“I don’t care about their dumb terms,” Campbell says when we mention elevated horror. “But I’m glad to see horror mainstreamed, because in the Evil Dead era, horror was one rung above porno. The actors who were in horror movies were either starting out or on their way out. They were either young or old. You started in horror to get into the business or because you couldn’t get arrested. And it’s very nice to see now that it’s just another genre. It doesn’t have to have satanic implications; it’s not going to ruin the youth of America. It’s just another genre that happens to capture the imaginations of audiences.”
Campbell knows of what he speaks. Raimi came into the genre around the same time as another crop of hungry and brilliant stylists—John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) filmed one year before The Evil Dead did, and in Canada David Cronenberg was only beginning to master his body horror nightmares. And yet, even as the ‘70s was also the decade that saw the first horror movie nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars (The Exorcist), the genre was still largely dismissed as cheap exploitative dreck by many mainstream critics—especially as copycat filmmakers emulated Carpenter and cultivated the slasher subgenre in the ‘80s. In the case of The Evil Dead, the film was even inaccurately labeled a “Video Nasty” in the UK where the film became the centerpiece of a years-long legal battle over censorship.
Nevertheless, interesting new voices continued to reinvent and reinvigorate the horror genre with each passing decade, even if the 2000s in retrospect look like a particular low point for the form. But that too has passed, and in the wake of new films like The Babadook and It Follows, Saint Maud and this month’s Lamb and Last Night in Soho, horror is again one of the most exciting genres in cinema. So if folks want to claim it’s somehow been “elevated,” well Campbell won’t begrudge them too much.
“Horror and comedy are really the only two genres that will get a physical response out of an audience,” the actor says. “And I think it’s really fun to sit and watch an audience with a good horror movie that makes them jump. It takes a lot of skill as a filmmaker to get them to do that.”
If you’re looking for some ideas for this Halloween that’ll quicken your pulse, we have some suggestions right here.
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