Horror fans have been able to watch a lot of interesting and informative documentaries about the genre in the past few years. The dark and chilling storytelling style has seen constant changes and interpretations over the years, with revered directors like John Carpenter, Wes Craven, and George A. Romero trailblazing their way in the world of horror.
For devoted cinephiles, documentaries are a great way to learn even more about the movie magic behind some of their favourite horror hits. Alfred Hitchcock completely transformed the face of the horror genre with the iconic shower murder in Psycho, which was brilliantly dissected in 78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene. Stanley Kubrick was the mastermind behind the ‘80s classic The Shining, and the movie Room 237 delves into the many fan theories around The Shining. These are some of the best documentaries about horror films.
78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene
Alexandre O. Philippe delves into the notorious shower scene that has since become synonymous with Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 horror masterpiece Psycho in the critically-lauded 2017 film 78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene, a fascinating look at the iconic murder moment that completely transformed the silver screen and the horror genre itself.
Comprised of 72 setups and 52 cuts, the monumental shower scene features Janet Leigh’s Marion Crane being brutally murdered by a mysterious figure while bathing, and the documentary brilliantly dissects how the terrifying death came to fruition. Fellow filmmakers like Guillermo del Toro, Peter Bogdanovich, and Eli Roth provide commentary on the epic movie murder, as well as Leigh’s daughter Jamie Lee Curtis and Hitchcock himself, via archival footage.
Flesh and Blood: The Hammer Heritage of Horror
The Horror Film Icons of Hammer Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing narrate 1994’s Flesh and Blood: The Hammer Heritage of Horror, an in-depth overview of the history of Hammer Film Productions, the famous British company responsible for unforgettable horror greats like The Curse of Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Plague of Zombies, and of course Dracula (starring the phenomenal Lee).
The documentary was Cushing’s last project before his death later that year, and he along with other Hammer Horror legends like Lee, Raquel Welch, Anthony Hinds, and Veronica Carlson all recount their experiences working with the epic production company and the profound effect it had on both cinema and their careers.
In Search of Darkness: A Journey Into Iconic ’80s Horror
David A. Weiner helmed 2019’s In Search of Darkness: A Journey Into Iconic ’80s Horror, an engrossing picture that analyses the overwhelming impact of the countless horror hits that premiered during the revolutionary movie decade. The film is brimming with nostalgia for horror aficionados everywhere, with Weiner paying respects to the icons, actors, directors and talent who helped shape the face of the beloved genre with many of them making an appearance.
In Search of Darkness analyses some of the most note-worthy releases of the decade year by year and is the ultimate documentary for horror lovers; the Daily Dead raved in their review, “You would be hard-pressed to find a documentary that is so infatuated with its subject and is able to detail every facet to this degree.”
Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow
Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow, which came out in 2007, was directed by Michael Felsher. It is a unique look at how the 1980s hit movie by George A. Romero was made, with behind-the-scenes footage of the film’s director and stars. The interesting documentary shows how Creepshow came to be. It was a tribute to the controversial EC Comics of the 1950s and was made up of five short comedic horror stories.
The “King of Horror” himself, Stephen King, wrote the screenplay for the beloved classic, and Just Desserts includes interviews with cast members like Adrienne Barbeau and Tom Atkins as well as legendary creature and make-up effects artist Tom Savini.
More Brains! A Return to the Living Dead
More Brains! More Brains! is a 2009 movie that is a Return to the Living Dead Jam. The director and stars of the 1985 cult classic, Return of the Living Dead, make appearances and give behind-the-scenes interviews. A Return to the Living Dead recounts the origins of the titular horror comedy, which follows a group of small town misfits who go up against an undead horde of indestructible zombies terrorising its citizens. Cast members like Clu Gulager, Don Calfa, and Linnea Quigley reveal their own personal experiences and memories shooting the flick, and they also pay tribute to its director Dan O’Bannon, who passed away in 2009.
More Brains! talks about how the “mordant punk comedy” was made and how it was originally meant to be a sequel to Night of the Living Dead from 1968. It also talks about how Night of the Living Dead changed the zombie genre and how zombies are portrayed.
Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy
The 2010 documentary Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy gives horror fans a detailed look at the groundbreaking Nightmare on Elm Street franchise and the fascinating origins of the iconic villain Freddy Krueger. It includes never-before-seen footage, storyboards, archival documents, and photos from the films, and it also looks at how Wes Craven got the idea for the hit series. Directors Daniel Farrands and Andrew Kasch interviewed Craven and lead star Robert Englund, in addition to other cast members for the project, and Never Sleep Again also dives into the history of New Line Cinema.
The engaging documentary garnered rave reviews from both audiences and critics alike, nabbing a Saturn Award for Best DVD Release of the Year and a rare 100% Tomatometer Rotten Tomatoes score. Bloody Disgusting called it, “an expertly crafted film about a beloved horror franchise, it’s also a film about the legacy of New Line Cinema and ultimately, a film about the horror genre as a whole. Frankly, you won’t find a horror documentary better than this one.”
Serving as a retrospective insight into Stanley Kubick’s 1980 psychological horror great The Shining, Rodney Ascher’s 2012 film Room 237 is a love letter to the genius that was Kubrick and analyses his exceptional movie catalogue and cinematic impact while primarily focusing on the lauded Stephen King adaptation. Fans of Kubrick share their own thoughts and ideas about The Shining and its many possible messages, themes, and parts through voice-overs and interesting old footage.
Ascher sheds a light on the many complex fan theories connected to the horror classic and its production, though he and his fellow crew members make no attempts of promoting such concepts and simply offer a platform for them to be heard. Room 237 contains nine intriguing segments and sets out to potentially “reveal hidden clues and hint at a bigger thematic oeuvre.”
Scream: The Inside Story
The 2011 horror documentary Scream: The Inside Story is a tribute to the huge success and impact of Wes Craven’s Scream slasher franchise. It shows how Scream and its sequels changed both pop culture and film, with the 1996 film being credited with bringing the slasher horror genre back to life.
Countless cast members from the enduring franchise appear in the project, such as Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette, in addition to the master of horror himself Craven; Scream helped boost the esteemed director’s career and turned its talented ensemble cast into overnight sensations. The lucrative franchise currently consists of 6 films and has amassed over $880 million worldwide and remains one of the genre’s most buzzed about and culturally relevant series.
The American Nightmare
Adam Simon’s 2000 documentary The American Nightmare is a history and legacy of the many independent horror films that shook the world in the 1960s and 1970s, like Night of the Living Dead and Halloween. It tells the story of how powerful and influential these films have been over time. Revered horror directors like George A. Romero, John Carpenter, and Wes Craven appear in the compelling movie, discussing their own personal creations and how they were connected to issues and events of the time period.
The American Nightmare had its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it earned praise for its thought-provoking content and message. Simon was inspired to make the documentary after seeing how popular The Blair Witch Project was. The director of The Blair Witch Project wanted to teach people about the roots of indie horror and how much it changed movies.
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