Horror movies: They tickle as much as they terrorize. At least, that’s my experience—it is often a film’s silliness that I recall much more vividly and hold onto more fondly than its scariness (or attempt at it). Hammy acting, baffling dialogue, stupidity beyond your wildest high-school highs—these help fuel my obsession with the genre. Above, a completely subjective, not at all comprehensive montage of some of my favorite one-liners, desperate screams, and completely befuddling directorial decisions in some of my favorite horror movies, both of the well-known (Friday the 13th) and obscure (Shock) variety. Don’t worry, none of it is scary (I hope).
While we’re here, I just want to spotlight out three of the scenes excerpted above, because they are magical.
No bit of scenery is safe from Lynda Day George’s chewing in the 1982 Spanish slasher Pieces. The delirious movie peaks with this scene, wherein George screams a lot of things but mostly “Bastard!” repeatedly. What she doesn’t say, though, is just as important—her dramatic pauses are sublime. Fuck Oscar-bait, this is everything I want in a performance.
This is the product of the singular and scattered mind of Jess Franco, who churned out some 200+ Euro-sleazy movies in a variety of genres before his death in 2013. A Virgin Among the Living Dead (1973) is gloriously incoherent enough to feel not just like a fever dream but a fever dream within a fever dream. A blank Christina von Blanc plays Christina, who travels from London to her relatives’ mansion in the country and discovers that they’re all ghosts... I think? The format is essentially Alice’s Adventures in Lobotomized Perception as Christina encounters curious character after curious character and no one says anything that makes much sense. They literally devolve into babbling at times—check how the seductive Carmencé (Carmen Yazalde) concludes her meeting with Christina above.
This is from another Franco production, his 1981 stab at the slasher subgenre, Bloody Moon. I want you to fully absorb what’s happening here: Incestuous sibling couple Miguel (Alexander Waechter) and Manuela (Nadja Gerganoff) creep through a train, stop at a cabin, look at the woman inside who approaches the window. The electricity cuts out, she screams, and seems to disappear, leaving only her scarf. Manuela exclaims, “Miguel! You didn’t kill her did you?” And then the suspected victim stands up and shows that she has not been murdered—she was merely out of frame. And obviously, given the range of the human eye, she would have been completely visible to Manuela who inquired about her potential death nonetheless. This is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen. I love it.