So, who in the horror industry has had the most wide-reaching influence? We're not talking box office numbers or book sales or even popularity or earnings, but who has done something that had a ripple effect and changed horror? Made it more mainstream? Created a new offshoot for the genre? Gave us techniques to pull it all off in a believable manner? Gave us a formula that worked?
I'd like to include the past ones such as Rod Serling and Alfred Hitchcock, but right now, I'm going to talk about our contemporaries who in the recent decades have brought horror into the huge industry that it is now including the surge of excitement about Halloween as never seen before in our country.
I'm going to list some and I'd love to have you jump on board with more:
Effects: Stan Winston. I fell in love with his work in the movies "Gargoyles" in the 70s, but you know him for his makeup effects and creature inventions in movies like, "The Thing" (remake), "Edward Scissorhands," "Terminator 2," and "Aliens." His vision of what aliens look like was one of his signature things. He could look around the natural world and find components that these creatures believable and very unsettling. His influence was for makeup artist/special effects experts to look to the natural world for those things that most creep us out in the bug/animal world and go with an abomination that truly looks and moves believably.
Books: Stephen King. I'm not a huge fan of his writing, but I do admit that the man gave horror a mainstream quality with his psychologicallly-driven stories. It was never about the monsters, it was about how the people handled the monsters. That's the bend I really appreciate. Who else could have had made-for-tv miniseries about their books and make horror mainstream in family living rooms? His influence was to make horror more about the living than the dead and something that reaches audiences that never thought they were horror types.
Movies: John Carpenter. He introduced the notion of a simple plot line, super creepy music, and a killer without provocation or explanation. Lots of movies have tried to use the simple tinkling music and surprise factor, but John Carpenter's movies, "Halloween" and "The Fog" really both were the big showcases for what would happen in the 80s and continue until today with other movies that strive to get that combination of senseless stalking and killing with unsettling soundtrack. He had many movies that unsettled like the remake of "The Thing" with Kurt Russell and one of my unsung fav's "Prince of Darkness." His influence is seen in movies that know how to play out the tension with periods of calm and the tease of creeping music to bring on the tension at just the right moments. Bless his heart for understanding pacing and how to seduce us without a full-on assault of numbing action. True terror happens in those moments your mind is rushing to figure out what happens next so you can be prepared. The horror isn't when the action goes down, it happens before the action.
Personality: Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Damn! Has anyone else ushered us eagerly to watch horror movies like Elvira. I adore her and she and I have a couple of things in common. (Oh, get your mind out of the gutter!) We both love horror but also don't mind mocking it. We understand that this is a genre of entertainment and tension and sometimes laughter is the best release. Well, and honestly those movies she showcases are fucking awesomely bad! She's like MST3000 but without the boring segways with Mike and the robots on the spaceship (snooze). I like that the woman just says it like it is. Brassy gals appreciate each other! Her influence on the industry? That there can be special characters associated with horror like the wrestling industry has its figureheads. She also made it "fashionable" to be into horror and made goth a statement of pride.