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Sunday, November 9, 2008

New Poll Reveals Difference Between Casual and Hardcore Horror Fans

Media retail giant HMV held a poll last month on their website that really got me thinking. As they do every year around Halloween, the UK-based company asked visitors to vote for their favorite horror film of all time. They then compiled the top 50 vote-getters, and published the list on their site on October 30. Here's what they came up with:

1.The Exorcist. William Friedkin (1973)
2.The Shining. Stanley Kubrick (1980) 
3.Alien. Ridley Scott (1979) 
4.The Silence of the Lambs. Jonathan Demme (1991) 
5.Saw. James Wan (2004) 
6.Halloween. John Carpenter (1978) 
7.A Nightmare on Elm Street. Wes Craven (1984) 
8.Ring (Ringu). Hideo Nakata (1998) 
9.The Wicker Man. Robin Hardy (1973) 
10.The Omen. Richard Donner (1976) 
11.The Birds. Alfred Hitchcock (1963) 
12.The Thing. John Carpenter (1982) 
13.Lost Boys. Joel Schumacher (1987) 
14.Dawn of the Dead. George A Romero (1978) 
15.The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Tobe Hooper (1974) 
16.Jaws. Steven Spielberg (1975) 
17.The Blair Witch Project. Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sanchez (1999) 
18.An American Werewolf in London. John Landis (1981) 
19.Se7en. David Fincher (1995) 
20.Poltergeist. Tobe Hooper (1982) 
21.The Amityville Horror. Stuart Rosenberg (1979) 
22.Candyman. Bernard Rose (1992) 
23.Scream. Wes Craven (1996) 
24.Carrie. Brian De Palma (1976) 
25.Friday the 13th. Sean S Cunningham (1980) 
26.Final Destination. James Wong (2000) 
27.The Evil Dead. Sam Raimi (1981) 
28.Hellraiser. Clive Barker (1987) 
29.Hostel. Eli Roth (2005) 
30.Salem's Lot. Mikael Salomon (2004) 
31.The Descent. Neil Marshall (2005) 
32.The Hills Have Eyes. Wes Craven (1977) 
33.Wolf Creek. Greg McLean (2005) 
34.Misery. Rob Reiner (1991) 
35.Rosemary's Baby. Roman Polanski (1968) 
36.Child's Play. Tom Holland (1989) 
37.The Orphanage. Juan Antonio Bayona (2008) 
38.The Entity. Sidney J Furie (1981) 
39.Nosferatu. FW Murnau (1922) 
40.Night of the Living Dead. George A. Romero (1968) 
41.House on Haunted Hill. William Malone (2000) 
42.The Haunting. Robert Wise (1963) 
43.It. Tommy Lee Wallace (1990) 
44.Audition. Takashi Miike (1999) 
45.The Changeling. Peter Medak (1980) 
46.The Mist. Frank Darabont (2008) 
47.Suspiria. Dario Argento (1977) 
48.The Vanishing. George Sluizer (1993) 
49.Shutter. Masayuki Ochiai (2008) 
50.Planet Terror. Robert Rodriguez (2007)

OK, there are a few things that jump out at me here. First of all, no Psycho. That's just amazing, especially since I'd have guessed it as a possible number-one. This is especially bizarre since The Birds nearly made the top 10. There's also no Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula--in fact, there is only one film made before 1963 on the entire list.

Instead, you have Saw in the top 5, which, even as a supporter of that movie, I have to say is nothing short of effrontery. And as much as I also enjoy A Nightmare on Elm Street, putting it in the top 10 is a bit of stretch. And The Lost Boys? Really? Top 50 of all time?? Even letting picks like The Blair Witch Project and Hostel slide, how on earth do Final Destination and the remake of House on Haunted Hill make a list like this? And I'm sorry--as unpopular as this might make me--but there's no way Friday the 13th belongs here, either. That movie is a guilty pleasure more than anything else.

There are a couple of things to be commended here. Obviously, The Exorcist is a solid pick for number one, have to respect that. I also greatly respect The Wicker Man making the top 10, which has to be due to the British origin of the list. That same European sensibility surely also led to Suspiria getting enough votes to make it in.

I'm overwhelmed at the vast chasm that exists between the horror tastes of the general public at large, as opposed to self-admitted horror snobs like myself. If anything, being so close to the genre and loving it so much has probably clouded my judgement when it comes to what appeals to those for whom horror movies represent a much more casual interest. Certainly that difference accounts for the lack of representation here for horror movies from the 1950s and earlier. It also explains the presence of films that made it merely because they are fresh in the public's collective mind.

If you're a true horror hound reading this, then I'm sure you've had the experience of having a conversation with someone who's not so into horror movies, and having to humor them as they tell you what their favorites are. You try not to come off as a pompous ass when they extoll the virtues of One Missed Call, Urban Legend, or anything ever counted among the "8 Films to Die For". You shudder at the notion that they've never seen Werewolf of London, Dead Alive, or anything directed by Mario Bava. In short, you are a horror geek.

And don't get me wrong, I love you for it. That's why I've been toying with the idea of conducting a little poll of my own. There is no doubt that there is a contingent of hardcore horror aficionados represented online--spatterati, if I may coin a term. Those bold souls who profess their adoration for the horror genre to their readers each and every day. If they were asked to name their favorite horror films of all time, I wonder what the resulting list might look like.

I plan to do something about it. I plan to find out. That's why I'm going to be reaching out to the cream of the crop of the online horror community to find out what they think. And you guessed it, I plan to publish the results right here on The Vault of Horror.

It's not that I'm saying our opinion is superior to that of Joe Six-Pack. Well, actually, I am. I am a horror snob, after all.


: said...

"If you're a true horror hound reading this, then I'm sure you've had the experience of having a conversation with someone who's not so into horror movies, and having to humor them as they tell you what their favorites are."

Yes! God, this hit a nerve . . . well done . . . .

Looking forward to seeing the results of your survey. In fact, I'd love to take part.


gord said...

Can't wait to check out the survey.

Though I really only take issue with about 1/4 of the films on the list. The placement of the films is out of whack for me too, but in terms of things that shouldn't be there (never mind things that were excluded for arguments sake) it's not awful awful.

B-Sol said...

No, not awful awful, and I think an American list would've been even worse. But I am curious to see what kind of different list will be produced by people who eat, drink and breathe horror movies...

Lisa Bee said...

At least The Orphanage made the cut. I love that film. And I agree that an American list would have been much worse.

Getting your own take is an interesting idea. I'm curious to see the results.

Mr. Cavin said...

I'd like to take part in a survey. My only credential is that I'm an eclectic consumer and love movies. Horror enjoys a place in that, but isn't an obsession. Also I'm an American.

But here, you have to be a little careful when laying out the criteria for this sort of thing. Will you just be compiling a list of popular favorites based on vote recurrence (like if you asked fifteen insiders to list their top fifty films and then tallied the averages), or will you attempt to set a quality of subjective performance (like if you asked fifty people to rank the top ten most influential or scariest movies)? The first is faulty because it requires nothing but flash and thoughtless subjectivity, and the second will mostly end up as movies experienced by the lister during childhood (when everything was new and scary).

Anyway, good luck making this thing. I'll be interested in at least reading it (if not, you know, arguing with it).

B-Sol said...

I'm not ranking them by number of appearances on everyone's lists. That would be a mess. I'm awarding them points based on where each person ranked them. The higher the ranking on any particular list, the more points awarded. All points are then tallied, with the top 50 scores getting ranked. Hope that makes sense. As for criteria, I simply left it at this: Name the top 10 greatest horror movies of all time, in your opinion. From there, I leave it up to the respective persons' judgment.

Mr. Cavin said...

"From there, I leave it up to the respective persons' judgment."

Quality: Well, there's something to be said for beauty pageants after all (though I would need some sort of definition of "greatest". My top ten "favorite", "scariest", and "influential" would all be drastically, if not totally, different).

Quantity: But I think the way you are handling the data is a really smart way to do so.

B-Sol said...

If pressed, I'd have to say that my definition of greatest here is a combination of the scariest and "best" in terms of the quality of the movie itself, the same way you'd assess a straight dramatic film. A movie should be able to qualify in both categories, but it if its incredibly scary I'd forgive flaws in the "quality" (think Fulci); and conversely, if its extremely well-made, I'd forgive for not being as intense on the scares (think Bride of Frankenstein).

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting on this topic, and raising the issue. Obviously there are likely a variety of forces at work here that result in differing choices for the "best" horror among fans: whether one grew up with horror (especially as a Monster Kid from the 1950s-1970s), the types of horror encountered on television in addition to the cinema, and the prevalent types of horror that then become the cultural currency in terms of the way sin which horror is framed. In my view, casual fans have largely been exposed to more recent forms of horror primarily through film, secondarily through repeats on television. Hardcore fans may have been expoded to several decades of horror going back to the 1930s (perhaps earlier) that used to be show with great frequency on television, as well as contemporary horror as it unfolded in various waves over several decades. This would then result in very different choices for the best of horror, and may account for the differences you note between hard core and casual fans. Just my two cents.

B-Sol said...

I think that's pretty much on the money, John.

Johnny 666 said...

Great idea, would be very interested to see the results.

Anonymous said...

I'm more surprised to see how close the list is to what I'd expect from a horror website poll and some of the choices are very unexpected IMO - Argento, The Vanishing, Audition, or the Wicker Man never seemed that mainstream to me

B-Sol said...

Yeah, I think that has a lot to do with HMV being predominantly a UK chain. There's undoubtedly a more international sensibility than we more insulated Americans would have.

cindy said...

i am looking forward to your results too! i am partial to the older horror movies myself.

Garg Unzola said...

The real Ringu, the real Hills Have Eyes, the real Haunting...

Yes, I like it.

pot head pixie said...

I'm actually surpised that Suspiria is so low down on the list!

The Wicker Man was massive in UK. I remember that from when I was a kid.

But some of the stuff on the list is just plain weird!

NoahC said...

thank you. Thank You. THANK YOU!

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