Tales from the Crypt
A 1972 British horror film, Tales from the Crypt was an adaptation of stories from EC Comics. Directed by Freddie Francis, the film consists of five segments: “…And All Through the House”, “Reflection of Death”, “Poetic Justice”, “Wish You Were Here” and “Blind Alleys”. Milton Subotsky penned the screenplay from two paperback reprints that had been given to him by Russ Jones, The Vault of Horror and Tales from the Crypt. The cast included Joan Collins and Peter Cushing, with Ralph Richardson playing the Crypt Keeper. The next year saw a sequel titled, The Vault of Horror.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Considered to be one of the most controversial horror films, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre made its way into theatres on October 1, 1974, premiering in Austin, TX. The story of a girl, Sally, and her invalid, wheelchair-bound brother, and three of their friends going to see the grave of Sally’s grandfather. What they find instead is an old house filled with a terrifying history. Leatherface, a large man that wears a mask made of human skin and carries a chainsaw, lives in the gore-filled house along with his cannibalistic family members. The group of kids is killed, one by one, in various, gruesome ways. Directed by Tobe Hooper, who also directed Salem’s Lot and Poltergeist, came up with the idea for the film when he was working as an assistant film director and by using similarities based on the real-life killer Ed Gein. Hooper along with Kim Henkel wrote the screenplay, then set about acquiring the funding necessary to produce the film. There are various estimates on the final budget, ranging from $93,000 - $300,000. Hiring unknown, local actors, and filming seven days a week, sometimes sixteen hours a day cut costs. The Leatherface character is credited with starting the large, no face killer theme that is present in many horror films following The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Over the years, the movie saw a return of over $30 million. It has spawned two sequels, a remake and a prequel. The film, due to its graphic nature and the themes present, has been banned in many countries and was met with some resistance. Needless to say, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre gave a fresh view to the slasher film sub-genre of horror films.
In 1951, a filmed titled The Thing From Another World was inspired by the novella Who Goes There? written by John W. Campbell, Jr. Later, in 1982, director John Carpenter decided to adapt a movie on the novella, which would follow the premise more closely. This film became The Thing. The Thing was an alien life form that would take a host and transform into it and imitate it. Set in an Arctic research station, the crew become victims to The Thing, creating paranoia and fear as they do not know who’s been afflicted. Kurt Russell starred as MacReady. When the movie released, it was up against the box office blockbuster, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, which depicted aliens in a good light. This, along with opening on the same day as Blade Runner, contributed to The Thing’s poor box office performance. At first it saw mixed reviews, but as time passed, they became more favorable.
Trick ‘R Treat
Screenwriter Michael Dougherty wrote and directed the movie Trick ‘R Treat based on his own short animated film Season’s Greetings (1996). The main character, a small boy named Sam who wears orange footie pajamas and a burlap sack over his head, is a central theme in the movie that contains four short stories all relating to Halloween. The segments are titled: “The Principal”, “The School Bus Massacre Revisited”, “Surprise Party” and “Meet Sam”. The movie was given only a select limited public screening, and was released on DVD and Blu-ray in 2009. Reviews for the film are generally very positive. It won two awards and saw an adaptation as a graphic novel. Here is the original animated short that inspired the movie, Season’s Greetings:
Twilight Zone: The Movie
Steven Spielberg and John Landis teamed up to produce Twilight Zone: The Movie, a theatrical version of Rod Serling’s television show, The Twilight Zone. With John Landis directing the prologue and segment 1, Steven Spielberg directing segment 2, Joe Dante directing segment 3, and George Miller directing segment 4 and the epilogue, three of the segments were remade from the original television series, while one was an original story. The segments are as follows, in the order they appear in the film: “Time Out” (which was the one original), “Kick the Can”, “It’s a Good Life” and “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”. The screenplay was written by Rod Serling, John Landis (segment 1), George Clayton Johnson, Richard Matheson, Melissa Mathison and Jerome Bixby. Burgess Meredith, who had starred in four of the television episodes, served as narrator. During the filming of segment 1, “Time Out”, actor Vic Morrow and two child actors, Myca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Chen were involved in an on-set accident involving a helicopter crash which claimed all 3 lives. This garnered much media attention for the then yet-released film and resulted in a court case that lasted almost a decade. The film received mixed reviews and grossed $29 million, recouping the $10 million budget.
John Carpenter’s 1988 homage to consumerism, They Live brought elements of 1950s B-movie sci-fi flicks and combined it with the current economic crisis of the day. Carpenter wrote the screenplay, basing it on two stories, “Eight O’Clock in the Morning” by Ray Nelson, and “Nada” from an Alien Encounters comic book, although the end result was based more heavily on Nelson’s story. Carpenter threw in his own aversion to the commercialization in culture and politics that was present in the 80s. Carpenter’s reasoning for making the true appearance of the aliens so grotesque was that, “The creatures are corrupting us, so they, themselves, are corruptions of human beings." The story goes that a man named Nada, played by wrestler Roddy Piper, stumbles upon a church that houses a resistance group concerned with waking up everyone. Nada finds a box full of sunglasses that when worn allow you to see the truth. Advertisements and media all have subliminal messages contained within. Some of the messages are: “Obey”, “Consume” and “No Independent Thought”. But that’s not all that he’s able to see. Some humans are actually aliens in disguise. Through the glasses, Nada can see their hideous, skeleton faces. Nada, along with another man, Frank (Keith David), try to join forces with the resistance group in order to reveal to the rest of the world the truth. The budget was roughly $3 million, and the movie grossed $13 million in the theatres. Geek Fact: some of the alien troops use a communication device that was actually the PKE meter (Egon’s handheld) prop from the film Ghostbusters.