Can You Believe The Hype About Classic Horror Films?

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Guest writer LEE McSHANE questions whether the classic horror films of the 1970s and 80s are as good as they seem, and suggests that the hype surrounding these films may have contributed to their reputation.

A scene from The Wicker Man 1973 - is this film all hype and no substance?
A scene from The Wicker Man 1973

Many classic horror films that served as inspiration for today’s horror filmmakers were released in the 1970s and 80s. However, how good you think they were depends on your generation. 

People who grew up during that era experienced a different world and culture from what we know today.

The expectations for films were also different then, which is why some of the films that were released became classics.

For instance, Nightmare on Elm Street left audiences too scared to sleep, Friday the 13th made teens wary of going camping, and An American Werewolf in London made people cautious in parks.

Even though these films were terrifying for their time, compared to today’s horror films, they may seem relatively mild.

Do I argue that these are not good films? No, of course, not.

Although classic films such as Halloween and The Thing are some of my favourites, I must admit that I didn’t appreciate them fully until after a second viewing. 

That being said, there is one film that was ruined for me by the hype surrounding it: The Exorcist.

This film was once considered to be the “scariest horror film ever made”, and I believed this until I finally watched it myself. 

When a film has such a reputation, expectations can run high, especially when you hear stories about cinemagoers vomiting and passing out while watching it.

This hype only increased my anticipation, particularly when I learned that the film had been banned from home release until 1990, 17 years after its initial release.

Growing up, my family and friends had always told me how scary The Exorcist was, so in 2016, I finally got a hold of the film on DVD. 

I watched it with my mother, who was 13 when it was first released but had never seen it due to the hype. 

After watching it, we both shared the same sentiment: “What was that?”

A film that we had heard so much about and expected to give us nightmares had let us down massively.

The first half hour of the film felt more like a family drama, followed by an explicit drama, before the possession finally occurred in the last 30 minutes of the film.

I was disappointed by The Exorcist. I had expected to be scared out of my wits and to have nightmares that night. Instead, I went to bed thinking about how scared I had been to watch a film that I would have been comfortable with at 13 years old.

Closer to home, there was The Wicker Man. This is a British folk horror, and if you ask people about it, they will mention the film’s dramatic ending. But that seems to be all that’s memorable about it. 

Again, I heard lots about this film before I watched it and thought it was a bit mundane until the ending. I will say the acting is brilliant in the film. In recent years, I did rewatch The Wicker Man, and on the second viewing, I did see some positives. It’s because I was watching it with different eyes and no hype. 

Same can be said about when I first watched Halloween. It seemed a bit slow, and the ambient noise seemed to spoil it. There was a lack of soundtrack, not completely silent, but in the scene it seems to lack that something. 

And the volume of dialogue seemed strange as well. It was almost as if there was an issue when filming. I don’t know for certain if there was or if it’s just me. But this is a fact that could go with my previous point about it being a different world. Our equipment is far better now.

On the contrary, there are some films that have little hype but are very entertaining throughout. To the Devil a Daughter comes to mind. This is a superb British horror starring Christopher Lee. An occult film that is genuinely creepy and intense, but I don’t hear a lot of people in the horror community give it the recognition it deserves.

All in all, Hype, while it can be successful for a film, might just ruin one with high expectations.

LEE McSHANE is an actor, screenwriter and filmmaker from the North East UK. He has a passion for all things horror and the paranormal. He is currently a producer, actor and guest writer for the upcoming TV drama Monday Blues. Follow him on Twitter @TheUnruleLee and Instagram @the_lee_mcshane


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