Concept: The Mt. Rushmore of Horror consists of the four people that a participant considers the four most important people in horror — ever.
(Host, The Resurrection of Zombie 7 Podcast)
Wes Craven: When you see Craven’s name on a horror film, you know you are getting something spectacular from a man who knows how to scare you. Craven has mastered the horror film and in the process given us one of our most beloved villains in Freddy Krueger. While that alone would get him consideration for the Mt. Rushmore (along with his work on The Hills Have Eyes, Last House on the Left and The Swamp Thing), it’s his work in the 90s that puts him over the edge and makes him a must add to the Mt. Rushmore of Horror. Scream single-handedly saved the dying genre in the 90s and Craven was one of the driving forces behind that film. For everything from creating one of the most unforgettable horror characters of all time to choosing the mask for Ghostface that is now iconic, Craven earned his spot.
Vincent Price: When you think horror actors, a handful of actors come to mind. For the person reading this, perhaps they can name a dozen or more. For the average person, maybe half a dozen and at the top of that list is Vincent Price. Price was the go to horror guy in the 1950s and 60s. His image and voice are synonymous with the horror genre. His classic films are too numerous to list here. It’s telling that I still hear his voice every Friday night narrating Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” during Cosmic Bowling.
George Romero: Romero belongs on here for one reason — he created an entire subgenre of horror, one that happens to be the most popular subgenre at the time of this writing. Sure, Romero borrowed the concept from Richard Matheson’s “vampires” in I Am Legend, but Romero called them what they were in the classic Night of the Living Dead — the walking dead. Though they would not be called zombies until later, this was the “big bang” so to speak for zombies. Throw in other Romero zombies films where he not only plays with the genre but speaks on culture in general through his zombies, and this is a no-brainer addition.
Stephen King: With all do respect to HP Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe (both of whom a case could be made for on this list), Stephen King is not only the most prolific horror writer in American history, but I would make a case for him as the most prolific writer period in American history. King has provided us with Pennywise the Clown, Jack Torrance, Cujo, Carrie White, Annie Wilkes along with the concepts of a killer car, a cemetery that can bring people back to life, worshipping the God of Corn, ghost love stories and mind-reading levitating zombies. This is before you even mention his work in fantasy (The Dark Tower series), literature (The Body) and other forms of storytelling (teleplays, theater, audiobooks). There is no one living today who does not have a relationship with Stephen King whether it be through his books, his movies or his time spent in pop culture.
Little Miss Horror Nerd
(Co-host Resurrection of Zombie 7 Podcast, blogger of Little Miss Horror Nerd’s Little Horror Blog)
Wes Craven – I chose Wes because without him we would not have several of the most influential movies on modern horror. Two of those films were A Nightmare On Elm Street and Scream which many horror fans believe revived the horror genre which was dying a painful death in the late 80s into the 90s.
Bob Clark– I choose Bob because I believe his film Black Christmas (1974) doesn’t get the credit it deserves for influencing the slasher films of the 70s and 80sm. Although this was not his only horror film, it was his only Slasher film. This film is condidered to be one of the first slasher films. Aside from the fact that it is probably one of the scariest films of all time. Billy is still out there.
George Romero – Where would we be without Night of the Living Dead?
John Carpenter – Halloween which was written and directed by Carpenter became a huge influence on the slasher film genre that came after it as well as popularizing many “rules” already used in horror films and came up with some of it’s own.
Jay of the Dead
(Host of Horror Movie Podcast)
Writer H.P. Lovecraft — The George Washington of this foursome has to be a writer; after all, there can be no horror stories without horror writers. And though I would attribute the resurgent mainstream appeal of horror fiction in popular culture to Stephen King, no one even approaches Howard Phillips Lovecraft’s contribution to horror at large. Indeed, Lovecraft was the Mozart of horror writers. He was prolific and his far-reaching influence still haunts the genre. Though not all of it was horror-themed, Lovecraft’s body of work (which includes short stories, novels, poetry and more) numbers into the hundreds. Stories that are approaching a century old are still inspiring tales of terror today. Lovecraft’s writing is credited with inspiring about 127 horror films (features and shorts) dating from 1963 to present. And while his Gothic predecessor, Edgar Allan Poe, has inspired 296 macabre works of cinema, Poe was a preparator for Lovecraft, like the proto-slasher “Psycho” (1960) prepared the path for “Halloween” (1978). Coming back full circle to Stephen King, I think he put it best when he wrote of Lovecraft: “… The reader would do well to remember that it is his shadow … and his eyes … which overlie almost all of the important horror fiction that has come since.”
Actor Bela Lugosi — After his stage portrayal of Dracula on Broadway for a year, and then two more years on tour, Bela Lugosi reprised his role in Tod Browning’s 1931 classic film, Dracula. He did not want the role of Frankenstein’s monster in James Whale’s Frankenstein, so Boris Karloff took the job. Lugosi let his vampiric alter ego seep into his real life and gave interviews while lying in a coffin. He was so committed to playing that character, he accepted almost any role, even demeaning parodies of himself. But Ephraim Katz, author of The Film Encyclopedia, wrote of him: “Lugosi might not have been as good an actor as Karloff, but he had a superior screen personality and as a personification of dark evil had no peer in Hollywood or elsewhere.” I think of Dracula as the most universal (and Universal) monster and Lugosi the single most iconic embodiment of that character. Perhaps it was destiny that the man we all picture as Dracula is the same man who was born in what is now Romania, the same country of origin as Bram Stoker’s Dracula character. In 1956, Bela Lugosi was laid to rest in his final coffin and was buried wearing his Dracula cape. No horror actor can top that.
Director Herschell Gordon Lewis — Sometimes greatness happens peripherally, not directly. H.G. Lewis has often been dismissed as a pariah of poor taste, but from this pariah’s place in the pond of horror he created everlasting ripples. Though he shares this title with Lucio Fulci, Lewis is known as the “Godfather of Gore,” because he is the creator of the “splatter” subgenre, beginning with the bold and technicolor Blood Feast in 1963. Sure, there are better horror directors: John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper and even Wes Craven would qualify, but film critic Joe Bob Briggs said Lewis “is the man who put red meat into the American cinematic diet” and made Quentin Tarantino possible. In terms of what horror has become, as we know it today, it is impossible to disregard H.G. Lewis’s influence. And according Merriam-Webster.com, horror is now commonly defined as “something that causes feelings of fear, dread, and shock,” as well as an “intense aversion or repugnance.” With films like Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964), Color Me Blood Red (1965) and A Taste of Blood (1967), Lewis has established well the repellent protocol for shocking and repulsing audiences. Once H.G. Lewis was asked what his epitaph should read, and he said, “He seen somethin’ different — and he done it.” Indeed.
Makeup / Special Effects Artist Tom Savini — The most effective horror movies seem to possess three criteria: a good premise, a good monster and good special effects. If we are to be horrified and repulsed by onscreen depictions of death, then those deaths need to have a certain degree of verisimilitude. Enter special effects wizard Tom Savini, the makeup artist who raised the bar for the entire industry by conjuring nauseatingly grotesque gore effects that look traumatically authentic. At about age 12, Savini saw a film called Man of a Thousand Faces (1957) about Lon Chaney Sr., who became his inspiration. Savini subjects viewers to the gruesome details of death and the abjection of mortality, making his imagery both unsettling and unforgettable. He has attributed the real-life horrors he witnessed while serving in Vietnam as a combat photographer with his ability to capture the appearance of actual corporeal carnage. Speaking of his experience during the war, Savini has said, “I did see a lot of first-hand, anatomically correct gore, and I think the most important part of that was if we create a dead body or situation, there’s a certain feeling you get from seeing the real thing. If I’m creating a gory effect, and I don’t get the same feeling when I saw the real stuff, I’m not satisfied.”
Like the monsters of the genre itself, horror has many faces which are reared within every artistic medium. Cinema is the culmination of all creative endeavors, so as a film critic and a cinephile, the monstrous heads on my Mount Rushmore of Horror unavoidably figure into horror film history. Four cornerstone stations that I felt should be represented are writer, actor, director and makeup / special effects artist. Though narrowing down the legendary contenders took me several days, I believe my four iconic honorees above could be chiseled in stone.
(Horror Podcast Specialist)
Max Schreck: The iconic look of this gentleman is frightening itself. Even though they’re were some silent movies before this, Nosferatu is where the horror genre took off and became relevant.
Bela Lugosi: This dude can act, not only that, Dracula is the most recognizable monster in history and deserves a spot on the rock.
Herschell Gordon Lewis: The “Godfather of Gore” never gets the recognition he deserves. The originator of the modern day bloody and grisly scenes to the screen, and this was back in the early 60’s and onwards in bright, red color.
Jason Voorhees: I know you said try to stick with real people but Jason is undeniable. The reason the 80’s were so successful in horror and the decade that brought more people into the fray than any other. The most sequels in horror franchise history and must be on the mountain.
(co-host, The Horror Appraisal)
George Romero: The most glaring reason for his inclusion is his creation of an entirely new sub-genre: The Zombie. Without Romero, the zombie would still be some voodoo possessed living person. Romero gave us the undead, the flesh eater, the walker — The Zombie! Romero is constantly giving attention to the fans by attending conventions and kindly interacting with fans. He never fails to tell his story even if he’s heard the questions we have asked a million times. In his old age, he is a horror legend of near unapproachable status.
Next, I would like to present an actor who has given life to everyone’s worst nightmare, Robert Englund! The man played Freddy Krueger all the way through and no other slasher lays that claim. No one will ever be able to BE Freddy. Robert IS Freddy! He is one of the most requested actors to the grace the convention scene and he is STILL so kind to the fans!
Ask yourself this, what would horror be like with the boogeyman. John Carpenter gave us a character in Michael Myers that cannot be understated in importance. Yes, we had killers prior to Michael but none so unstoppable, so creepy, so at home in the dark! Carpenter also gave life in eon of the best, if the not the best, remake in cinema history – The Thing! Who isn’t unsettled by this movie? The statement made here is shocking and lasting. John Carpenter’s library of films includes so many great ones, he deserves to be in The Mount!
Finally, what is horror on the whole without effect and magic? Tom Savini, the innovator, the maestro of gore, created so many ways to stab, decapitate, explode, eviscerate, melt and generally destroy a person. He has touched so many films with his mad innovation that a horror fan must be compelled to see his face in the Mount Rushmore of Horror! The power of Savini compels you… The power of Savini compels you! If it doesn’t, he will simply invent a new way for you to die.