SURVIVORS’ CLUB, the new Vertigo ongoing by Lauren Beukes, Dale Halvorsen and Ryan Kelly, draws its inspiration from classic horror movies, bringing together the now fully grown survivors of six horrifying—and horrifyingly familiar to horror buffs—childhood experiences. It’s a series that wears its love of fright flicks on its sleeve, winking and nodding to horror classics of the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.
All of which made us wonder… Which horror movies would the Survivors’ Club creators rank as the very best? Here co-writers Halvorsen and Beukes share a few of their favorites.
It was love at first chest defibrillation. One of my first exposures to horror films. After that I rented the film so many times from our local video store the tape had to be “retired.” In this age of endless horror remakes and reboots, The Thing shows us that they can be amazing—if done right.
The Kubrick master class in horror. As one of my earliest exposures to horror films it holds a special place in my heart.
Fascinating on so many levels and it rewards repeated watching. The eerie and vast Overlook Hotel inspired Lauren and I to try push the haunted house trope with the Muskagee House in Survivors’ Club.
Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of Jack Torrance is similarly iconic. Introducing audiences to one of the most memorable lines in horror film history - "Here's Johnny!” It’s how I knew that when he was cast as the Joker in Batman he would be perfect for the role.
The producer of Batman, Michael Uslan, knew it too. He drew a “Here's Johnny!” Jack Torrance/The Joker mash-up in 1980—nine years before Tim Burton’s Batman!
Honorable mentions: The Exorcist, A Tale Of Two Sisters, The Orphanage, Let The Right One In, Evil Dead (1981), Ringu
I saw this in New York in 2000 with a group of new friends, including a Japanese stranger, who said, afterwards, very thoughtfully, “Yes, but you can’t really cut through bone that easily with piano wire.” Turns out she was an artist who had worked with marble, but it still chilled me right to the (non-piano-wire-cuttable) bone. When I showed it to Dale on DVD a couple of years later, he literally screamed and fell off the couch during the iconic bag scene. Takashi Miike’s movie about a lonely man who auditions for a wife is a masterwork in dread and horrible subversions of your expectations, much like the work of another Japanese favorite, manga legend Junji Ito. It’s something we try to aim for in writing Survivors’ Club. And The Audition is also where our Japanese character gets her name. Kiri-kiri-kiri.
A lesser movie about a creepy abandoned insane asylum and the asbestos-removal crew who are cutting corners would have devolved into a jump-scare gore fest in the first fifteen minutes. Session 9 takes its time to ramp up the tension to eleven on the I-can’t-stand-it-anymore-o-meter as the crew fall out with each other and into their own personal horrors. There’s a lovely riff on the Satanic Panic of the ’80s (something we cover in Survivors’ Club, too) as one of the crew discovers a series of interview tapes with a multiple personality that gets creepier and creepier. It’s also one of the few movies I’ve seen which manages to shift the tone into even more horrifying territory in the last thirty seconds, a lot like the White Bear episode of Black Mirror.
I love Guillermo del Toro’s range, that he can do unabashedly b-grade monster-robot mash in Pacific Rim but also much more nuanced horror in something like The Devil’s Backbone. His dark Spanish civil war fairytale, Pan’s Labyrinth, is just extraordinary. The monsters of his imagination are unlike anything I’ve seen before and utterly terrifying, and he gets to the heart of what fairytales are, the stories we tell ourselves in the dark to try to understand the world. That feeds directly into horror.
Honorable mentions: The Thing, Alien, Coraline, Shaun of the Dead, Rosemary’s Baby
SURVIVORS’ CLUB #1 by Lauren Beukes, Dale Halvorsen and Ryan Kelly is now available in print and as a digital download. For more on this series, be sure to check out Kelly’s look at the six main characters and the entire creative team’s memories of the year 1987.