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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Defining Shots: Capturing the Essence of Our Favorite Horror Films (Part 1)

It's been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and it's certainly true that we humans are very visual creatures. Perhaps this is why the medium of film has become the defining popular art form of our times, capturing the imagination like nothing else. And there is certainly no film genre quite like horror to give us some defining, iconic imagery--the kind that stays with you long after the film has unspooled or the DVD has stopped spinning.

I've always believed that certain shots can sum up an entire film, and this is why I've always been such a big fan of using screen grabs in my posts whenever possible. One individual who definitely is a blogger after my own heart would be Andre Dumas of The Horror Digest. Both Andre and myself are big fans of horror imagery, and decided to pool our efforts on a little project we're calling "Defining Shots".

The idea here was to take a series of our most beloved horror films, and to both of us identify the single shot out of the entire film that we respectively feel defines the entire film in question. And so we selected 12 classics, and applied this little exercise to them. Tonight, I bring you part 1 of the experiment, and you can look forward to part 2 a little later in the week.

Below, I've grouped together the two shots we've picked from the first six films of the bunch, with a little explanation from the both of us as to why we selected that one image. I found it quite fascinating to see the different images we both selected from the same exact movies, and I hope that you do, as well...


At the heart of this beautiful film is the unique relationship between a 12-year-old boy and a much older androgynous vampire in the body of a child of similar age. And Eli's visit to Oskar in his room perfectly epitomizes the connection between the two of them, as well as the contrast between them. A breathtaking moment from a breathtaking movie.

This is another perfect example of a terrible kind of beauty. I love it because not only does it show the brutal nature of the consequences Eli suffers when not being allowed to enter (which is something rarely depicted) it also takes time out of that brutality to offer up such a brilliant moment of beauty and quietness. A very important aspect of Let the Right One In that sets it apart from almost every single vampire film out there.


Many have compared Jaws to Moby Dick, and with good reason. If the comparison is to be considered valid, then surely Quint is the film's Ahab. And it is this moment, when Quint realizes he has finally met his match, that the essential conflict of the film reaches its zenith. It is man vs. nature at its purest.

Those that know me are aware of my immense fear concerning this movie. In this moment I always feel exactly the way that Brody must. He is listening to Quint's horrific description of a shark biting off someone's hands, and he is surrounded by the jaws of the very beast he is about to meet, a look of fear and smallness swimming in his eyes. In many ways he looks incredibly small put up against all the jaw bones and in reality he is incredibly small put up against the shark.


Those who know The Exorcist realize that the film's central character is not in fact Regan, nor is it Father Merrin, but rather Father Damien Karras, the agnostic priest who finds his faith in conflict with the Devil himself. And it is this moment, when Karras makes the ultimate sacrifice to save the girl, that sums up the character's ethical journey.

The iconic shot of good vs. evil is made one step deeper by the appearance of a second picture showing through. I have always believed this was appropriate as it depicts the way that evil transcends throughout everything. One minute it is there in Iraq, and the next it is in the bedroom of Regan MacNei and no matter how many times it is vanquished it continues to return.


George Romero's third zombie opus presents us with the notion that zombies can regain at least some of their humanity, with the unforgettable Bub being the prime example. In this shot, Bub is tempted to chow down on his mentor, Dr. Logan, but successfully restrains that impulse and proves his humanity. A turning point in the Romero cycle.

Besides the fact that this shot just looks fucking cool, it also shows how utterly surprised I was throughout Day of the Dead. I was shocked that I loved it so much and shocked that I cared so much for it. I secretly hate zombies, but here was Day of the Dead tantalizing my senses and invading my dreams.


Interestingly, it takes more than half of the film for David to finally transform into the werewolf once and for all, and by the time it happens, the audience has been waiting for it with bated breath. Right here, David completely loses his humanity and gives himself over at last to the raging beast emerging from within him.

This is my favorite scene from An American Werewolf in London. I love it because it does not contain one shred of humor. This screen grab perfectly shows the horror that lies within the film. John Landis did not intend for the film to be a comedy and I often think that notion is forgotten in regards to the film.


The monster confronts its maker. This is the moment in which Henry Frankenstein at last must face his creation out in the open, away from the lab and with their father/son relationship dashed to pieces. The doctor beholds what he has wrought, and must find it within himself to destroy it, or at least try.

I really struggled trying to find a screen shot that got across my point of view concerning Frankenstein. In the end I settled on this more simplistic shot of my very favorite Universal monster. I think although it is simple in appearance it shows a tremendous amount of depth in the Frankenstein Monster's character. A monster that actually has a character, a heart and a point of view.

STAY TUNED for the 2nd part of Defining Shots, featuring images from Nosferatu, Gojira, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and more...


Andre Dumas said...

Hooray! I love the comparison of shots. You should edit my typo at the end of Frankenstein though so that at the end it says, it shows the depth of Frankenstein's monster instead of Frankenstein!. We can't have Vault dwellers thinking I'm an idiot!

B-Sol said...

There, taken care of! Don't worry, I don't think they thought you were an idiot... Matter of fact, none other than Pierre Fournier of Frankensteinia has informed me that the name Frankenstein can in fact be applied to the monster, as well!
Anyway, this was great fun to do. Hope you also will enjoy the second part!

Anonymous said...

I am surprised nobody has made a post calling Eli/Elias a PEDOPHILE!!

I wonder if Elias was born during the Salem witch trials?

Anyway----I love that movie.

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