Originally posted February 11, 2012
I type this from an undisclosed location in the wilds of North Brooklyn, where I spend my days in isolation—writing, poring over my film library, and otherwise cultivating my rich inner life. Like Kafka’s Odradek, I have No Fixed Abode. I must cover my tracks, you see. All because some so-called “authorities” deemed my experimental methods “unsound.” Unsound, they said! Those sniveling goody-goodies! Those philistines with their “professional ethics” and “codes of conduct”! One day they will rue their short-sighted pettifoggery and rejoice that they trod the earth at the same time as Dr. Grimsby von Eldritch!
But about this, more anon. For now, I wish only to welcome you to Dr. Grimsby’s Catacomb of Horrors, where I—Dr. Grimsby—will serve as your guide to vintage horror cinema: the weird, the macabre, and the utterly unspeakable. But first, some parameters.
For those of you inclined toward shaky-cam pseudo-documentaries in the Blair Witch mode, brooding-yet-soulful teen vampires with epic cheekbones, or the new-ish subgenre whimsically nicknamed “torture porn,” I offer no sanctuary. Call me a wizened old relic if you must, but most macabre cinema of the last 30-plus years fill me with little but dismay. In fact, I have not seen any part of the Saw or Twilight franchises, and am prepared to eat my own head rather than expose myself to a single frame.
My purview is, nonetheless, catholic (with a small “c”), taking in everything from the earliest silent experiments to the gamiest grindhouse fare of the 1970s; from the lofty poetic heights of Val Lewton to the abysmally wretched depths of Herschell Gordon Lewis.
I am naturally most at home in dank and underlit spaces of great antiquity, consorting with friends like Lon Chaney, Bela Lugosi, and Boris Karloff. My dreams are fuelled by the spectral images of Tod Browning and Roger Corman (along with generous lashings of Old Crow, or perhaps some Oriental substances of dubious legality). I will watch anything featuring Vincent Price in a smoking jacket—though, admittedly, Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine was a gruelling test of my devotion.
Just don’t expect me to cover much that happened after 1979. The simple reason is that 1980 saw the release of an industrial product known as Friday the 13th—a watershed moment, and the point at which the good doctor realized the jig was up as far as old-school horror was concerned. From now on, the screen would belong to faceless, knife-wielding maniacs who amused themselves by slicing scores of randy teens into julienne fries. No more mythic, metaphorical horrors set in the cobwebbed corridors of the Gothic imagination. No more symbolic beasts embodying our most primal fears, and acting out our unacknowledged longings.
For that matter, no more honest, independent exploitation pics, imbued with the old carny spirit and relegated to the skid row grindhouses and isolated drive-ins on the outskirts of town. Henceforth, Hollywood would make them. They would cost endless millions of dollars, have roman numerals in the titles, and play in suburban multiplexes to scads of pimply wastrels trying to impress their wretched dates. A pox on them.
I will leave you on that note of rebuke, as the gentle “caw, caw” of my dear pet raven, Barnaby, tells me it’s his feeding time—after which I intend to consume disreputable quantities of Old Crow and slide gently into a coma. My takes on specific films will begin with my next dispatch. Until then, as my mentor Dr. Septimus Pretorius once proclaimed: “To a new world of gods and monsters!”