I’ve loved horror movies ever since I first stayed up late to watch The Birds on BBC2 at the age of nine. I had nightmares, I was obsessed by the film for weeks, went round the house pretending to have had my eyes pecked out and secretly wishing I had Tippi Hedren’s little green suit, not to mention Rod Taylor looking after me.
The Birds has all the basic ingredients I like in horror: some real but totally implausible scariness, a set-up that you can fantasise about in daily life, some sexually attractive actors and, vitally, a sense of humour. I hate films where the horror could actually happen in reality (eg Saw, Hostel). I can listen to the news for that. So while I’m delighted to watch a monster ripping people’s heads off, drinking their blood etc, I am totally squeamish about real, believable cruelty. Hypocritical? Double standards? Yes, guilty as charged. FYI I also like ‘cosy’ crime thrillers like Agatha Christie, and I hate the tough stuff where murder is realistic and grisly.
I have compiled a list of 30 of my favourite horror movies because I’ve made my first foray into horror fiction in a novel entitled Grim, which is massively informed by film and TV as well as books. I’ll be counting down the list over the next 30 days as a way of drumming up interest for the publication of Grim on 31 October – Hallowe’en, of course. So while this is primarily a marketing exercise, it’s also a way of exploring what horror means to me and what I was trying to do in the book.
Grim is set in a small English seaside town, all net curtains, amusement arcades and sprawling caravan sites. Beneath the cosy facade something very disgusting is going on, bodies start piling up left, right and centre and by the end of the book all hell has literally broken loose. It’s an attempt at doing what my idol Stephen King does so well: ripping small towns to bits and then looking closely at the wreckage.
Most of the films on the list that will unfurl before your eyes this month are set in small communities. Most of them feature a monster of some sort. Some are deadly serious, some are deliberately comic, some are ludicrous, some are masterpieces. They have all obsessed me in one way or another, changed the way I look at the world, made me laugh and sometimes made me jump out of my seat. I hope you enjoy the countdown as much as I enjoyed putting it together. Please feel free to feedback, and please, obviously, buy the book. It will be very cheap for the first week of its life.