Monday, August 03, 2020 20:58

Mark Gatiss’s ‘A History of Horror’

This is a very brief rundown of my thoughts on a largely excellent series…

Parts One and Two were, I thought, heartfelt and exhaustively-researched. I thoroughly enjoyed the material on Hammer (I’m not old enough to remember Hammer in its heyday, but I have a place in my heart for the best of the studio’s output) and agreed with the premise – that horror was hugely influenced by the studio during this era. The interviews, observations and exclusive footage were just wonderful.

I was delighted to see a mention for Blood On Satan’s Claw during this episode – and likewise  Witchfinder General – two period horrors which introduced a consummate nastiness missing in earlier British films.

Part Three was more problematic for me. I certainly agreed with a lot of its choices; certainly Night of the Living Dead has had a huge influence on modern horror, even spawning a new subgenre, and Rosemary’s Baby set the bar very high for occult/secret society paranoia flicks. My personal opinion on Psycho is that it’s a good film, but overrated, but regardless – lots of the films mentioned were credible and important.

I think my major problem is with the rushed (and frankly incorrect) conclusion of the series. The sense of Gatiss’s conclusion was thus: there were lots of good horror films in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Since then there have only been isolated examples of good horror. But surely all of the films Gatiss mentions as great horrors of the 50s-70s stood alone to a large extent, hence their ability to revolutionise the horror genre or otherwise go the distance? Films certainly don’t have to derive from large studios to have merit. Indie horror has created some absolute fucking gems in recent years! I can only assume that time and money forced this somewhat trite dismissal of later horror – a dismissal which ultimately doesn’t make sense, especially in omitting a decent mention of Argento, Fulci, Ossorio, Franco, and other contemporaries of the big-budget 70s films (love them or loathe them), whilst declaring that modern films tend to go in for lazy torture porn unfairly ignores those films which emphatically do not. To say ‘you get the odd good film’ is equally true of the earlier periods of film history, and it is a shame to allow nostalgia to warp your appreciation of/understanding of a still vibrant, creative and innovative genre. ‘Torture porn’ is something that I bitterly complain of in modern films (see last post), but there is a wealth of non-torture-based horror out there, and some of these films will be the classics of the future – though largely ignored now, just as some of Gatiss’s favourites were in their day.

One Response to “Mark Gatiss’s ‘A History of Horror’”

  1. dfordoom says:

    I should have watched this series but Mark Gatiss just rubs me up the wrong way.

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