Rants From A Scream Queen: Horror Icons…Where Are They Now?


Cover from Pink Floyd's The Wall

They’re heeeeeeeeeerrrrreeeeee! If you are a horror movie fan you have heard and I am sure quoted that line from “Poltergeist” a million times. The Scream Queen is back and in the Spirit of Halloween I can’t help but wonder whatever happened to all of the classic horror film icons. Why don’t we have any Michaels or Jasons or Leatherfaces? Where are all of the Karloffs, Chaneys, and Lugosis of today?

Erik, The Phantom (Lon Chaney) in The Phantom of the Opera (1925) via Universal Pictures
Strike a Pose

Before I even heard of Freddy Krueger or saw any of the Scream films, I was introduced to horror icons of my grandparents’ generation. Monsters like the Mummy and Dracula. I would ask my Mamma questions all the time about these legends and thus learned about the thespians behind them like Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr. (and Sr.), and her all time favorite, Mr. Vincent Price. I still remember the first time I saw House of Wax as a child, my eyes glued to the TV screen at my families bait shop. My desire to investigate the films and the actors themselves. I spent hours reading about the productions and studying the makeup from the Phantom of the Opera (the 1925 one people, although I still would like to see the original 1923 version of the film) and The Wolfman. I would go out on Halloween as the Invisible Man, the Wolfman, and Dracula. I don’t think there are too many mothers out there that would buy their sons fake blood and fangs for Christmas!

Learning about these titans of the industry though, you start to notice in their history that the roles they were once celebrated and feared for became the butt of everyone’s jokes. Vincent Price did not enjoy a lot of the mistelling’s of Poe’s works because he disliked the violence. Certain monster’s like Dracula were drowned in all of the adaptations and sequels that were everywhere. Even Christopher Lee has more movies about the Count than I would care to count. Yes, that pun was intended. With all of this happening, these once loved creatures disappeared from the public eye and were no longer taken seriously by even the industry itself. However, these icons were kept alive through our Mothers, Fathers, and Uncles with the infamous creature double features that would play late at night on television. This is arguably where the next wave of horror icons was plotting its much needed return.

Poster for Friday the 13th: Jason Takes Manhattan via Paramount Pictures
I don’t think he really loves New York.

With this next wave though, the creatures started changing into something much more frightening and deadly…us. These monsters were human beings either wronged by society, abused, or just flat out psychopaths. They could be your neighbor, your brother, or own the local motel down street. With an addition to that last comment, it is debatable that the first of this wave could be awarded to Norman Bates. This was one of the first movies to bring an idea like this to the masses that the killer looks exactly like us and acts exactly like us. Then you have Michael Myers with the Halloween franchise that interestingly brought an iconic face to horror movies. From that you have Leatherface kicking it up a notch with a whole family of canninbals and bringing an element that previous films didn’t really flaunt which was not holding back on the blood and gore. From that you have kids walking around with hockey masks and gloves with knife fingers. Finally horror was given the kick in the butt it needed and brought back to the forefront of film.

With all of this excitement though, horror managed to let the knife slip from its bloody hands one more time. This time in the form of sequels. Having a second movie to accompany is one thing, but don’t sit there and tell me that Friday the 13th Part 8 was a good idea. You know, the one where Jason takes Manhattan! Yet again the films and the characters became a parody on themselves and started to become a body count franchise instead of a thrilling movie with scares, a little bit of blood, and some actual forms of a storyline.

Horror did have one last promising send off with a somewhat underrated film in my opinion. That film would be Scream. Scream took all of the familiar devices we learned before and, instead of being predictable with it, it poked fun at it with a knife and then tore out it’s throat. The reason I say this film is underrated is because it has all of the good points from maniacs of old and threw it into one funny yet chilling movie and even produced a decent sequel that paid even more homage to Myers, Krueger, and Voorhees with the previous killers mother coming back to finish the job. That is really it though. Nothing much really comes after that in the story of horror movies. So instead of creating a new villain and flaunting it at the face of the mass market, we instead have could be icons that almost disappear into the independent pool of films. These are really only seen on Netflix or through word of mouth. It really is a shame.

I want to see the next renaissance of murderers or monsters on the big screens and not through remakes, prequels, reboots, preboots, resequels, prebootquelmakes, or whatever they are calling them nowadays! I want to see a new figure that makes me jump and theater goers scream. I do not care if it follows the themes of the original films or if there is any kind of reference to them. Future directors and film buffs, go forth and create! Follow your nightmares! Show the world that horror icons are not dead and do not need to be run over with sequels. Give us something that leaves us salivating.

Until next time my little ones…have a happy Halloween!

***If you have any questions or comments about any of my posts or hell ideas you would like me to write about, please feel free to contact me on Twitter @NickKruger13 or by email nicholas.kelley@shallowgraves.org