My name is Steven Gerrard – and, no I am not the ex-Liverpool and England footballer! I am a Reader in Film at Northern Film School. I’ve written two books – one about the Carry On films and the other I’ll mention later on, and contributed to loads more. I am also co-editor of Crank it up! Jason Statham – Star! – which celebrates the work of Britain’s premier action actor, which will be out soon..!!
What does a 'Reader' do you might ask. Well, I get to lecture about cinema and its history, read about it, write about it and watch an awful lot of films.
And I love it. Especially at this time of the year. You see, I am a big fan of horror films. It doesn’t matter if they are old, new, British, American, Japanese, Italian, or even stuff like monsters on the hill, ghost stories, slashers, hoodie horrors. Just give me horror.
Why? Well, we all like to be scared. It’s natural. And provided it’s from the comfort of my seat in the pictures, or at home whilst having a cup of tea and a biscuit, then I am always happy to watch monsters chasing the victims any time of day.
When I was a kid growing up in Wales, my uncle had an old projector and he showed 8-minute versions of old movies to kids in the street. There were three that scared me. Frankenstein meets the Wolf Man, in which, well, you guessed it, they met. Then there was the super frightening Night of the Demon, where a scientist is taunted by a hundred-foot devil. And finally, the classic (in other words, awful) Monster from Piedras Blancas. This had it all – a location cut off from help (a lighthouse), heroes and heroines, and a monster that came from the sea to kill its victims. I was hooked.
And my love of horror has never wavered. Which is why I was delighted to contribute a little bit about horror in this, the month of Halloween and all things spooky.
So what would I recommend for you?
The top five Halloween frightmares would have to be…
- Halloween. This is John Carpenter’s classic stalk-n-slash, in which Michael Myers returns to his home town to kill teenagers. It’s got a great monster, a terrific cast, brilliant music, and… is really frightening. I love it.
- The Haunting. If you fancy a really good ghost story, look no further. It might be in black and white, but the setting of Hill House, the weird characters, and the suspense are just fab! Don’t bother with the 1999 remake with Liam Neeson. The original is brilliant.
- The Shining. What can I say about this? It’s Stanley Kubrick’s great horror film. When Jack Torrance and his family move to the Overlook Hotel to look after it in the winter, what could possibly go wrong? EVERYTHING! Frightening, disturbing and also funny in places, this is a really great horror film that has it all. Ghosts. Murders. Hauntings. And Jack Nicholson. Marvelous.
- The Fog. Another John Carpenter film, and not the awful remake. Again, Carpenter ramps up the horror, this time with a tale of ghostly revenge. One hundred years to the day, a group of dead sailors return from their watery grave to seek the gold that was stolen from them. Watch it from behind the sofa…if you dare…!!
- The Descent. There is nothing like being afraid of the dark. And there is nothing more frightening than being in the dark with monsters. This is The Descent’s main aim – to frighten us twice. Well, probably a lot more than that, actually! This is a great, character-driven, exciting, tense, frightening horror film with loads of suspense and gore to satisfy anyone.
That’s my five top picks for Halloween. But, if you would like to know more about horror films, then check out my book The Modern British Horror Film, which looks at some of the best and most-frightening UK horror movies since 2000. All horror films reflect the world around them in some way or another. The book investigates this through three main chapters: the Hoodie Horror, in which films like Eden Lake, Heartless and F reflect the media’s condemnation of hoodie-wearing teenagers. Then there is the Great Outdoors, in which the picturesque countryside of the UK becomes a place of terror in films like A Place in the Wilderness and The Descent, whilst the open ocean makes the heroine of Triangle think she is mad. Finally, the book turns its attentions to ghosts, monsters and the greatest monsters of all… Us. Through films like The Woman in Black, the ghost story never dies; the Nazi-ghosts of Outpost remind us of their atrocities some seventy-years ago; whilst, the family held together by Mum & Dad remain truly terrifying in today’s era of Brexit, Trump, scaremongering and victimisation. Frightening stuff, and I hope you like what I’ve written, including loads of stuff for We Belong Dead and The Dark Side magazines and books.
Of course, horror films will never die. We love them. We will always love them. There are loads of other books written for horror film fans, and if you look at the shelves for next year, Leeds Beckett staff – myself, Professor Robert Shail, and Dr Samantha Holland – have teamed up with Emerald Publishing to produce a large series of ‘Gender in’ books that look at how ‘we’ have been portrayed in horror films, TV and cult media since the dawning of the new century. Keep an eye out.