Art and Courage

Opening Oneself Up to Create Art

Opening Oneself Up to Create Art

The reader walks away from real art heavier than she came to it. Fuller. All the attention and engagement and work you need to get from the reader can’t be for your benefit; it’s got to be for hers. What’s poisonous about the cultural environment today is that it makes this so scary to try to carry out. Really good work probably comes out of a willingness to disclose yourself, open yourself up in spiritual and emotional ways that risk making you look banal or melodramatic or naive or unhip or sappy, and to ask the reader really to feel something. To be willing to sort of die in order to move the reader, somehow. Even now I’m scared about how sappy this’ll look in print, saying this. And the effort actually to do it, not just talk about it, requires a kind of courage I don’t seem to have yet. … Maybe it’s as simple as trying to make the writing more generous and less ego-driven.—David Foster Wallace, Conversations with David Foster Wallace


Thirteen Horrors

Scene from Ingmar Bergman’s Hour of the Wolf

Scene from Ingmar Bergman’s Hour of the Wolf

This being the start of Halloween Season, I thought I’d recommend thirteen horror films that have, over the years, continued to scare me. (Let me begin, however, by saying that nothing has scared me more than seeing Ted Cruz try to do Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham.)

It was difficult to limit the list down to thirteen. In the process, I had to omit some real classics, such as the original Universal Frankenstein and Dracula, plus some more recent films such as Dracula Prince of Darkness and Roman Polanski’s Repulsion. But I guess that is in the nature of things when trying to narrow down such a large field.

The films below are listed in alphabetical order:

The Black Cat (1934), directed by Edgar G. Ulmer, starring both Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. Frightening and very weird.

Black Sunday (1960), directed by Mario Bava, starring Barbara Steele. One of the very best of all the vampire films.

Carnival of Souls (1962), directed by Herk Harvey, starring Candace Hilligoss. A superb film made by a bunch of nobodies in the Midwest, but curiously affecting. See it if you can.

The Cat People (1942), produced by Val Lewton and directed by Jacques Tourneur. One of Lewton’s atmospheric horror films that are among my favorites.

Curse of the Demon (1957), also called Night of the Demon, directed by Jacques Tourneur and starring Dana Andrews. Probably the scariest film on this list. After multiple viewings, it still works!

The Hour of the Wolf (1968), directed by Ingmar Bergman. Another take on the vampire myth, this time from Sweden.

Kwaidan (1964), directed by Masaki Kobayashi, an anthology film based on stories compiled by Lafcadio Hearn in the 19th century. In wide screen and gorgeous Technicolor.

The Leopard Man (1943), produced by Val Lewton and directed by Jacques Tourneur. (I was torn between this and the same duo’s I Walked with a Zombie).

Nosferatu (1922), directed by F. W. Murnau and starring Max Schreck (“Terror”). The original Bram Stoker Dracula plot, set on the Continent. Probably the best of the silent horror films.

Scene from Rosemary’s Baby

Scene from Rosemary’s Baby

Rosemary’s Baby (1968), directed by Roman Polanski and starring Mia Farrow. Polanski had a gift for making great horror films.

The Shining (1980), directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Jack Nicholson. Find out why all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Ugetsu Monogatari (1952), directed by Kenji Mizoguchi. A classic and lyrical Japanese ghost story that just happens to be one of the greatest films ever made.

Vampyr (1932), directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer. This is probably the scariest vampire film ever made. There are a lot of bad prints of this Danish film, so it’s worth getting your copy from a good source, like Kino-Lorber.

Are there any horror classics you’d like to add to this list? Use the comments for your suggestions.