AMC Network Entertainment LLC

This browser is supported only in Windows 10 and above.

Site of the Week: The Terror Trap

terrortrap.jpgDan Hunter and Jason Knowles don’t see themselves as “film critics” or “retro horror freaks.” Either label would apply, but the pair prefer to call themselves “time travelers.” So with a look to the past, the joint endeavor The Terror Trap is devoted to commemorating fright flicks from a bygone era — one that stretches from 1920 until 1987. (The title named comes from David Schmoeller’s 1979 creepshow Tourist Trap.)

Their approach is adamantly anachronistic. “So many sites get almost completely distracted by the external trappings of the time period,” says Knowles. “The fads, the dialogue, the pace. We try to experience these films as if you’re sitting in the movie theater when they were first released.”

This is not to say that The Terror Trap’s reviews ignore the history. Hunter and Knowles often begin by detailing tidbits about the film’s
success (or lack thereof) at the box office and any awards and/or nominations alongside their point by point recaps of
the films. But in
place of snide remarks about the polyester wardrobe of a ’70s slasher flick, they favor considering Linda Blair
in The Exorcist as if she didn’t have the not-so-hot career. “We’re not comparing these movies to what came after,” he says. “Because, in a way, that hasn’t happened yet.”

Of course, an easier way for a reviewer to come at a movie with no baggage is to stick to new releases. But according to Knowles, “For the first 60 years of cinema, there was an earnestness in horror films… By and large, after 1987 those qualities were replaced with irony, sarcasm and pop culture self-referencing.” To be sure, Knowles and Hunter’s shared distaste for torture porn and other modern scares sneaks into their critiques from time to time: In his review of Psycho, for example, Hunter quips, “I wish filmmakers nowadays would study this one and learn how to make a smart, methodical horror film that delivers.”

And yet despite such slips, the prevailing motive for the site is clear: to enjoy classic horror in the manner it was meant to be enjoyed. “Reviewing horror films is one area where hindsight is definitely not a benefit,” says Knowles. “It really is a corrosive factor that doesn’t allow you to experience all the great moments that cinema has offered up. Hopefully, we do.”

Read More