Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Stuff: The "Vault 50" films.

As regular readers may remember, a recent "poll" conducted by HMV listed what it claimed its customers thought the top 50 greatest movies were. This list raised the hackles of many a horror blogger, mainly due to the list's currency and perceived Americo-centrism. Later it turned out that the list was not a poll so much as ranking exercise: viewers were required rank flicks from a list of titles HMV provided them. Still, there was the idea out there that people who really love horror could do it better.

Now the diligent B-Sol of the A-list horror blog Vault of Horror drops the "horror snob's" top 50! And what an odd and interesting list it is. Here's just the top ten. You can clickee on over to Vault for the full 50.

1. Halloween (1978) dir: John Carpenter
2. The Exorcist (1973) dir: William Friedkin
3. Psycho (1960) dir: Alfred Hitchcock
4. Night of the Living Dead (1968) dir: George Romero
5. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) dir: Tobe Hooper
6. Frankenstein (1931) dir: James Whale
7. The Shining (1980) dir: Stanley Kubrick
8. The Thing (1982) dir: John Carpenter
9. Alien (1979) dir: Ridley Scott
10. Nosferatu (1922) dir: F.W. Murnau

Compared to the HMV list, the Vault 50 is certainly more nostalgic. The HMV list titles clustered around recent releases: 16 of the 50 titles, about 32 percent of the list, were from the '90s and the first decade of the new century. By contrast, only three of the Vault 50 titles (only six percent) debuted in the last two decades.

Curiously, by some measures, the Vault 50 is actually less international than the HMV list. Taking the broadest view possible of "international" and including expat filmmakers who made films in America, both the HMV list and the Vault 50 get 11 non-US filmmakers in their top 50 lists. Taking a stricter view of the international issue and counting only non-English films, the HMV has only six flicks, while the Vault 50 has seven. But, perhaps most interesting, if you ask for a global scope and look at non-North American and non-European films, the Vault 50 falls silent. There are no films from Asia, Australia, Africa, or Latin America on the Vault list. The HMV list, however, contains four flicks from outside the American-European zone: three Asian films and one Australian flick. UPDATE: My apologies, there is one Mexican film on the list. I mistakenly believed Alucarda was from Spain, but it is actually from our fine neighbors to the South.

Another oddity of the Vault 50 is the strong showing of sequels and remakes, despite the horror blog community's general disdain for contemporary remakes and sequels. Even if you don't take the broadest sense of the terms and do not treat, say, every Dracula film as a remake of Nosferatu, you still get seven remakes and sequels on the Vault 50. That's about 14 percent of the list and as large a representative group as non-English flicks. Only two such films appear on the HMV list (only four percent) and both titles are flicks that appear on the Vault 50. It would seem that horror snobs like franchises and remakes more than the average population. And, honestly, that kind of makes sense. Half the point of remaking a flick or rolling out a sequel is to capitalize on the knowledge of the previous flick. And who has a better knowledge base than the horror fans?

There is another notable trend in the Vault 50, though I'm not sure it can be described just in terms of titles and numbers. It seems to me that the Vault 50 is somehow narrower in general scope than the HMV list. The films cluster around thematic centers. For example, there are 3 versions of Frankenstein and 3 versions of Dracula and 4 Stephen King adaptations on the list. Taken together, these would represent the single largest significant grouping on the list. There's also the quirk of including an original and the remake on the same list – it happens, for example, with The Thing - which one imagines didn't happen on the HMV list because they thought it was a bad idea to try to sell two versions of the same flick in the same marketing push.

All in all, a thought provoking list. It was fun contributing and I'd like to send a hearty Screamin' thanks to B-Sol: you are a scholar and a gentleman. And the boys in legal tell me I can't say any of the other things you are over the Internet!

Opinions, cheers, jeers? What say you Screamers and Screamettes?


Sasquatchan said...

Jeers. URL is borked. It's posted as "http://www.blogger.com/post-edit.g?blogID=34993991&postID=3377464854353472288", see the post-edit part ? That's bad. Don't know the right URL trickery to pull it out, so can't comment on the rest of the list :(

CRwM said...

Screamin' Sassy,

All apologies - should be fixed now.

B-Sol said...

Hmmm...fascinating analysis, sir. A very nice appendix to the list itself.

CRwM said...


Glad you found it interesting. I'm curious to hear from the other bloggers who were involved.

Thanks for organizing the whole shindig. You, my friend, are a prince among bloggers.