MY FAVOURITE HORROR MOVIE: JACK KETCHUM
Jack Ketchum is an American author and recipient of four Bram Stoker Awards and three further nominations. Many of his novels have been adapted to film, including ‘The Girl Next Door’ and ‘Red’. In 2011 Ketchum received the World Horror Convention Grand Master Award for outstanding contribution to the horror genre.
Here he tells us about his favourite horror movie of all time - ‘Whirlpool’.
I have to say that there were four horror movies that had the greatest influence upon me and it would be a bitch to say which one had the most. Three of them you know -- NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, and John Carpenter's THE THING. The fourth you probably don't. But what unites them, and what was revolutionary at the time, was that in these movies there was no happy ending.
I was used to happy endings. The sigh of relief that comes when that colony of giant ants is destroyed or the virus gets the aliens or Van Helsing and Company save Mina from a fate worse than death. But in NIGHT Ben falls to friendly fire. By the end of CHAINSAW Leatherface has clearly made a raving basket case out of Sally. And in THE THING MacReady and Childs sit in the snow with no hope for survival, sipping scotch and cracking wise while their world burns.
In each of these movies the ending felt right. They were all released while we were still reeling from the war in Vietnam -- and nihilism, madness and even friendly fire were very much on the minds of most of my generation. Saving the girl or saving the earth for that matter belonged to my parents' generation. It made sense. They'd lived through the Great Depression and World War 2. But these new scenarios were uniquely ours.
Then there was the fourth film. I saw it in a 42nd Street Manhattan grind-house double-bill in 1970 or '71. It was probably Italian but to this day, after some searching, I can't be sure. I've never seen or heard mention of it again, despite my asking some very knowledgeable friends. On 42nd Street it was called WHIRLPOOL and it was dubbed and that's about all I know. If any of what follows sounds familiar to you please do give me a shout. Because at the end of WHIRLPOOL, as sleazy and mean-spirited a movie as I've ever seen - just when you think the heroine is going to escape, when she's finally made a break from her sadistic captors, when she's running away, crossing a stream, splashing her way toward freedom, this guy catches up to her and stabs her -- repeatedly and ferociously -- and leaves her to die in an eddy of bloody water. And that's that. Cut.
The movie as a whole left a very bad taste in my mouth, But I thought, that's the way the world works sometimes too. You do your damnedest to live, just to get along in life, and then something or someone comes along behind you, grabs you and traps you and finally, stabs you in the back. Sometimes reality leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth too. And that scene has haunted me since.
If my stuff leans heavily toward the dark side, these four flicks can take a lot of the credit. And here's to every one of them. WHIRLPOOL included.