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Cartoonist Lynda Barry Prefers the Exaggerated Fakery of Older Horror Classics

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In sharp contrast to her weekly black-and-white comic strip, Ernie Pook’s Comeek, Lynda Barry’s new book What It Is brims with vividly colorful compositions. But as many filmmakers have discovered, making the leap to color isn’t as easy as it sounds. “Sometimes color kills everything. I’m not sure how,” says Barry. “Maybe because it makes it look too much like the regular world. The black-and-white world seems to exist some place between being and thinking — kind of the dreaming area.” In Barry’s world, movies follow a different set of rules. “For horror movies, color is re-assuring because, at least in older films, it adds to the fakey-ness,” she says. “The Gorgon would have been scarier to me in black and white when I was eight. The color made it look fake so I could stand to be scared by it. People complain about the snakes looking so lame in that movie, but real snakes would have messed the experience up. Especially because I liked snakes a lot, and them hitting the ground when the Gorgon’s head gets chopped off would have made me worry about them.”

Can the person who penned the decadently violent Cruddy really be so squeamish? “What’s funny is that I did write Cruddy, but if Cruddy were a movie, I couldn’t watch it,” Barry confesses, adding that the same goes for most modern horror films. “I don’t go to the newer ones because they are too scary for me. Part of a horror movie has to be a bit fakey for me to really enjoy it. The new ones are so realistic that they distract me from the ride through the horror. It’s like going on a spook house ride but instead of fake-looking monsters suddenly dropping down from the walls, there is someone actually jumping on the people in the cars in front me, sucking out their eyes and and chewing their jawbones off. It sort of wrecks the ride.”

Lynda Barry’s Top 10 Horror Movies

10. House of Wax
9. The Fly
8. The Man with X-Ray Eyes
7. The Mole People
6. Kal-Tiki the Immortal Monster
5. The House on Haunted Hill
4. Them!
3. Die Monster Die
2. The Gorgon
1. Carrie

“Still the movie I turn to whenever I’m feeling sad and blue and
wish I could be wearing a prom dress, covered in blood and blowing
things up with my mind,” says Barry. “It always is uplifting!”

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