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12:38pm on Saturday, 25th November, 2006:

Scary Movie


When I was in my teens, I used to watch the double bill of horror movies every Friday night on Yorkshire TV. I saw a couple of hundred or more horror movies this way, from the early Lon Chaney, Béla Lugosi and Boris Karloff originals to the later Hammer Horror gothic classics of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, and the AIP pictures of Vincent Price. They don't make movies like these any more; following the appearance of Halloween, "horror" now means "gross" (a bit of a surprise, as Halloween itself wasn't all that gross — it was the Friday the 13th series that took the Halloween premiss that way).

None of these horror movies are scary. The scariest movie I've ever seen, from a point of making me actually frightened, wasn't a horror movie at all. Indeed, it wasn't the whole movie that was scary, just one scene. That scene was the Tomorrow Belongs to Me bit in Cabaret. Ye gods! By the end of that I was in a cold sweat with goose pimples. Even now, I can't listen to it without a shiver running down my spine. It's just a great tune, yet with such button-pressing, evil-propagandist lyrics; you can almost understand how ordinary Germans were caught up in what it promised. The knowledge of what actually happened as a result of their doing so makes it all the worse. It certainly scared the willies out of me, anyway.

Astonishingly, Cabaret (the movie) came out in 1972. That's 34 years ago. 34 years before 1972 was 1938, the very period that the movie was depicting. In other words, the movie is as distant from us today as the events it narrates were from the movie.

That's pretty scary, too.

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Copyright © 2006 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).