Today’s guest for 5 Films That Made Me Love Horror is writer Rich Douek.
What I love about horror as a genre is how, in a way, it’s the most human genre out there. There’s something primal about it, going back to our most ancient history, people telling scary stories around the campfire to explain the dangerous world around them.
My favorite horror stories are the ones that make me feel something in my gut – whether it’s thrills, disgust, or even a good belly laugh. What they all do in one way or another, is connect with me on a deeper level than what’s going on in my head – great horror is something you feel in your bones.
So here’s five movies that do that for me:
I’ve been to the beach hundreds, if not thousands of times in my life, and I’m not lying when I say that every time I get in the water, I reflexively look around to make sure I don’t see any dorsal fins. Jaws is just primal horror at it’s finest – the shark is an uncaring, insatiable aspect of nature out there hunting us – but the thing that really chills me about the movie is how real it made the tension and danger feel. I still get that feeling at the beach – even if I know the water is too shallow for a shark to be there – I’m always wondering if there’s one just below the surface.
2. The Thing (1982)
If you’ve read my first horror book, Road of Bones, you might see how deeply John Carpenter influenced my approach to horror with The Thing. Because in this film, the terror comes just as much from not knowing who to trust, as it does from the creature itself. With every moment, the tension, isolation, and paranoia build, until it finally explodes – and even at the end, we don’t exactly know if everything is as it seems.
3. The Return of the Living Dead
Night of the Living Dead is a classic, but the genius of Return, for me, is how it manages to somehow blend horror and comedy so smoothly that it almost feels unintentional. There’s so much in there that’s emblematic of the worst tendencies of 80s horror schlock – bad acting, sensationalist nudity, etc – things that make so many of those movies just forgettable retreads – but here, somehow, it all combines into something wonderful. The horrific things are still scary – Tarman is the stuff of nightmares, and they don’t pull any punches with the zombies gnawing on flesh – but it’s also one of the most genuinely funny movies in horror, or any genre, really. Send more cops!
What I love about Hellraiser is the idea that there’s a whole other universe out there, and an unfriendly one at that. So much of what makes it effective is this feeling that like, if you just shifted your view of the world by 15 degrees, this whole new reality would be there, more horrific than you could ever comprehend. The Cenobites aren’t as much malicious as they are totally alien, here. Sharing pain and suffering is just what they do – it’s not a personal vendetta. There’s something even more horrific about that idea, than if it was a slasher out for revenge.
5. Prince of Darkness
I hesitated to put another John Carpenter movie on this list, but what can I say? I love Prince of Darkness. This was a movie that my friends and I rented on a whim from a video store, not really expecting anything great – but we were totally blown away. There’s just so much in there – from the immediate horror of the possessed attacking the scientists, to the huge, brain melting cosmic implications of mathematically proving the existence of evil. Plus, Alice Cooper!
Rich Douek is the creator of original comic series such as Gutter Magic, Wailing Blade, and Road of Bones. He has worked on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Universe comics for IDW, and has published short stories in anthologies such as the New York Times-featured All We Ever Wanted. Additionally, he is an award-winning copywriter, and a moderator of the Comics Experience Creator’s Workshop, where he strives to help newer creators learn how to create their own comics and navigate the industry. Follow him at @rdouek.