Richard Paradise, founder and executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society, is the go-to person on the Island to learn anything about film. While it’s not his favorite genre, Paradise has a wealth of knowledge about the different subgenres of horror films, and plenty of recommendations to set the stage for Halloween.
Paradise says he tends to gravitate to thriller supernatural horror films. The first classic he mentions, which would jump to a lot of people’s minds, is Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining,” which he saw when it first came out in 1980. “It’s great when a master like Kubrick, who has a very large body of work, decides to do a supernatural film, and it’s not their normal or typical thing you would think of them doing,” Paradise says. “It’s wonderfully done, and has great actors, starring Jack Nicholson and Shelly Deval. It was a very interesting film, and maybe more so in my memory because I have been to the hotel it was shot at a couple of times. ‘The Shining’ is one of the ones I like to go back and watch every once in a while.”
Another favorite is “Poltergeist,” also by a great director, Steven Spielberg. Others that he mentions include, not surprisingly, “Frankenstein,” “Bride of Frankenstein,” and “The Invisible Man.”
“I love things that have a gothic look to them, the production styling and art direction,” he says. “‘Dracula’ fits in this subgenre. If done well, with great styling, I love it. Like the really scary Swedish film from 15 years ago, ‘Let the Right One In.’ It was remade in the United States, but I always prefer the original from the creator who came up with the idea.”
Paradise is also a great admirer of Japanese horror films. He likes “House,” about a haunted house, which has a supernatural quality that he says is done in a unique way. And Paradise greatly admires Italian horror films as well, like the classic “Suspiria,” which takes place in a ballet school.
For more contemporary examples, one that he is particularly enamored with is “Get Out” from 2017. Paradise states, “It is a perfect example of horror combined with a social consciousness underlying it, dealing with the preponderance of racism in our country.”
And for a Vineyard connection, Paradise says, “I just saw this interesting horror film that is directed by Michael Curtiz, who did ‘Casablanca.’ He made 40 to 50 other wonderful pictures, but he made three horror films in 1932–33 during the Depression, because the studios were having a hard time making money unless it was something special, like to be scared out of their wits. One of the films, ‘Doctor X,’ stars Fay Wray, the actress from ‘King Kong,’ and her daughter lives here on the Vineyard.”
Paradise explains that there is a whole history of the subgenre of monster films. “You have ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ from 2006 by the same director, Guillermo del Toro, who won the Academy Award for ‘The Shape of Water’ — which itself was his homage to the ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon,’ with this half-man/half-underwater creature.”
If you want to go back to some of the old horror films, Paradise recommends Vincent Price, who he calls the “king of horror films.”
“Some of them were really quite good, especially the ones that were based on Edgar Allen Poe stories, who was the master of the horror novel or short story. You’ve got ‘House of Usher.’ But of course, in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s, because of what they had to work with in terms of makeup and special effects, or lack of it, they’re not going to be on the same scale of horror, and as scary, as these days where you can create anything in a computer. You can develop any kind of scenario you can dream up because of computer graphic design and computer-generated film. Back in the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s, it had to be all done with smoke and mirrors and makeup. Maybe some of these old horror films don’t stand the test of time because of technology, but they can still have great acting and great plot.”
One of his all-time favorites is Howard Hawks’ “The Thing from Another World,” a 1951 black-and-white film based around an alien aircraft landing in the Arctic Circle. A team of Army personnel try to figure out what this unidentified thing in the ice is. Inside is what looks like a huge, 7-foot-tall man, and they bring it into their laboratory. When he thaws out, he starts to kill them all, one by one.
“I probably saw ‘The Thing’ when I was a teenager,” Paradise says. Unsurprisingly, he goes on to add, “I was a big movie buff from 8 or 9 years old. I can remember being that young watching old, classic Hollywood movies on TV primarily. When I was in my teens, I became a little more nuanced in my viewing, and seeking out foreign language films, which diversified my tastes.”
If you get the urge now to see something in real time, Paradise will be showing “Possession,” a supernatural classic restored horror film on Halloween night at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Society. For more information and tickets, visit bit.ly/2Z1c1Og.