in dreams to avenge his death is a nightmare situation. Who would believe you?

MATHEW: Again, I don’t think you can nominate just one that represents all of horror more than any other. When I was thinking of candidates for that position, a few came to mind that, in my opinion, are all equally qualified. There are, of course, the five most notorious of the slashers: Leatherface, Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees and Ghostface. You could put any of these guys’ masks in front of anyone (whether they’ve seen the movie or not) and they would easily recognize who they were, whether they pointed them out by name, movie title or preferred weapon. I don’t think there is any other character from any sub-genre of horror that would be more recognizable or infamous than one of these five.

ERIK: I am with Mathew on this one as it’s super hard to pick just one. You could basically start in the early 1920s with the amazing Lon Chaney and his portrait of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA or the vampire image of NOSFERATU. These and the ones already mentioned are all classics and will forever be linked to “the face of horror.”

Do you collect any horror memorabilia outside of movies? If so, what?

ANN: I have a love of SCOOBY DOO, GREMLINS and PACIFIC RIM — especially PACIFIC RIM. In games, I am quite geeky; proud of my Play Arts Kai Adam Jensen from DEUS EX: HUMAN REVOLUTION.

MATHEW: Besides my movie collection and some cheap posters on my college apartment walls, I’ve never been much of a movie memorabilia collector in the past. However, next to collectible media, I’ve recently picked up the hobby (aka addiction) of collecting Funko POP! Vinyl Figurines and Bobble-heads; the first two of which were Hannibal Lecter and Freddy Krueger. I have also most recently purchased some much nicer art for my now media room walls. These have included a few Mondo posters and some art cards which I will frame to look like portraits.

PsychoERIK: Yes, I do. I am a sucker for special/limited editions in all forms and I am happy to have a media room where I can hide these things from “normal” people (and my wife). When we have friends over, it can get weird. I had to explain when a 6-year-old girl happily proclaimed that there was an “ugly man with a screwdriver in his eye” in the basement of our house (THE WALKING DEAD SEASON 2). I also have some figurines and props (Jason hockey mask, etc.). I also bought and just recently framed three art prints of DAY OF THE DEAD, DAWN OF THE DEAD and THE THING.

Which 2014 horror film has been your favorite so far (or if it hasn’t been released yet, which one are you most looking forward to)?

ANN: AS ABOVE, SO BELOW. It looks atmospheric. In close quarters, ancient tunnels with dumb tourists off the beaten track is a recipe for a horror fest.

MATHEW: Out of all the horror films 2014 has had to offer us cinephiles and horror geeks, the one that detaches itself from the herd for me personally is OCULUS. For me, it has a fresh and unique storyline which, in my opinion, is an extremely gruelling task to achieve in horror films in this day and age. I was trying to ponder another movie title that would make for an appropriate correlation and I could not produce anything. It’s very unique and I was quite impressed by it. 

I’ve heard some great things about DELIVER US FROM EVIL which releases here in the U.S. in a week. I will definitely be picking that one up. Also, I’ve grown this peculiar fondness for what I’ve dubbed as “Handycam Horror” movies (e.g. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, etc.), so, like Ann, I too am curious to see AS ABOVE, SO BELOW. 

ERIK: These are on my list at the moment: THE PYRAMID (Aja and mummies, yes!), JESSABELLE (the trailer got me hooked), AS ABOVE, SO BELOW (dark, demonic, possibly inner demons in catacombs under Paris? I’m in!), ANNABELLE (creepy doll is back!), JEEPERS CREEPERS 3 (please pretty please!), TUSK (promising!), and INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3 (hell yeah!). Maybe for now, the most anticipated is THE BABADOOK. The trailer looks ‘just wow’ from actress-gone-director Jennifer Kent. Hey, Mathew; I think you might want to check out EXISTS. It’s right up your alley! 

If a Ninja was new to horror, which five films would you recommend to them to watch first?

ANN: Oh, now that is a good one. Nothing too hardcore as a misinterpretation could put someone off. SAW, HOSTEL — that type of movie — you have to be in a certain mindset to watch.

The original THE OMEN draws you in and keeps you guessing the whole way through. I have a soft spot for that one. Billie Whitelaw is chilling and Gregory Peck and David Warner are just mesmerizing when they’re talking to Leo McKern in Megiddo. Yeah, I recon start nice and easy so the person is begging for more.

MATHEW: This question (like the rest) is difficult for me to answer. I decided that I would take the approach of picking out five sub-genres and picking the movie from each that I feel would be best for a horror movie newcomer. I chose the movie I did for each sub-category based on a few criteria: A) Does this movie epitomize what that sub-genre is all about, B) Generally speaking, is this a movie that can be liked by most people watching it the first time (is it too ‘macabre’; too obnoxious; ‘cheesy’), and C) Most importantly, does this movie reflect what I would want to instil in someone as to what this sub-genre is all about?

ConjuringIn no particular order, the five films I chose (including sub-genre) are THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974) [Slasher], POLTERGEIST (1982) [Paranormal], THE LOST BOYS (1987) [Monster], THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991) [Psychological], and BEETLEJUICE (1988) [Horror/Comedy].

ERIK: Wow, you mean a virgin? (Laughs) My first list that I came up with was about twenty titles for essential horror viewing, so cutting it to only five was hard! My idea is to spread it out a little so the virg… viewer gets a bite out of different styles.

ALIEN – Released in 1979 and still #1 when it comes to sci-fi/horror. Not only was it groundbreaking, but so much detail in this movie was perfect. A real piece of cinematic art!

SUSPIRIA – According to me, it’s Argento’s finest. The sound and the images blend together in a horrific haunting atmosphere and tension-filled story!

THE SHINING – A top director with actors starring in an ice-cold, chilling ghost story; you are welcomed to the Overlook Hotel!

HALLOWEEN – I could have chosen Jason or Freddy, but Michael wins due to having Carpenter in the director’s seat and Jamie Lee Curtis as actress.

RINGU – Thought I would mix it up finally with an Asian horror movie that knocked people off their feet in 1998. This one almost literally creeps under your skin and has enough “jump scenes” to damage your couch. The high of the Asian horror wave lasted only a few years, but in my opinion, this was one of the best.

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Thank you to Ann, Mathew and Erik for participating in this month’s ‘Ninjas Chat… Horror!’ 

If you’re a member and you’d like to take part in a future edition of this column, please keep your eyes on the forum. An announcement for the third edition will be coming soon!

*A special thanks to our design guru Jake Doyle (Snollygoster) for the ‘Ninjas Chat… Horror!’ thumbnail image.

About the author

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF | Ken loves film -- whether it's collecting them or making them. He's a massive fan of creature features and giant monster flicks and hopes to create one himself one day. He also obsessively collects ThunderCats, King Kong, Pacific Rim and The Last of Us memorabilia.