THE HORROR OF IT ALL - "It Might Even Horrify You – A Look Back at the 1983 TV Movie"

IT MIGHT EVEN HORRIFY YOU - A Look Back at the 1983 TV Movie "The Horror of it All".

I recently came across this documentary while looking up silent movies in the public domain. I was in the mood for something elusive and ethereal, such as infamous Lon Chaney works such as "The Phantom of the Opera" and "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", or one of the seven versions of "Nosferatu" that exist (eight, if you count the unofficial one that replaces the original soundtrack with Type O Negative songs). There are times where I find myself wanting to watch the classics, with their allure and their charm still intact many decades later. I stumbled upon a documentary titled "The Horror of it All" in the list of videos that came up when I typed “classic silent horror” in the search bar. And what I saw was both informative and immersive for the time it was released.

It begins with the immersion of the horror genre into film in its infancy, for example, the partially-lost German silent piece "Der Golem" from 1915, all the way up to more complicated and out-there films that were contemporary at the time, notably the productions from Roger Corman and his New World Pictures, notably 1982’s "Android", and shows special effects artist John Carl Buechler working on the “android” puppet for the film. It only took me about five or so minutes to be completely invested in the piece. After finishing the film, I did some research on it, and found that the film was broadcast on TV in 1983, although I was not able to track down what channel it premiered on. It has not been physically released on VHS or DVD, as far as I know.

Films discussed at length include "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari", "Der Golem", "Nosferatu", "Metropolis", "The Cat and the Canary", "Svengali", "The Bat Whispers", "Dracula", "Frankenstein", "White Zombie", "Bride of Frankenstein", "King Kong", "Godzilla", "The Gorilla", "Bluebeard", "I Walked with a Zombie", "Cat People", "I Was A Teenage Werewolf", "Curse of the Demon", "Black Sunday", "Dementia 13", "The Masque of the Red Death", and many others. The hour-long documentary follows the horror genre as we knew it all the way to the present day, in this case, the early 80’s.

"The Horror of it All" also takes typical horror movie tropes, one by one, and dissects them to discover what made them effective enough to still be used today, such the “dead” are never really completely “dead”, beauty is good, ugly is evil, women are vulnerable against monsters while men are powerless against them, and so on and so forth. The documentary mentions at length how "Dementia 13" took these tropes and spun them so that no one was safe, not even the pretty girl in the thin white swimsuit. There is also a discussion about how different American horror was from European horror in that in most cases, America’s horror films dealt with the consequences that follow a bad decision, and more often than not, European horror films relied heavily on the supernatural. There is also a lot of talk about how Lon Chaney single-handedly changed the game for cinema as a whole with his directing skills, acting talents, and innovative makeup techniques.

The film is impressive due to its commentaries from horror powerhouses like director/producer Roger Corman, veteran actor John Carradine, Robert Bloch (author of "Psycho"), producer Herman Cohen, director Curtis Harrington, and many others. The film is narrated by José Ferrer, a Puerto Rican actor and director who is the first Puerto Rican actor to receive an Academy Award for Best Actor for his leading role in "Cyrano de Bergerac" (1950).

With everything positive I have to say about "The Horror of it All", there is one flaw that I know might irk the most avid of horror fans. Towards the end of the piece, there seems to be a heavy criticism of the slasher subgenre as a whole. One of the complaints that many of the interviewees had was that there was more magic in what was implied rather than what was shown in graphic detail. In other words, there is a vast difference between what a viewer sees on the screen versus the suspense that comes with the uncertainty of what fates the characters face.

The argument here is that silent films personified evil and darkness as a whole rather than the supernatural elements that so many “modern” horror piece featured at the time; modern in quotation marks because what was “modern” to them when this documentary was put together is over thirty years ago now. While not exactly laying total blame on it, "The Horror of it All" makes the claim that Hammer horror films broke every taboo in the book when it came to filmmaking, such as the excess of blood, gore, sexuality, and nudity, and with the addition of color into the mix, there were lines that were crossed in order for them to become as important as they are many generations later.

"The Horror of it All" can be found in full on YouTube, as well as for free with an Amazon Prime subscription. If you love horror and you want to know how the famous tropes of the genre were conceived and how these films paved the way for all of horror cinema that followed, this documentary is for you.


★ ★ ★

"This documentary recounts the history of horror movies, with footage and scenes from major horror films such as Nosferatu and The Horror of Dracula."