Barbara Crampton has been a mainstay in the horror community for more than thirty years, but she’d rather not be called a “Scream Queen.” In a recent essay, Crampton explained that for her, the term is reductive and dismisses the nuances and hard work that go into her roles. I can understand if she wants her legacy to carry more complexity than a catchy nickname, especially considering the wide range of roles that Crampton has contributed to the horror genre.
If one hundred people put together a list of the worst ways that horror franchises have jumped the shark, I’m pretty sure “sent the villain into space” would be near the top of ninety-nine of them.
Ah, the carefree days of 1950s America. Suburban families had the white picket fence in the yard, the 2.3 kids in the living room, and the persistent anxiety of dying in a blast of radioactive flame. The Cold War had eyes tilted skyward in anticipation of the day the Kremlin decided to drop the big one on the US. And while there were “plans” in place (duck and cover, kids!) most people knew that there really wasn’t a whole lot they could do if a fifty-megaton warhead came to town.
As is the case with many horror fanatics, the ’80s holds a special place in my heart. I’m a happy guy if you give me some practical effects, stilted yet somehow effective acting, and perhaps a dash of nudity. If you were to distill these things into a single person, I’m pretty sure you’d get Linnea Quigley, the poster girl for Reagan-era horror. While she’s quite well-known for supplying the genre with ample amounts of nudity, it would do her a disservice to say that’s all she brings to the table.
The 1970s were a very interesting time for genre fare. Independent, low-budget horror was spreading through “exploitation” flicks meant to draw viewers in with promises of violence, nudity, and a variety of other visceral thrills that often came at the price of other luxuries like plot structure, acting, and production value. From this burgeoning grindhouse scene sprang an even more interesting phenomenon, the “blaxploitation” wave. Blaxploitation, particularly horror blaxploitation, focused on film tropes through the lens of black culture.
How the hell do I introduce a legend like Vincent Price? This is a guy who has starred in scores of horror roles and carried the banner for the genre in an era when the public saw it as little more than a breeding ground for psychopaths and miscreants. There isn’t much that I can say about this man that hasn’t been said a dozen times over, but I do have this: Vincent Price looked very much like my grandma. Or I suppose my grandma looked very much like Vincent Price. Don’t get me wrong, she was a beautiful lady, but she had Price’s ability to raise an eyebrow in a way to convey pretty much any emotion (usually mild annoyance). So for me, sitting down for a Vincent Price flick is like sitting down with a family member. Sure, he’s typically evil to a mustache-twirling degree, but who doesn’t have at least one such character tucked into their family tree? With this in mind, I got to have another little reunion with Price while I watched him in the 1959 murder mystery, The Bat.
Christopher Lee isn’t only an icon for the horror community. He’s an actor who has crossed over so many genres that you’d be hard-pressed to find a circle of geekdom that doesn’t hold him in high regard. He’s wielded lightsabers against Yoda and bested Gandalf in a wizard’s duel. But guess what, non-horror nerds? He was ours first. Taking the torch from Bela Lugosi to become the definitive Dracula of his era, Lee has a bevy of horror roles to his credit which, let’s face it, he makes iconic just by playing them. So the question is, what role would be a good fit for my little column? After quite a bit of searching, I decided to go with a movie in which Lee uses something that I’ve never seen him use before: an American accent. So let’s take a look at his turn in the 1960 John Llewellyn Moxey film, The City of the Dead, which arrived in the States in 1963 under the name Horror Hotel.
Catalog From The Beyond is my chance to take a look at movies found a little further down cinematic icons’ filmographies. Most of our favorite directors have plenty to offer beyond the material they’ve become irrevocably linked to over the years. These films may be only slightly lesser-known than their big name counterparts, or they may be movies no one has ever heard of. They might be hidden gems that don’t get enough love, or they may be titles that jump out of the horror genre.