THE 13 BEST HORRORS
Because you can never have enough lists, is what.
Normal folks probably don’t care much for the old list, except
for maybe the ones that start with “Butter” and end with “6-Pack
Fanta”, lists which are hastily discarded alongside
unacknowledged till-receipts upon ones departure of the grocery
You should hang on to those receipts, man. You never know when a
punnet of strawberries turns out to be a hive of exotic spider
eggs or some such.
For the geek, however, the list is something much more than
merely a way to remember the preferred brand of a loved one. For
us, the list is at once a status symbol, and also a way to
determine whether someone else is worth talking to.
“Yeah, I mean, you’re kinda cool and all, and I'd love to get
naked, but I couldn’t help noticing The Search For Spock at
So, being fond of the old list-compiling, The Duke has gone
ahead and created yet another, this time
The Best 13 Horror Films Of All Ever.
Of course, such a gargantuan task requires a certain amount of
pre-planning. A bit of the old criteria-establishing, is what.
So I decided that these flicks are not necessarily the scariest
of all ever, or the goriest of all ever, or even the most
shocking of all ever, but simply extraordinary examples of
cinema what just happen to fit snugly into the generic label by
the name of The Horror Affairs.
It pained me to leave some personal favourites out, but that’s
how it goes. You don’t make it onto The Duke’s list what regards
The Best Horrors Of All Ever, unless you are indeed,
undisputedly, a horror film. Which means no Fincher, even though
Se7en and Fight Club could be termed Horror with a little bit of
the old “argument”. Pseudo-chiller’s don’t cut it around here,
motherfucker, is the point to be made.
Also, although Amityville II is easily one of the most memorable
examples of the genre what mine peepers have ever peeped across,
I simply don’t think it’s as good as these flicks here, for
Ditto The Exorcist, The Omen and Evil Dead II. Sorry guys. You
probably would’ve made the Top 20, though, so don’t be too hard
Alas, I did make one concession, or cop-out, which is as follows;
Horror being the wildly expansive genre what it is, I simply
couldn’t rank these on quality. I have, therefore, taken a
chronological approach. I mean, really, how does one compare
Blair Witch to Irreversible? For technological achievement and
subtitle content, Noe’s flick obviously has the upper hand, but
if we’re talking innovation, subversion of the medium, other
filmic study banter, then you’d have to nod in the direction of
those two fellas what made a film back in 1999 in the woods of
Maryland, and then disappeared.
Who knows where they went to?
Anyway, here then, is The Duke’s List Of The Best 13 Horror
Films Of All Ever.
Feel free to debate, safe in the knowledge that whilst you are
entitled to your opinion, you don’t have to worry about trying
to one-up The Duke, since he is already impeccable with regards
taste, knowledge, girth etc.
Haxan – Witchcraft Through The Ages (1922)
Director – Benjamin Christensen
Some folks nowadays don’t want to have anything to do
with the silent cinema. So concerned are they with
seeing Tobey Gyllenhall running away from The Snow What
Killed The World, they have no time for a creaky, sepia-
toned bout of crappily-produced orchestral malarkey put
to images that jump about the place and have women
making scared faces and putting their hands to their
heads and fainting.
I mean really, who would be bothered with that shit,
when you can see Ted Theodore Logan jumping about in a
nice coat in the bullet-times? Who the fuck would ever
consider such madness?
Maybe these folks should take a peek at this film by the
name of Haxan, what concerns itself with the torturing
the witches, and Satan, played by the director himself,
having a sex with some pensioners and what not.
Incidentally, Christensen also pops up as Christ at one
Haxan plays with the genres in a manner quite
unprecedented back in the heady days of ‘22. First,
Christensen gives us a bit of the old documentary
shenanigans, complete with an illustrated board what he
points at now and again with a stick.
“This right here is a demon, y’see”
And then he points at the thing with the horns and what
But he also crafts amazing fictional sequences dealing
with the diabolical practices themselves. If you never
gave much of a flying fuck about the mese-en-scene
before, then chances are you probably won't start now,
but for those with an interest in the stuff what fills
the screen, Haxan is awash with intrigue. Cauldrons,
stoves, demonic texts, smoke, fog and all sorts swamp the
frame, tinted red on occasion, or maybe blue, creating a
sensation of being privy to some kind of authentic 15th
century black-arts shindig, invoking a timeless,
elemental haze throughout.
The shots of witches flying through the sky, achieved by
the utilisation of enormous spinning tables baring minute
towns and requiring 20 folks to operate, are more
powerfully enchanting than anything in this summer’s CGI
extravaganzas. That’s not The Duke being elitist and
snobbish and what-not, since I happen to quite adore the
old computer-generated chaos when done right, it’s simply
the truth, man. In the same way that Jason squaring up to
those skeletal motherfuckers in Jason And The Argonauts
is more transfixing than when the big lizard runs through
the city in Ferris Bueller Versus Godzilla, so these
stunningly evocative images are more memory-hugging than
similar fare in, say, The Craft.
Although Haxan doesn’t have Faruiza Baulk, so, points
stupidly thrown away there, Benjamin Christensen.
Haxan was despised by the British censors for decades,
obviously offended by the pained despair etched into the
faces of the suffering “witches” at the hands of the
inquisitors, witches portrayed by, amongst others, Maren
Pederson, an elderly woman who was at the time broke and
scraping a living by selling flowers. It was finally
released in the 60’s, the same decade, incidentally, when
the film was re-issued complete with sax-infused
soundtrack and running yackery from none other than
William S Burroughs.
BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935)
Director – James Whale
Bride Of Frankenstein is James Whale’s masterpiece, and
not only one of the best horror flicks of all ever, but
one of the best of all ever what are to do with
anything. There’s so much going on, it takes several
viewings before you can even consider announcing that
you’ve seen it.
This, too, was a particular headache for the censors. They
were less than pleased with Dr. Pretorius and his homosexual
leanings, and so any explicit reference to such was given the
heave-ho, by which I mean cut the fuck out of this here film.
They were much more concerned, though, with the mischevious
streak of blasphemy running through the film.
In fact, Whale has in effect crafted one of the finest
pictures concerning The Life Of Christ what has ever been put
to celluloid. Karloff’s Monster is nothing if not Jesus with
worse hair. Quite literally the son of man, created by the
man who took on God, and also assembled with chunks of us
lot, the sinners. The Monster spends his screen-time fretting
with his condition, yearning for acceptance, and yet
understanding that he can never be as us. To add to it all,
he even gets crucified.
It’s easy, perhaps, to see The Monster as some kind of id
sprung from the being of Whale himself, but it’s just as
tempting to see his camp, ever-so-British fizog reflected in
the grinning chops of Pretorious.
Bride is a film with as much depth aesthetically as
thematically. Whale grabs stylistic nuances from both the
work of his Hollywood peers and also those crazy Europeans,
whilst also crafting a look uniquely his own, a kind of
crazed vision of a mythical England masquerading as rural
Witness, for example, The Monster’s first jaunt through the
forest in the first act. It is alive with greenery (albeit
monochrome greenery), a beautiful retreat from the Gothic
monoliths surrounding it in both narrative and geography.
As he is hounded back through it, however, by a
misunderstanding mob, it has somehow morphed into a barren,
bleak, expressionistic wasteland, all twisting branches and
The humanity in the film is, ultimately, what renders it so
endearing, so unforgettable. The are scenes of cruelty which
genuinely disturb, and a heartbreaking sense of empathy with
our outcast hero.
And then, of course, there’s his Bride, his mate, the
screeching, bird-like Elsa Lanchester, also appearing as Mary
Shelly in the film’s prologue, and credited for her proto-
Marge turns as simply “?”.
This hiding of the monsters identity, utilised also in
Whale's first Frankenstein picture, has been a recurring
motif ever since, most recently, perhaps, in David Fincher’s
Se7en, when Kevin Spacey’s name was kept off the opening
credits and promotional materials.
As a satire, Bride is flawless. It’s jibes at religious
conventions (the censors saw that Pretorius’ snide remark
about God being found in “fairy tales” be changed to “bible
stories”) are spot-on, and yet it also seems to have a kind
of respect for Christianity as an ideal. Christian
paraphernalia litters the screen, mainly in the form of
crucifixes, but most explicitly when The Monster surveys his
surroundings whilst a sombre bust of Jesus looms over him.
There’s an overriding sense of wonder conjured in Whale’s
film that makes the whole affair a delight to spend an hour
and a half with. From the tiny humans kept in jars, a
technically dazzling feat of SFX, right up to the retro-
futuristic gizmo’s and crashing lightning of the laboratory-
Whale, having already been apprehensive about embarking on
this venture, toyed no more with the Frankenstein franchise
after this. Really, what more could he add to this, the
definitive Whale film, and also the definitive Universal
Monster Movie. A richer film about a monosyllabic reanimated
corpse one is unlikely to uncover.
CARNIVAL OF SOULS (1962)
Director – Herk Harvey
Herk Harvey was best known for being the director of
such informative fare as Manners In School and What
About Alcoholism? when he set about crafting Carnival
Of Souls, one of the most unsettling and disturbing
flicks what any motherfucker ever set about crafting.
Filmed for a pittance in and around Salt Lake City, Utah,
Carnival’s budgetary limitations are obvious from the
off, not least in the highly visible dubbing of the
opening, outdoor scenes. Such trivial nonsense is soon
forgotten, however, when this rural nightmare starts to
claw under the skin.
Opening on a car-race, we watch as one of the vehicles
finds itself nostril-deep in a river. From this wreckage
climbs Mary, disorientated, shaken.
I mean you wouldn’t expect any less, really.
She ends up finding employment in a small town, working
as a church organist. But she is fascinated by the
abandoned carnival she glimpsed on her way into town. And
who the hell is that pasty-faced old fuck that keeps
popping up and freaking the bejeezus out of us and her
David Lynch would later claw ruthlessly at the film’s
disturbingly eerie dream logic, but Herk ensures that the
style serves the content, rather than dictates it, as
Lynch would prefer. The imagery is hauntingly bleak, and
yet also enchanting. By the time the twist ending
arrives, we’re ready to accept it. Everything makes
The film was butchered to blazes by distributors, and as
a result, it’s virtually impossible to grab a perfect
print of the film nowadays. There’s an 84 minute
“directors cut” doing the rounds, but that’s still
somewhat short of the original 91 minute running time.
Still a damn sight better than the 78 minute hacked-and-
slashed offering that viewers were saddled with for years.
Of course, any are preferable to the 1998 Wes Craven-
produced remake, directed by Adam Grossman, dizzy with
the success of his earlier Sometimes They Come Back…
THE HAUNTING (1963)
Director – Robert Wise
The Haunting remains the towering achievement of Robert
Wise’s career, a career that also sees fit to include
one of the greatest Sci-Fi flicks of all ever in the
form of the pacifist epic, The Day The Earth Stood
The Haunting is less explicit in its “messages” and so-
on, but it still has plenty of weighty themes operating
away under there, not least guilt, repressed
homosexuality and schizophrenia.
Also, quite uniquely, it manages to be terrifying
without either showing us any ghosties or even
confirming that there are any. The manifestations
presented in pristine 2:35 ratio are very possibly the
result of any number of psychological anomalies,
ranging from mass hysteria to personal dementia. Wise
cheats somewhat to this end by actually showing us such
shit-enducing terrors as a door bending inwards on
account of the otherworldly thumps it is receiving, but
at the films close, the overriding notion we are left
with is that poor, repressed Eleanor has in fact been
undergoing an “episode”, brought on both by the death
of her invalid mother and also her attraction to the
voluptuous lesbian Theodora.
The most impressive character in the film, though, is
to be found no-where in the group who seek to
investigate the reports of hauntings in the house, but
rather the building itself. Our eyes are constantly
scanning the widescreen image, picking out the statues
or finger-like plants that hide in the corners of the
frame. The house is an oppressive, almost-breathing
entity, and it is this claustrophobic unease which Jan
De Bont saw fit to squander in his 1999 remake.
Who the hell needs atmosphere when we can have CGI
beasties pinning folks to a bed, is the point he was
Director – Kaneto Shindo
Shindo’s masterpiece is perhaps not as labyrinthine in
its thematic or narrative concerns as Kobayashi’s
Kwaidan, the other Asian horror masterpiece from ’64,
but it remains, by the hair of a decomposing head, the
better film of the two.
What Onibaba concerns itself with, is being a tale set in
Feudal Japan, regarding two women who live in a wheat field,
and who ambush passing samurai, kill them, strip them, fling
their bodies into a pit in the middle of the field, and then
sell the armour.
This might not seem like enough to sustain 103 minutes of
screen-time, let alone enough to justify its placing in this
here list of the 13 Best Horrors Of All Ever, but, like
Carnival Of Souls, this is very much a mood piece. Anyone
looking for jump-scares or buckets of gut-strewn gore will
be left complaining about “What a load of fucking toss”, but
if you allow Shindo to work his magic, you’ll find yourself
becoming a hell of an unsettled without really being
entirely sure why.
The wind moves elegantly through the field, the strands of
wheat teasing the black-and-white confines of the screen,
water runs slowly over rocks on the river-bank, and yet the
hairs on your neck stand up like they just been told they
sat on a shit.
In a way, it’s almost like Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage
And Her Children, except with more demons and wheat. It
tells of a country raped, ravaged and torn by war, a war
which our protagonists utilise for monetary gain. As other,
less amusing critics have noted, no one is spared the
inhumanity dictated by the ongoing dispute. The samurai are
drunken, womanising yobs, a statement on the fallible nature
of Japanese tradition and establishment which echoes
Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai.
And all the while, that omnipresent hole in the earth,
holding the crow-picked remains of murdered soldiers, the
camera rising from its blackness to scour the earth.
It’s like Children Of The Corn, except with no children or
Linda Hamilton, and more subtitles.
The Duchess was less than enamoured of its wheat-laden
charms, “a tremendous amount of wheat” as Woody Allen once
mused, but the imagery in Shindo’s masterpiece burned itself
into The Duke’s skull, like when Glen Benton of Deicide
would burn a cross or two into his forehead for the laugh of
it all, and its quiet menace and invocation of the demented
ghosts of the damned can be seen as far afield as rural
America in the form of James Marsh’s similarly majestic 1999
creep-fest Wisconsin Death Trip.
MATTHEW HOPKINS - WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968)
Director – Michael Reeves
Witchfinder General (known as The Conqueror Worm in
some territories) is possibly the definitive British
Horror Film, and yet it subverts almost all of the
conventions established by such at the time of its
Having taken offence to the mannered, polite, if occasionally
gory, offerings of Hammer Horror, Reeves turned in this
startlingly angry attack on both the quaint outlook of then-
contemporary British horror, and also the British
Reeves presents in unflinching detail a catalogue of almost-
unbearable grotesqueries, hideous punishments dished out by
the sadistic, corrupt Hopkins upon those he deems guilty of
witchcraft, often as a result of some personal slight against
Vincent Price, in the title role, is a revelation. A cold,
calculating motherfucker, his unflinching gaze is at direct
odds to his more-famous turns as camp, flamboyant maniacs.
Reeves, in fact, had to constantly keep his star in check,
ever-wary that Price’s antics might unbalance the tone of the
film, a tone which is unrelenting bleak. On one occasion,
taking offence at the director's instruction, Price is said to
have sneered; “I’ve made 50 films. What have you done?”
To which Reeves replied; “I’ve made two good ones.”
Witchfinder General is also a fairly unique example of a
British western. In this case, however, it is the villain, not
the hero, who is the centre of attention. Like if High Noon
focused on those badass motherfuckers who were on the train,
and only occasionally granted us a scene with Gary Cooper.
Reeves' outlook is overbearingly nihilistic, and the film sees
little good in anyone. Even the virtuous, gallant hero is in
the end reduced to engaging in the kind of brutality he is
punishing, swinging an axe with crazed hollers into the body
of a shuddering Hopkins.
The film was cut quite severely by the British censors,
although has now be restored, albeit with unfortunately
damaged footage, to the full, unflinching assault it was
originally intended to be.
It was, alas, to be Reeves’ epitaph. Following an uncredited
stint behind the cameras of 1964’s Castle Of The Living Dead,
and his two earlier efforts Revenge Of The Blood Beast and
hippy-culture satire The Sorcerers, Witchfinder General was
the last film he made before ingesting an accidental overdose
at the age of 25.
DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)
Director – George A Romero
What more to say about what is perhaps the
quintessential American horror-film? Night Of The
Living Dead, its predecessor, may have been more
influential, and Day of The Dead, the sequel, may have
been much more nihilistic, but Dawn is the crown in
Romero’s zombie trilogy, and a brilliant melding of the
suburban satire found in The Crazies with the cultural
commentary and explicit violence exhibited in Night.
Co-Produced by Dario Argento, the film spawned
countless rip-off’s, imitations, and unofficial
sequels, the best of which is Lucio Fulci’s fantastic
but much less satirical Zombie Flesh Eaters, which in
itself spawned dozens of unofficial follow-ups.
The plot follows on directly after the events of
Night, introducing to us a band of vigilante survivors
who eventually haul-up in a shopping mall, leading to
both incredibly inventive splatter on behalf of Tom
Savini, and ruthless, wickedly funny pot-shots in the
direction of American consumer culture.
The dead wander around the precinct in shuffling
droves, up and down escalators, past the food court,
standing slack-jawed by storefront displays. It is
this depth of wit that was lacking from the recent
remake, although said venture was far from disastrous.
Romero uses his dead as a way to comment on the
living, and yet despite the laughs gleamed from these
irreverent punchlines, there’s always an image waiting
around the boarded-up corridor to shock the fuck out
of us all, be it a zombie chomping on an unfortunate
womans shoulder, or a plethora of children being mowed
down by the mercenaries.
It’s has the conscience of Douglas Sirk and the
bloodlust of Herschel Gordon Lewis, and remains as
inventive, funny and outrageously violent as it ever
CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (1980)
(Paura nella città dei morti viventi)
Director – Lucio Fulci
Folks yack on about The Beyond being the pinnacle of
Fulci’s brain-sawing antics, but whilst the latter film
is indeed a brilliant work also, City Of The Living
Dead is a work of unparalleled perfection.
Providing a bridge of sorts between 1979’s Zombie
Flesh Eaters and the aforementioned The Beyond, with
it’s non-linear approach to narrative composition,
City… is also the most explicitly Lovecraftian of
Fulci’s films, right down to the name of the town;
What the plot concerns itself with, is a priest hangs
himself in a spectacularly fog-glazed graveyard, and
through some shenanigans or other goes and open the
gates to hell.
Priests, man. If they’re not getting tangled up in sex
scandal they’re unleashing the denizens of Hades among
us. What gives, Catholics?
Anyway, into all this diabolical malarkey stagger
Peter and Mary, a reporter and medium respectively,
who need to get the gate closed before All Saints Day,
otherwise the place’ll be filled with zombies and
demons and fuck-knows what.
Fulci cares little about the plot though, so why
should we? City Of The Living Dead is, at its core,
little more than a vehicle for Fulci to indulge in his
penchant for mind-boggling set-pieces. It’s these
vignettes of utter mayhem that raise the film above
the likes of those other Italian zombie-fests helmed
by Lenzi or Mattei.
In fact, in City…, Fulci proves himself to be the true
Italian king of the set-piece, positively spitting
maggots in the direction of critically-lauded
countryman Dario Argento. There is nothing in
Suspiria, or Profondo Rosso, or Tenebrae, what comes
anywhere near to being as inspired in its chaos as the
insane shit what goes down in the town of Dunwich.
At one point, a woman starts weeping blood before
getting all anti-social and puking her intestines up
over the road, as her boyfriend, played by Michele
Soavi, another gore-obsessed filmmaker, looks on.
Later, a shower of maggots shatters the windows of a
house and drenches the occupants. And that’s without
mentioning the fella what gets drill right through the
But anyone can do gore, even if it is incredibly
original. Fulci, however, concentrates just as much on
the mood. Like the films mentioned above, City Of The
Living Dead exudes a sinister unease even when we’re
not exactly sure how it’s doing it. The gore doesn’t
detract from this, but actually adds to it all. The
place has gone mad, and the mist that creeps against
the walls is just as piercing as the end of that
CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1980)
Director – Ruggero Deodato
A chance viewing of a television news broadcast, and
subsequent musings on how the cameras and journalists
fetishised the violence and atrocity they were
representing, led Ruggero Deodato on the path to
creating the most visceral, disturbing, relentless and
disarmingly intelligent exploitation film ever made.
Cannibal Holocaust has never been equalled on any of
these levels, and yes; It is a Damn Masterpiece.
It’s also an intriguingly contradictory one. Deodato goes to
great lengths to condemn the creators of the then-alarmingly
successful Mondo documentaries, illustrating the accusations of
filmmakers creating scenes of unwatchable mayhem simply to
capture the “ultimate footage”, and yet he himself utilises
needless and indefensible footage of genuine animal slaughter
and stock-footage of murder and brutality, including the
execution of children.
He is at pains to discuss the notion that cannibalism is in fact
a grotesque myth perpetrated by way of justifying colonialism,
and yet his camera lingers on the entrail-chewing antics of the
Most contradictory of all, however, is the fact that this film
which features so much punishing inhumanity in the actions of
its characters, is unmistakably the work of a highly
conscientious, humane individual.
Contrary to popular belief, a belief no doubt encouraged by the
film’s lurid marketing campaign, the villains of the piece are
not, in fact, the cannibals. In actuality, the evil is manifest
in the visiting documentarians. As they burn a hut filled with
weeping, mystified tribespeople, the soundtrack wails
mournfully, and the camera looks on with uncomprehending disdain
as the intruders laugh and cheer in our direction. The
journalsts rape, torture and beat their way through the film,
and when they are finally set upon by the oppressed, it seems
that justice has been served.
This idea of the brutality inflicted on third-world territories
by invading Caucasian plunderers is returned to throughout the
film, long before such concerns were widespread. The idea that
it is the black inhabitants of the area, and not the white
explorers who are the victims, was quietly revolutionary.
The middle act of the film, which reveals to us the “lost
footage” of the murdered filmmakers, directly influenced the
likes of The Last Broadcast and The Blair Witch Project, and was
indeed so realistic that Deodato was summoned to court in order
to prove its inauthenticity. The point was made eventually by
Deodato’s hounding of the cast in the direction of television
Cannibal Holocaust is not simply a film for folks who get off on
nauseating violence, although there is plenty of it there for
those who wish to indulge. It’s a long held misconception that
fans of the film are in some way perverted deviants who probably
idolise serial killers and have collections of death-on-camera
video cassettes. This is a notion The Duke finds to be insulting
in the motherfucking extreme. Cannibal Holocaust is certainly
not a film I would recommend that one views without prior
consideration, but neither should those who have never saw the
piece, or heard only the cries of outraged, misunderstanding
critics, seek to vilify a work which is as valid and incisive a
cultural commentary as cinema has yet spawned.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3 - DREAM WARRIORS (1987)
Director – Chuck Russell
Wes Cravens original may have had the shock of the new about
it, and the sequel, Freddy’s Revenge, had a uniquely homosexual
take on the whole slasher-fiasco, but the third instalment is
the one where the rest of the narrative matched the dream
sequences in terms of surreal invention and uncomfortable
The script, penned by Craven and Frank Darabont, who would
later go on to give Stephen King another nudge up the
ladder of respectability via The Shawshank Redemption and
The Green Mile, plays less like a horror than a
particularly nasty fantasy fable. It tells the tale of a
group of teenagers committed to a psychiatric hospital on
account of the fucked-up nightmares they’ve been having,
amongst other unpleasantries. Via a brilliant scene set
during a group-therapy session, we learn that each of the
core protagonists has a “dream-talent”, meaning that the
guy in a wheelchair becomes an able-bodied magician, and
the sassy kid from the streets becomes strong as a horse,
and the drug-addicted goth becomes a drug-addicted goth
with a Mohican.
Like The Never-Ending Story, except with death by veins
being ripped out of arms, and multiple injections of
The film is filled with classic moments; The Freddy-Worm,
the head-through-the-telly party piece (“Welcome to prime-
time, bitch!”), Patricia Arquette’s doll-house made from
lollypop sticks, the talking disembodied head (“Where’s
the fucking bourbon, bitch!”), the hall of mirrors finale.
It’s also the last time Fred Krueger would be presented as
a supremely nasty, evil-spewing motherfucker, until Craven
decided to reinvent the crater-faced son of a bitch (or a
thousand maniacs, as the screenplay prefers) in the
commercially-disastrous but actually quite wonderful New
The following three films exhibited invention in fits-and-
starts, but Dream Warriors sustains its momentum from the
get-go until the final, bloody showdown. It’s the best
entry in the series, folks, whatever those filmic affairs
intellectuals might tell you.
Director – Lesley Manning
The Duke’s love of Ghostwatch knows no bounds, even though
it is crippled by a remarkably fucking daft ending. The
preceding 90 minutes more than compensate, and when it’s all
over, you won’t be thinking about Michael Parkinson having
his hair blown about and cameras flying about the studio,
but will in fact be struggling to get that image of a half-
glimpsed Mr. Pipes out of your head, or those eerie as all
The BBC had produced a few top-drawer spook stories
hitherto, most notably Nigel Kneale’s The Stone Tape,
but those efforts, whilst fondly-remembered and still-
enjoyable, have lost much of whatever scare-effect they
once had. Ghostwatch, by way of convenient contrast,
continues to scare the fuckery out of the viewer.
Broadcast on Halloween night, 1992, Ghostwatch has never
been repeated, although thank Christ it has been issued
on DVD by the BFI. Complaints flooded the offices of the
Beeb, with folks being outraged at the knicker-wetting
horror of it all, and then outraged even more when they
realised how stupid they had been to have believed a
second of it. The controversy even led to the BBC
withdrawing the film from the BAFTA awards, in which it
received a nomination.
The very name of the damn thing is enough to elicit
reams of nostalgic pondering from a certain section of
the British public who braved their living rooms that
night. The sheer unavailability of the film, until
recently, added no end to its general mystique. That it
stands up against this wave of expectation is indicative
of its power.
Originally intended as a 6-part series which concluding
with a “live” finale, writer Steven Volk wisely decided
upon the one-off special route. It paid off in
dividends, of course. It’s just a shame he wasn’t
allowed to go all the way and insert an noise on the
soundtrack, as he had proposed, which whilst inaudible
to us mere humans, would have caused any animals in the
house to get all ballistic.
The Duke takes his hat off to you, Ghostwatch, and in
this weather, that’s a mighty fucking complimentary
THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999)
Directors – Daniel Myrick, Eduarado Sanchez
Myrick and Sanchez are reported to have saw
Ghostwatch. They borrowed liberally from Cannibal
Holocaust. They named their production company Haxan
Films. Really, it would appear that they have a
morsel or two of The Duke’s prodigious good-taste
somewhere amidst all that frazzled hair.
The Blair Witch Project was the first film to
successfully utilise the Web-Net as a promotional tool
that had possibilities beyond just the presentation of
a trailer and a couple of production notes. Via the
virtual highway or whatever the fuck you folks call the
thing you stare at all day, these two fellas went ahead
and created an urban legend that spread like some kind
of conversational syphilis way in advance of the films
If it hadn’t delivered on the promise, it would still
be a text-book example of fantastic marketing. It did
deliver though. By which I mean it is one of The Best
13 Horror Films Of All Ever.
Some folks thought it would go ahead and democratise
film-making, and whilst it certainly convinced a lot of
folks of the potential of that old camcorder in the
attic, it unfortunately inspired them to do little than
head off into a field to make their film about The
Ghost Of This Park or The Witch What Haunts These Here
It came out after the similarly themed The Last
Broadcast, and there are whispers that it might have
had something of the sticky-fingers when it came to
that particular filmic affair, but Blair Witch is
undoubtedly the better of the two, not least because it
never cops-out and offers any respite from the
mythology it has created. There’s no “proper-film”
intercuts, no attempts to offset the grim atmosphere,
and absolutely no concessions to traditional horror
film scare-tactics. There’s no cats jumping out of
cupboards. There aren’t even any motherfucking
cupboards. There’s no witch. No CGI ghosties. Just
atmosphere, and folks walking round and round and round
and round in circles. And lots of fuck-words.
Myrick and Sanchez had intended to follow up this
success with a similarly-filmed romantic comedy, also
starring Heather Donahue, owner of the most famous nose-
paste in cinema. It has yet to surface, but even if
they take a Mallick-esque sabbatical for much of the
next two decades, they can rest securely in the
knowledge that they crafted a genuine cultural
With lots of fuck-words.
Director – Gasper Noe
Irreversible begins with a conversation involving
the lead character from Gasper Noe’s previous film
Seul contre tous (I Stand Alone), the heart-warming
tale of a man fucks his daughter. Outside the
window, ambulances blare, red lights flash across
the surrounding buildings. A man is carried out of a
nightclub, screaming. The camera spins around a
It’s enough to make a motherfucker a little sick about the
We go back in time, a little while, and we see two fella’s
Marcus and Pierre entering a gay nightclub called The
Rectum, looking for an individual by the name of Le Tenia.
They seem less than happy about it all.
I’m guessing they don’t want to offer this Le Tenia a
carton of duty-free cigarettes, or maybe see if he wants to
go see a film, maybe one about a man fucks his daughter.
Piere is trying to hold Marcus back. It seems this fella
what they are looking for raped Marcus’ girlfriend a little
while ago, and Marcus is understandably upset.
They enter the club, and we follow them, the camera
spinning wildly, the soundtrack resting on a maddening bass
rumble utilised by French Police to break up riots. We feel
The two chaps find someone who they presume to be Le Tenia,
but if one can stomach a repeat-viewing, one can note that
it is in fact not Le Tenia at all.
Marcus gets his arm broken in the ensuing fisticuffs.
Piere, who all the while has been trying to persuade his
friend to leave, to report the attack to the police
instead, he lifts a fire-extinguisher and smashes it into
the face of the fella who isn’t Le Tenia. The victim falls,
stunned. He looks up, dazed. Another thump to the face. His
nose breaks. The camera is unflinching. He looks to the
side, towards us, the crowd cheering this act of utter
brutality. Another thump, this time his skull crushes at
the front. Another.
By the end the fella on the floor looks identical to those
photos of corpses you can find on certain websites, or in
those “men’s lifestyle” magazines from time to time. His
skull is crushed at the side. There is hardly any blood.
The rumble of the soundtrack, the red lights on screen, the
spinning camera, the utterly fucking sickening act of mob-
endorsed aggression, it caused The Duke to stand up on
first viewing and, with shaking legs, turn the damn thing
I have never, before nor since, experienced anything
remotely similar to that first viewing of Irreversible.
This is why Noe’s flick is on this list of The Best 13
Horror Films Of All Ever. It attacks the viewer like no
other work of cinematic fiction. It is an utter assault,
and its exhilaratingly brilliant. It causes the blood to
rush like probably no other filmic affair you’ll ever
And that’s before the 9-minute anal rape and subsequent
beating of Monica Bellucci.
Irreversible plays backwards, like Memento, and via this
gimmick it manages to reveal similar atrocity-and-revenge
films for the despicable toss that they are. We are not
granted any sense of relief, of vindication by the killing
of the rapist, since for one thing, it turns out to be the
wrong fucking man, and secondly, we don’t even really know
if there has been a rape when that fire-extinguisher caper
unfolds. It tells us, in the visceral grammar of the
exploitation film, that revenge is a fruitless, pointless
endeavour, and it reveals to us the crushing horror of rape
in a way which glossy, TV-Movie type affairs never have nor
Interestingly, one female critic for The Guardian noted how
the folks who warned her about entering the theatre were
all male. Of all the people who walked out of the screening
she attended, the vast majority were in possession of a
penis. She felt, as did the majority of other female
cinemagoers she spoke with afterwards, that someone had
finally had the courage to present rape as it is; a
violation that shakes the victim of the core of their being.
After seeing Irreversible, I felt that same core-shaking
sensation. It’s a sensation I was in awe of, the fact that
a film could have this effect on me, for fucks sakes, The
Duke, the one what thinks Cannibal Holocaust Is A Damn
Although I own the DVD, though, it’s not a feeling I am in
any great rush to experience afresh.
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