Monsterminions Horror Hall of Fame

Rich over at Monster Movie Kid has inspired me today. He offers up the notion of a Horror Film Hall of Fame with charter members, including actors, directors, films and milestone contributors to the art. I like his list, but I like mine better. For sake of clarity I am offering a definition of the Horror genre, pillaged from this source:

Horror film is a genre that aims to create a sense of fear, panic, alarm, and dread for the audience.

Having established a basis for horror films, here are my charter inductees.

Directors
James Whale
Tod Browning
Jacques Tourneur
Terence Fisher
George Romero

Actors
Lon Chaney, Sr.
Boris Karloff
Bela Lugosi
Peter Cushing
Christopher Lee

Films
Nosferatu
Frankenstein
The Bride of Frankenstein
Dracula
The Mummy
The Black Cat
M
Island of Lost Souls
The Wolf Man
Cat People
Dracula, Hammer
Psycho
Night of the Living Dead
Halloween

Significant Contributors
Producer Val Lewton
Makeup Artist Jack Pierce
Special Effects Technician Willis O’Brien
Camera Man John J. Mescall

Discussion
When I think of the horror film genre Universal Studios immediately comes to mind. I’m also fond of Hammer, but Universal really established the tone for gothic horror. As such, most of the inaugural entries for Monsterminions Horror Hall of Fame (MMHHF) have roots to the Laemmle run Universal Studios.

To me, James Whale and Tod Browning created the horror film genre, with several notable classics. Some critics are especially hard on Browning, but Dracula, Freaks, Mad Love, The Devil Doll and Mark of the Vampire are all masterful representations of the genre. Freaks is unique -I’m not certain the film is horror, but there are definitely horror elements (e.g. the freaks final assault). James Whale’s films Frankenstein, The Old Dark House, The Invisible Man (which is sci-fi) and The Bride of Frankenstein constitute an essential horror canon. The Bride of Frankenstein might be my favorite horror film. I consider it art along with Edgar Ulmer’s The Black Cat and Lewton and Tourneur’s I Walked with a Zombie.

I include Jacques Tourneur for his collaborative efforts and artistry with Val Lewton and for perhaps the finest film on witchcraft and demons ever made Night of the Demon. Terence Fisher is my “modern” entry exemplifying everything good about Hammer. Romero is in for his first two zombie films. That’s all it takes. (I considered Fulci, Bava and Argento -they will be inducted in the future). Hitch did not make my list due to a paucity of horror films (Psycho and The Birds).

You can make a strong case that Lon Chaney, Jr. deserves to be in the MMHHF more so than his dad. I picked Chaney for his work as the Phantom and poor Quasimodo and huge contributions in makeup and character development. Lugosi is the single greatest horror film star of all time. Period. Karloff, Cushing and Lee were no-brainers. Vincent Price just missed my cut due to various melodramatic roles early in his career.

For films I picked influential ones. I considered adding the brilliant modern vampire film Let the Right One In and Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, but decided while being exceptional films they haven’t really influenced the genre. Clive Barker’s Hellraiser did -but I’m not including it because I think the gore in that film did more to deteriorate modern horror films than any other single motion picture. Halloween is still the best mad-slasher horror film.

Jack Pierce is in the MMHHF for myriad monster creations that have influenced hundreds (perhaps thousands) of filmmakers. O’B created Kong (not a horror film), but more importantly defined and pioneered use of stop-motion animation. At RKO Lewton created some of the first commercially successful b-horror films.

Lastly, the MMHHF honors cinematographer John Mescall who handled the camerawork and composition of The Black Cat and The Bride of Frankenstein. His life was shortened by alcohol.

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One Response to “Monsterminions Horror Hall of Fame”

  1. Excellent list. I support everything you said.

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