horror films

New York Film Academy (NYFA) Remembers The Life and Achievements of Cult Filmmaker Larry Cohen

Screenwriter, producer, and director Larry Cohen, a filmmaker with a passionate and loyal fanbase, has passed away at the age of 82 (his birth year has often been reported as 1941, but his family and census records confirmed that this is incorrect, as reported in the New York Times). Cohen, whose career in film spanned several decades, was best known for his unique work in the B-movie genre scene.

Cohen was born and raised in New York City before going to film school. He had a particular passion for noir films, as well as the work of Casablanca director Michael Curtiz. He turned the former into a career in the late 1950s and 1960s, writing for crime television shows like The Defenders and The Fugitive, and later in the 1970s writing for Colombo.

It wasn’t long before Cohen pivoted to more genre fare, creating the NBC Western series Branded in 1965 and the sci-fi ABC series The Invaders in 1967. He began writing films during this period as well, including the sequel to The Magnificent Seven.

His directorial debut was the 1972 crime comedy Bone, starring Yaphet Kotto, which Cohen also wrote and produced. Two years later Cohen made It’s Alive, a horror film about a killer mutant baby, which was eventually a modest hit. The film was scored by frequent Hitchcock-collaborator Bernard Hermann and its pharmaceuticals-adjacent story showcased a career characteristic of Cohen to incorporate social commentary into his B-movie horror. The film spawned two sequels and a 2009 reboot.

His genre films also typically included police and crime elements to them, including 1976’s God Told Me To. In the 1980s, Cohen built a reputation for producing, directing, and writing low-budget horror films with a cult following. 1982’s Q: The Winged Serpent featured a giant monster flying around midtown Manhattan while also focusing on two detectives following a multiple homicide case.

Cohen’s best-known film, The Stuff, came out shortly after, in 1985. The film includes a killer alien substance that the general public became addicted to, and included social commentary on consumerism, advertising, and the tobacco industry. Despite its over-the-top premise, the film is still regarded as one of the best low-budget horror films of the 20th century.

Cohen continued to write and direct for the next few decades, including the Maniac Cop films; Joel Schumacher’s Phone Booth, starring Colin Farrell and Forest Whitaker; and Cellular, starring Kim Basinger, Chris Evans, and Jason Statham. In 2006, he was invited to participate in the TV anthology series Masters of Horror along with other notable filmmakers like John Carpenter, Wes Craven, David Cronenberg, Joe Dante, Dario Argento, James Gunn, Robert Rodriguez, and Guillermo del Toro.

In 2017, Cohen participated in a documentary that profiled his career, King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen, which featured actors and filmmakers including Martin Scorsese, J.J. Abrams, and John Landis. The film recently screened at New York Film Academy-Los Angeles along with a Q&A panel with the filmmakers. Cohen was scheduled to appear but was ultimately unable to attend; he lamentably passed away two days later.

After news of Cohen’s death became public, there was an outpouring of praise for him on social media by both his peers and by filmmakers who cite him as an influence in their own work, including Guillermo del Toro, Edgar Wright, and Joe Dante.

The New York Film Academy is deeply saddened by the loss of an auteur filmmaker who carried both a respect and a passion for his craft. Rest in peace, Larry Cohen.

 

H40: The Five Timelines of Michael Myers and “Halloween”

Cue the haunting piano music: Michael Myers is back in theaters this October with a brand new Halloween sequel. In true 21st century filmmaking fashion, this sequel is also somewhat of a soft reboot – a sequel that is technically in the same timeline, but retains many of the classic beats (and the title) of the original.

But which timeline? The Halloween franchise first began in 1978 as an independent horror film written and directed by John Carpenter (and produced and co-created by Debra Hill) and was an instant classic. The silent, hulking serial killer Michael Myers became a Hollywood icon as he murdered babysitters and their boyfriends in a painted William Shatner mask. Halloween quickly spawned a series of sequels, spin-offs, and remakes — all of which interweave with distinct continuities.

Here then, are five different timelines of the Halloween franchise in its first 40 years — who knows how many more retcons will come about in the next four decades!

Timeline #1
Halloween, Halloween II, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers

This could be considered the original timeline, as it incorporates the first six films of the franchise (with one exception, which we’ll get to.) The first two films are very closely linked, filmed close together, with the same leads, taking place all in the same night (October 31, natch.)

After a brief departure from Halloween III, the real star of the franchise — Michael Myers — came back due to popular demand. He wasn’t joined by lead actress Jamie Lee Curtis, however, who had gone onto movie stardom in the 80s with smash hits like Trading Places and A Fish Called Wanda. Fortunately for the producers, veteran actor Donald Pleasance, a big get for the first two films, stayed and helmed the series as Michael’s psychiatrist Dr. Loomis for the next three films.

Jamie Lee Curtis’s character, Laurie Strode, was killed off-screen in a car accident and the fourth film shifted focus to Laurie’s niece, Jamie Lloyd. Halloween 4 was released ten years after the original, in 1988, and quickly followed up with Halloween 5 in 1989.

The timeline finally came to an end in 1995, with Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. The movie expanded the franchise’s mythology and dove deep into the supernatural, dark mystical side of Michael Myers. One of its stars was a very young Paul Rudd playing Tommy Doyle, a character from the first two films. The movie ends with the death of series constant Dr. Loomis, and was dedicated to the memory of Donald Pleasance, who died just a few months before its release.

Timeline #2
Halloween III: Season of the Witch

The reason the franchise is called Halloween and not Michael Myers is because John Carpenter envisioned the series as an anthology of distinct horror stories, each set in their own universe with nothing to do with each other — much like Twilight Zone, Black Mirror, and the Cloverfield films.

However, the huge success of the first film led to a direct sequel, Halloween II, which came out in 1981. This film started the notion that Michael Myers was superhuman, which was continued and explored in the rest of Timeline #1 (see above.)

But by the third film, Carpenter finally wished to move away from Michael Myers and the town of Haddonfield, Illinois. Halloween III: Season of the Witch, produced by John Carpenter and Debra Hill, came out in 1982, and had none of the cast or characters from the first two films. It was also a completely different story — about evil Celtic magic from Stonehenge and androids that wish to kill the trick-or-treating children of a Northern California suburb.

Halloween III most certainly doesn’t take place in the same universe as Michael Myers. In fact, one of the characters in the movie is watching a commercial for the original Halloween, meaning the Jamie Lee Curtis films are just as fictional in the world of Season of the Witch as it is in ours.

Timeline #3
Halloween, Halloween II, H20: 20 Years Later, Halloween: Resurrection

It was only three years in between Halloween 6 and H20, but filmmaking was already evolving and Wes Craven’s Scream had upped the horror genre for moviegoers everywhere. In 1998, to celebrate two decades since the dawn of Michael Myers, the franchise released another sequel, with Jamie Lee Curtis returning to the role of Laurie Strode for the first time since 1981.

With the return of Jamie Lee Curtis, the series had to retcon her character’s death, and so this film takes place after Halloween and Halloween II — but NOT Halloweens 4, 5, and 6. While this brings Laurie Strode (and presumably, Dr. Loomis) back to life, this change in the continuity did not bode well for Nurse Chambers, a character played by Nancy Stephens in the first two films. She appears again as the character in the opening scene of H20, where she is quickly dispatched by a middle-aged Michael Myers.

By the end of the film, Myers has attacked Laurie Strode and her family, but is decapitated by her to make sure he never comes back. He does come back, however, in the film’s sequel, Halloween: Resurrection.

Halloween: Resurrection, released in 2002, is very much of its time, with a story revolving around webcams and the Internet, and the then-brand-new medium of Reality TV. It also stars Tyra Banks and Busta Rhymes, who might play the only character in any of the timelines to karate kick Michael Myers through a window.

The film opens with a cameo by Jamie Lee Curtis, once again portraying Laurie Strode, who dies for a second time in the franchise — this time on screen as she falls from the roof of a psychiatric hospital.

Timeline #4
Halloween (2007), Halloween II (2009)

Sound familiar? These two films take the exact same titles as the original two, but they are 100% remakes in the truest sense of the word, and which was very much in fashion at the time. Fresh off his critical gorefests House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects, Rob Zombie decided to tackle the Michael Myers franchise next, remaking Halloween in 2007.

Dr. Loomis is back, this time played by yet another British veteran actor, Malcolm McDowell. Zombie’s Halloween has much more focus on Michael Myers before his breakout and All Hallow’s Eve killing spree. It’s also more of a tension-builder and slower horror film, very much in style then and even still now.

The film received mixed reviews but made a decent amount of money at the box office, enough to warrant a direct sequel and the tenth film overall in the franchise. This new Halloween II harkens closer to the convoluted plotlines of Halloweens 4-6 than it does the original sequel though, dealing with hallucinations and flashbacks and revealing, like Timeline #1 eventually does, that Laurie Strode is actually the sister of Michael Myers. It ends with the death of Dr. Loomis (that makes two for him) and with Laurie now committed to a psychiatric hospital (that’s twice for her.)

Timeline #5
Halloween, Halloween (2018), ???

After considering a sequel to Zombie’s films or yet another reboot, the rights holders and producers of the franchise decided to do a sequel to the original Halloween. This film, once titled Halloween Returns, would have followed the first two, just as 4-6 did in Timeline #1. Soon indie director David Gordon Green and frequent collaborator Danny McBride (yes, that Danny McBride) came on board to work on the film.

In the writing process, Halloween II was taken out of the continuity, so that this sequel, which takes place forty years after the original (and twenty since the release of H20) is a direct sequel to only the original Halloween, and ignores the events of every other Halloween film that follows it.

The film will harken back to the original in plot and tone as well, as Myers will slowly make his way around town on Halloween night, picking off babysitters and anyone else who gets in his way.

It also brings back, once again, Jamie Lee Curtis as character Laurie Strode, who, as far as we know, isn’t the sister of Michael Myers. Whether Laurie Strode will die for the third time in the series or live for yet another sequel remains to be seen.

It’s doubtful Busta Rhymes will be back to karate kick Michael Myers through a window.

6 Horror Films That Changed the Genre Forever

nosferatu

Each year, new horror films are released in hopes that they’ll scare audiences enough to tell their friends all about it. Of all the film genres out there, perhaps horror is the one that survives the most on word of mouth. But out of the thousands upon thousands of scary films now available, a few stand out from the rest as having revolutionized the genre by providing new, innovative ways of keeping viewers completely terrified.

Based on both opinion and film history, here’s our list of the most industry-shaking horror films of all time (spoiler alerts!):

1. “Psycho” (1960)

Why: Killing Off Protagonist Early

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This film left audiences stunned for doing a number of things that no one else had ever dared, including showing more violence and sexuality. But if there’s one thing that made “Psycho” such an impactful film, it was doing something that was unheard of at the time — killing a main character early.

Just when viewers were getting familiar with the heroine of the film, Hitchcock has her murdered in the iconic shower scene that to this day inspires other horror movies. The scene alone was a masterpiece, filling audiences with fright by never actually seeing the killer or knife penetrate the skin. Instead, the violence is left to the viewer’s imagination – a powerful effect amplified by the fact that audiences now felt a new, disturbing reality that no one in the movie was safe.

2. “The Exorcist” (1973)

Why: Demonic Possession / Evil Children

These days, movies featuring evil children and demons are a dime a dozen. But back in the early ‘70s, these controversial subjects were taboo. That is, until William Friedkin released “The Exorcist,” a movie that had religious institutions enraged and audience members fainting.

The idea of seeing someone possessed by a demon was enough to shock people at the time, while the fact that it happened to a young girl was enough to fill viewers with complete dread. Roger Ebert gave it a 4-out-of-4 star review, which ended with the following: “I am not sure exactly what reasons people will have for seeing this movie … Are people so numb they need movies of this intensity in order to feel anything at all?”

3. “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” (1974)

Why: Claustrophobic Atmosphere

Chain_Saw_Massacre_House3

Of all the films on this list, none clearly influenced all the horror films to come as much as this one. “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” introduces countless elements that would become staples in the horror genre. This includes the idea of a scary masked killer and the Final Girl trope, where all but one character is left in the end to fight the antagonist.

But despite the name and premise, Tobe Hooper’s film isn’t remembered for gore or violence — in fact, there’s very little of it. Instead, it overwhelmed audiences with a claustrophobic feeling by building up a place that felt both terrifying and inescapable. The superb documentary-style approach made viewers feel as though they too were trapped and in mortal peril.

4. “Halloween” (1978)

Why: Terrifying Killer

This list wouldn’t be complete without arguably one of the top horror films of all time. Despite releasing almost 40 years ago, you can still see the influence of “Halloween” in the horror genre today. John Carpenter and his team did an amazing job of taking the best elements from previous horror films and finding ways to make them even scarier for the audience.

Of course, “Halloween” made its greatest impact by introducing us to one of the most iconic horror villains of all time. The audience felt both dread and paranoia each time Michael Myers appeared, whether behind an unsuspecting character or barely visible in the distance. His ability to take heavy damage and still relentlessly continue his hunt also made viewers feel, just like the films’ characters, he will probably get his kill sooner or later.

5. “Night of the Living Dead” (1968)

Why: Introduced Zombies

Ben_giving_Barbra_slippers_in_Night_of_the_Living_Dead_bw

Much like in this movie, it’s impossible for the modern person to escape zombies. Whether you’re into video games, movies, or TV shows, there are more than plenty of entertainment options that involve the living dead. But had “Night of the Living Dead” never been, things might have been very different.

George Romero’s legendary zombie movie is what put the idea on the map in the first place. Never before had viewers imagined the idea of living corpses hell-bent on tearing your flesh off and eating it. The film also made waves with its African-American protagonist and shock ending. Not bad for a movie with a budget of about $114,000.

6. “Nosferatu” (1922)

Why: Introduced Vampires

If you’ve never seen this unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stroker’s Dracula, you’ve missed the birth of one of the most immortal horror creatures on screen: the vampire. Films from “Interview with a Vampire” to “Twlight,” and TV series from “True Blood” to “Vampire Diaries” would not exist without this silent film.

W. Murnau’s German Expressionist masterpiece “Nosferatu” boasts powerful performances and an otherworldly, surreal aesthetic. Audiences to this day are fascinated by the disturbing blend of sensuality, death, and suspense that have defined one of the most popular sub-genres of all time. Vampires had never been seen before – and still, to this day, the monster in “Nosferatu” remains iconic.

What do you think are the most influential horror films of all time? Let us know in the comments below!