When Twin Peaks initially took television by storm in 1990, I was a fourteen-year-old classic horror nerd hell bent on consuming every bit of popular culture that seemed at odds with my conservative hometown. In other words, I was the ideal audience for David Lynch and Mark Frost’s surrealistic tale of murder and debauchery in a small town. And while I initially tuned into the series for Piper Laurie, I (and most of America) soon became obsessed with the tragic backstory of Laura Palmer, the Prom Queen whose sweet smile hid an array of dark and seedy secrets. Since I was myself on the cusp of entering high school in a small town, Laura’s story was instantly identifiable, even as it also possessed an air of otherness.
Over the years, I have periodically gone back and rewatched the series, and it holds up remarkably well. But on Sunday, a new chapter of Twin Peaks will be written when the lauded show returns for a 9 episode run on Showtime. But while I am excited about the prospect of revisiting old friends–and old fears–I’ve been somewhat take aback by a couple of merchandising decisions designed to accompany the show’s return.
If there has been one criticism that has plagued the Frost/Lynch saga, it is that Twin Peaks almost singlehandedly ushered in the dead-teen-girl-as-spectacle trope that now plagues network and premium television at an almost incomprehensible rate. But does the show truly deserve that criticism?
In terms of narrative, I’d argue no. But in terms of recent merchandising decisions? Maybe.
If you haven’t watched the 1966 Hammer film, The Plague of the Zombies (John Gilling), you should. Much of it is fairly standard Hammer fare—set in the nineteenth century, stagey dialogue, filmed on artificial sets—but it has moments of real power, and it’s an important entry in the zombie tradition.
The Plague of the Zombies is a crucial link between the zombie revolution that was about to hit the screens two years later—in George A. Romero’s 1968 classic, Night of the Living Dead—and the zombie films of the 1930s and 1940s, which drew up Haitian lore and in which zombies were mindless bodies under the control of an evil (white) man.
Stranger Danger is a total crock. We all know that we are statistically more likely to be maimed or murdered by someone we know (and love). In honor of the looming Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, these films offer depictions of terrible parents who help us appreciate the moms and dads in our own lives. Some of the most memorable performances in horror come from ghastly guardians who remind us that being a parent ain’t that easy. What follows is a chronological list of horror films whose parents make us think twice about “Home Sweet Home.” Thanks mom and dad for everything! (Especially, for not being skin-suit wearing psychopaths….or at least for hiding that side of things from us.)
If you’re a serious film fan, you probably have a kneejerk (but totally appropriate!) negative reaction any time you hear about an American remake of a beloved movie from another country. Who among us has not been burned? Who doesn’t have that one favorite film from abroad that was eventually sullied (or even ruined) by Hollywood ignorance/excess/apathy/all of the above?
For me, it was the 2004 Thai horror movie, Shutter, which was crazy scary and climaxed with a final reveal (I won’t spoil it here) that chilled me to the bone, only to be transformed four years later into a disappointing cash grab starring Dawson Creek’s Joshua Jackson.
For others, perhaps it was the British cult classic, The Wicker Man (1973), which was recycled into the unintentionally campy Nicolas Cage movie of the same name in 2006. Or maybe it was the R-rated J-horror classic, Ju-on (2002), which became the nonsensical PG-13 Sarah Michelle Gellar vehicle, The Grudge (2004).
But believe it or not, I’m not a rabid purist. I do acknowledge that there have been solid remakes in the American canon, horror and otherwise. For example, as much as I (and the rest of the world) love the chilling Let the Right One In (2008) from Sweden, I think Let Me In (2010) is remarkably well-crafted and surprisingly moving, emotionally, in ways the Swedes never intended.
So it was with an open mind that I recently approached watching, after all these years, the 2008 American remake of The Eye (2002). I saw the Hong Kong-made original when it first came out, in a small theater that no longer exists, and it instantly became one of my favorite horror films of all time.
Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) famously opens (after the credit sequence) with what has to be one of the most famous shots of roadkill in horror—a dead armadillo on a hot Texas highway. The shot is an establishing shot, but it also predicts something of what is to come. The young and attractive main characters, speeding past the charnel houses of a forgotten part of Texas, will soon find other kinds of “animals” who have been left behind by civilization, abandoned by the side of the road of progress. And then they themselves will also become a kind of roadkill.