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>My relationship with the horror genre is a complex one and has shifted and changed over the years accordingly. During my youth, it was my least favourite type of movie, especially anything involving blood and guts, i.e., zombie movies but they continued to exert a lurid spell over me as the years passed. They were a test of my squeamishness, my intestinal fortitude, of my manhood. Well, that’s how I saw it at least.

The garish video cover art and posters displayed in the local video stores promised obscene, terrifying scenes of human suffering committed by various maniacs, ghouls and monsters. In my pre-teen years, whenever my friends would get their hands on an ’18’ rated horror flick like Day of the Dead for example, I would make up the most feeble excuses to get out of watching it.

Into my adolescence and maybe sensing that looking like a wimp in front of my mates might seem a tad pathetic so I began to get a little more adventurous and started renting the occasional horror film just so I could brag to my friends about how i sat through that scene where the guy/girl gets decapitated or the guys body parts fall off as he transforms into a grotesque creature.

I found myself drawn more and more to dark, unsavoury events brewing in the films of John Carpenter, Wes Craven, David Cronenberg and Clive Barker. They were a potent mixture of pain and pleasure, tying my stomach up in knots and then making me laugh in astonishment almost immediately after a big scare or a sudden, shocking bit of violence.

Watching a well made, frightening horror film was cathartic, a mixture of fear and excitement replicating the feeling of being on a roller coaster ride or even the first time you fall in love.

The horror film should make you feel queasy, uncomfortable, shake you out of your complacency, force you to see things you don’t want to see but deep down inside you know you really want to. We want to see what’s underneath it all. The hidden world we know exists, that reveals the terrifying truth about ourselves and opens up possibilities, alternative universes, ideas, ways of thinking. The unknown compels us, draws us in. The horror film forces us to look at ourselves.

The main focus of this entry is on opening sequences from a selection of horror movies from the past fifty years and how they combine music, sound effects and image to great effect and how in their artfulness, they create a potent atmosphere of terror and dread, immediately grabbing the viewer and setting the tone for the remainder of the movie.

Vertigo (1958)

Okay, so Alfred Hitchcocks’ dark tale of obsession is not usually classified as a horror film in the visceral sense- Psycho is a much neater fit, with it’s then outre scenes of stabbing and bloodshed – the horror is much more psychological in terms of what is inflicted upon James Stewarts’ tormented Scottie.

Bernard Herrmans’ stunning theme, ripe with foreboding and twisted romanticism and the legendary Saul Bass’ hypnotic title design perfectly conjure the feeling of someone being led into free fall, trapped and unable to free themselves of their compulsion.

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