Supplemental Horror

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The
discerning readers of LewRockwell.com recognized at once the urgency
of appending to any list of great horror films, the companion list
of shameful omissions. Here then, is my penitent codicil and my
ready admission that there remain still hundreds of masterworks
too sophisticated for my sensibilities or too frightening for me
to watch!

“The
Shining” (1980)

After
Dr. Strangelove, this is arguable Stanley Kubrick’s most cogent
film in terms of narrative force. Jack Nicholson’s performance is
an unequivocal triumph of obsessive madness and ironic urbanity.

“Phantasm”
(1979)

Don
Coscarelli’s hypnotically surreal exploration of a haunted mortuary
and its evil proprietor, Angus Scrimm, who robs graves and creates
zombies, slaying the innocent with a flying silver ball that drills
his victims’ brains. The violence in this film is wry and inventive.
If the story is unclear, it is because Coscarelli does not divide
his universe between day and night, but between dreams and nightmares.

“Silence
of the Lambs” (1991)

Johnathan
Demme’s effortlessly lyrical investigation into the darkened oubliettes
of sexuality was the first horror film ever to win an Oscar for
best picture; in fact, almost everyone involved won. Despite Jodie
Foster’s wildly inauthentic West-Virginia accent and her performance’s
absurd feminist inflections and a terrible editing blunder in the
night-vision scene with Buffalo Bill (you can see the shadow of
his hand on her shoulder even though it’s supposed to be pitch black
as he stalks her with infra-red goggles), here is an occasion to
witness Sir Anthony Hopkins create from the dross of a Hollywood
screenplay, a portrait of terror that reimagines Rosetti’s Goblin
Market as a grimoire of exquisite suffering.

“The
Innocents” (1961)

Jack
Clayton reconsiders Henry James’ “Turn of the Screw” as an explicit
encounter with the Other. Deborah Kerr is truly splendid here as
the governess terrorized by her interior doubts and an unknowable
world.

“Whatever
Happened to Baby Jane?” (1962)

Joan
Crawford. Bette Davis. What else does one need to know?

“Suddenly
Last Summer” (1959)

This
deliciously oblique film explores the circumstances leading to the
murder of a gay man who preys on adolescent boys. Katherine Hepburn
is magisterial as Miss Venable, the mother who haunts a fortress
of denial. Her perfectly insane daughter, the beautiful Elizabeth
Taylor, weaves a tale of terror and desperation in this film’s legendary
final scene. Joseph Mankiewicz was never more resourceful or successful.

November
2, 2000

Scott
Wilkerson is curator of the Ward Library at the Mises
Institute
.

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