Sunday, 25 March 2018

CALLUM MCKELVIE SUNDAY NEW SERIES: HORROR EXPRESS


WE START A NEW SERIES this week and it’s time for me to get all nostalgic- at least personally so. Each week I try and do something different with my little post for PCAS, not actually an easy thing when writing weekly about the films of one actor! Of course I’m not suggesting that Peter Cushing’s life and rich filmography doesn’t provide ample room for creativity within my column, but more along the lines of how I structure my post it can be difficult to come up with some new and exciting.  


ALWAYS HOWEVER I TRY to make it as personal as possible. I’m following in the footsteps of many a great contributor to the site and lest I repeat what someone else has already said (and probably in words far grander than I could ever conjure) I like to let my personal opinion come through as much as possible. Usually then, I tend to follow a review or a ‘list’ format, be that a simple discussion of a film or ‘my top ten…etc. etc.’, but for the next new weeks I’ll be trying something completely different. Beginning with this discussion on Horror Express I’m going to randomly select films from Cushing’s filmography that I have something of a personal history with and, if you’ll allow me dear readers, tell you about it.



ABOVE: YOUR OPPORTUNITY TO WATCH THE WHOLE FILM! 
JUST PRESS PLAY!




BY THE TIME I came into contact with Horror Express, I would have been around age thirteen or fourteen. I’d already encountered a healthy number of Hammer and Amicus pictures by this point along with the odd Cushing feature made by neither studio. I can’t remember how I first became aware of the title (most likely by browsing Amazon or a HMV store) but I do remember when my attention was attracted enough for me to scour You-Tube for clips. You see, the scene with the guard when the creature attacks him, turning his eyes white and causing him to bleed from them, was the first scene in a Cushing picture that actively scared me.


IT'S AN ODD THING fear and truth be told the attraction when watching Horror from this period for me was never the possibility of being scared, but mostly the rich gothic atmosphere which these films were soaked in. Of course there was the odd title that really did get to me, the sequence in House of Wax where Price’s wax face is smashed away springs to mind along with more obvious ones such as The Innocents (1960). Cushing films though? Not really.



THAT WAS UNTIL HORROR EXPRESS of course. When I finally watched it I found that indeed the effect still lingered. The opening sequence with Lee in the cave, the mystery at the station, the creature breaking loose. The opening fifty minutes or so of the film were soaked in an atmosphere so palpable, with the creature shot so wonderfully in almost total darkness, as to genuinely have a frightening edge to them. Then it got WEIRD. To my 13 or 14 year-old self the final half of Horror Express, whilst certainly entertaining, was a total let down. The body swapping alien plot seemed like an entirely different film and any genuine menace was sorely lacking. I put the DVD on my shelf, watched it occasionally and thought nothing more on the matter.


CUT TO SEVERAL YEARS LATER. Me and some friends are having a get together…with some refreshments of course and I’m asked to pick a film that will entertain us. Browsing my collection I go through the usual suspects before landing upon...Horror Express. For a short while my finger hovered over the plastic case, half remembering a few genuinely shocking moments, some genuinely funny moments (intentionally and not), some awful model work and a bizarre alien plot. Realising that there was enough there for even the tamest of drinking games I grabbed it. 







AS WE WATCHED I was surprised by how much the film was enjoyed by the gathering and not just in a ‘laugh-at-it-cos-it’s-bad’ way. There were genuine gasps of shock, a lot of laughs at the dodgy train shots, continuous whistling of the theme and a cheer as the creature is destroyed.




THUS TO ME, Horror Express will forever be Cushing’s perfect midnight movie. Camp, over the top, ridiculous, violent (compared to many of Cushing’s films) but incredibly and undeniably fun. If you’re not a fan of this one, perhaps put off by the mix of ridiculous scenes and genuinely chilling ones, grab yourself some mates, beers and experience it how I did. It may not change your opinion but it does mean you’ll be in a room full of people screaming ‘Monster, we’re British you know!’ and that’s no bad thing.







1 comment:

  1. "Horror Express" is one of my favourite films. And it's precisely because it's genuinely frightening. I would have been about 13 or 14 too the first time I saw it, and those white bleeding eyes just scared me half to death! I've always been a huge fan of Hammer Films, and when I first saw Horror Express, I just assumed it was Hammer (has a very similar tone and feel, and of course stars both Cushing and Lee!). But unlike the Hammer films I loved so much, this film was legitimately terrifying. Definitely a must-see!

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