Can't Look Away: The Lure of Horror Film

The History of Horror Movies through 100 Films

As I descended the stairs into the basement of the Experience Music Project, I couldn't stifle my brightening smile even as the museum grew darker and darker around me. This was something I had been waiting for weeks to see, and with the 2011 Microsoft Visual Studio Conference behind me I had a couple of hours free before my week wrapped up here in Seattle. I stepped into the small subterranean exhibit hall and noted the large sign that read "Can't Look Away: The Lure of Horror Film" in red and black. Well into October, my typical eagerness for horror movie madness this time of year had been piqued by the chance to see in person some of the props I enjoyed on the big screen. I was not disappointed.

Can't Look Away, though confined to a small space, contained much of interest to horror fans. On the right-hand wall as I entered, a long display contained a timeline of what the curators considered 100 influential and important movies in the evolution of the horror genre. This is depicted as a flowchart that branched from decade to decade and contained pictographs identifying what each movie involved, such as small pictures of aliens or monsters. Below this large graphic hung reproductions of each movie poster. In the middle of the room a tangle of black tree silhouettes and screens partitioned off four different viewing stations that constantly looped significant scenes from horror movies over the past century. Viewers could watch presentations on different films and filmmakers ranging from Hitchcock to Romero. On the back wall, an interactive exhibit had been created that allowed visitors to create shadow puppets that would morph into monsters and also record their own screams as if they were part of an 80s slasher flick.

But the best part of the exhibit, its centerpiece so to speak, covered only the back one third of the room. A handful of small-to-very-large glass cases contained a treasure trove of horror movie artifacts. These ranged not only across several decades but across many subgenres of horror movies. The boots of Frankenstein's monster from 1948's Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein rested next to one of the only remaining masks from The Creature from the Black Lagoon. The full-size xenomorph from Alien grinned malevolently above me as I browsed cases containing the cane from 1941's The Wolf Man and Buffy's favorite Slayer accessory, Mr. Pointy. Jason Voorhees misplaced his machete, because I could see it lying there among the other items, tempting me to take it in hand and wipe out an entire summer camp.

While Can't Look Away ran for only a short time (one suspects because such concentrated horror memorabilia would ultimately cause In the Mouth of Madness-like hysteria to spread across Seattle if left unchecked), it was assembled with the assistance of several notable horror directors. John Landis, Roger Corman, and Eli Roth all helped put the exhibit together. Many of the horror movie artifacts were loaned to the exhibit from mega-collector Paul Allen (and it also seems like a couple of items came from the collection of Lars Ulrich). For those interested in watching a piece of horror history, the list compiled by Can't Look Away is provided below. As a large horror fan myself, I don't agree with several of the entries (which is essentially required to be a true pedant about anything trivial), but the list is a good jumping off point for horror movie discussion.

  1. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
  2. Nosferatu (1922)
  3. The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
  4. Dracula (1931)
  5. Frankenstein (1931)
  6. M (1931)
  7. Freaks (1932)
  8. The Mummy (1932)
  9. King Kong (1933)
  10. The Invisible Man (1933)
  11. The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
  12. The Wolf Man (1941)
  13. Cat People (1942)
  14. I Walked With a Zombie (1943)
  15. The Uninvited (1944)
  16. Dead of Night (1945)
  17. House of Wax (1953)
  18. Godzilla (1954)
  19. Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
  20. Them! (1954)
  21. Les Diaboliques (1955)
  22. The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
  23. Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957)
  24. Not of This Earth (1957)
  25. The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
  26. The Blob (1958)
  27. Les Yeux Sans Visage (1960)
  28. House of Usher (1960)
  29. Black Sunday (1960)
  30. Peeping Tom (1960)
  31. Psycho (1960)
  32. Village of the Damned (1960)
  33. The Innocents (1961)
  34. Carnival of Souls (1962)
  35. The Birds (1963)
  36. Kwaidan (1964)
  37. The Masque of the Red Death (1964)
  38. Onibaba (1964)
  39. Repulsion (1965)
  40. The Plague of the Zombies (1966)
  41. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
  42. Rosemary's Baby (1968)
  43. Last House on the Left (1972)
  44. The Exorcist (1973)
  45. The Wicker Man (1973)
  46. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
  47. Jaws (1975)
  48. They Came from Within (1975)
  49. Carrie (1976)
  50. The Omen (1976)
  51. Eraserhead (1977)
  52. Suspiria (1977)
  53. The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
  54. Dawn of the Dead (1978)
  55. Halloween (1978)
  56. Alien (1979)
  57. Zombie (1979)
  58. Friday the 13th (1980)
  59. The Shining (1980)
  60. An American Werewolf in London (1981)
  61. The Howling (1981)
  62. Poltergeist (1982)
  63. The Thing (1982)
  64. Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
  65. The Fly (1986)
  66. Evil Dead II (1987)
  67. Hellraiser (1987)
  68. Dead Ringers (1988)
  69. Spoorloos/The Vanishing (1988)
  70. Pet Sematary (1989)
  71. Misery (1990)
  72. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
  73. Dead-Alive (1992)
  74. Candyman (1992)
  75. Interview with the Vampire (1994)
  76. The Stand (1994)
  77. Scream (1996)
  78. Ringu (1998)
  79. Audition (1999)
  80. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
  81. The Sixth Sense (1999)
  82. The Devil's Backbone (2001)
  83. 28 Days Later (2002)
  84. The Eye (2002)
  85. Irreversible (2002)
  86. Ju-On: The Grudge (2002)
  87. A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)
  88. Haute Tension (2003)
  89. Saw (2004)
  90. Hostel (2005)
  91. The Descent (2005)
  92. Wolf Creek (2005)
  93. 30 Days of Night (2007)
  94. The Orphanage (2007)
  95. Teeth (2007)
  96. The Mist (2007)
  97. The Signal (2007)
  98. Paranormal Activity (2007)
  99. Let the Right One In (2008)
  100. Martyrs (2008)

A local article on the exhibit is still viewable at:

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