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Novelist Steve Erickson’s Favorite Horror Movies Are a Reflection of His Own Fears

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In novels such as Days Between Stations and Our Ecstatic Days, Steve Erickson‘s characters pursue eerily normal lives despite truly apocalyptic conditions. “L.A. buried in a sandstorm, Paris frozen over, the canals of Venice run dry — this was written in the early ’80s, before most people knew anything about ‘climate change,'” says Erickson.

The author is also acutely aware of Armageddon in the movies. “It’s almost as if when the Soviet Union existed and the world was on the nuclear brink, nuclear apocalypse was too unthinkable, even for the movies,” Erickson explains. “Nobody wanted to make that kind of movie, nobody wanted to see it. The apocalyptic floodgates really seemed to open with the millennium — for all the horrific ways the apocalypse keeps getting imagined, I think not so deep down, there’s something liberating about the prospect.”

His most recent novel, Zeroville — named one of the best books of 2007 by Newsweek — is set in the ’70s. “A time, nonetheless, when major filmmakers — the Kubrick of Clockwork Orange, the Lynch of Eraserhead, even, say, the Aguirre of Herzog — began thinking in terms we might consider apocalyptic,” says the author. “By the early ’80s, the future-noir of a movie like Blade Runner, which I think is the single most influential movie of the last quarter-century, made the apocalypse look glamorous.”

Horror includes so many kinds of films that crafting a list required Erickson to draw some heavy distinctions. “Jump-out-at-you-from-nowhere is one kind of scary, but the terror of one’s dread or dreams or obsessions, which characterizes almost all the movies on my list, is another,” he says. “Like any movie list this one is a Rorschach test — but I think that’s going to be more true of a list of horror films.”

Steve Erickson’s Top 10 Horror Films

10. Fascination (1979)
9. The Birds
8. Moju (Blind Beast)
7. Nightmare on Elm Street
6. Vampyr
5. From Beyond
4. The Bride of Frankenstein
3. Cat People
2. Lost Highway
1. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

“I debated whether Invasion was really horror or science
fiction. I decided it finally was more horror,” says Erickson. “Not
just because the emphasis was on the horrific, but precisely because
the pods are so insidious and no origin or explanation really matters.
The scene where Dana Wynter does nothing more than open her eyes after
she’s fallen asleep is as terrifying as anything in the movies. Invasion works
on so many levels and as so many metaphors, all of which have been
discussed to death, that it’s become one of cinema’s most inevitable
prototypes, remade at least three times that I can think of, one or two
of which — Philip Kaufman’s ’78 version most prominently — are successful on their own terms.”

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