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A Look At Joel Schumacher’s Contribution To The Horror Genre

Joel Schumacher might not be the first director you think of when listing those who have made a contribution to the horror genre. Wes Craven, Eli Roth, John Carpenter, and James Wan are just a few of the filmmakers that might take precedence in your mind when thinking about films that have chilled you to the bone.

However, Schumacher, who sadly passed away in June this year, has done much to scare audiences too. While he will be forever remembered for Michael Douglas’ meltdown in the urban thriller Falling Down, and for putting nipples on Batman’s costume in Batman and Robin, he should also be remembered for the movies in the horror genre he made during his long and varied career. We take a look at them below.

The Lost Boys (1987)

Courtesy of Warner Bros

The vampire movie was on the wane in the 1980s. While Fright Night and Near Dark did much to please genre fans, there was little to scare audiences in the same way that Salem’s Lot and Nosferatu the Vampyre did in the 70s. The vampire was relegated to spoof horror comedies and such artier fare as The Hunger, and they failed to sate the bloodlust of horror fans. Then along came The Lost Boys, a refreshingly vibrant entry into the vampire genre that didn’t cheapen the horror aspect, despite a sometimes comedic tone.

The Lost Boys was a vampire movie for the new generation, with its rocking soundtrack, 80s neon colors, and the hottest young actors on the planet. It was cool, sexy, and a helluva lot of fun, but still brought the scares and the bloodletting when needed. It rejuvenated interest in vampire horror and is now considered a classic. It might even be Schumacher’s best film. By appealing to the teenage audience without diluting the menace of the vampire, he did much to bring the appeal of the vampire movie back to life.

Flatliners (1990)

Forget the unnecessary 2017 remake which flatlined on release. Schumacher’s 1990 original was a stylish, eerie psychological horror tale that explored that age-old mystery: What happens when we die? The medical students at the heart of the film subject themselves to near-death experiences in an effort to find out and are confronted by the ghosts of their past when they enter into the afterlife.

Flatliners 1990
Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

The film isn’t a horror classic, but it does play on our fears. We have all done things we are ashamed of in our past, and many of us are afraid that our sins will come back to haunt us. Schumacher’s film is excessive and overblown at times, but it tries to do something different with the ‘playing God’ theme, and it’s a chilling reminder that we might all face the consequences of our actions eventually.

The Number 23 (2007)

The film might be more psychological thriller than out and out horror movie, but this doesn’t mean there are a lack of scares. This was another attempt at a serious movie by Jim Carrey, and he plays his role, an obsessed man in danger of losing his mind, surprisingly well. After reading the book The Number 23, he realizes that it has alarming parallels with his own life, and he begins to unravel when the number in question starts popping up everywhere. Forget ghosts and vampires! In this movie, numbers are just as evil and malevolent!

Courtesy of New Line Cinema

This isn’t a great film, but it is interesting. There has long been a fascination with the number 23, and there are all kinds of conspiracy theories online that have linked it to some of the tragic events that have happened in the real-world, including 9/11. Are we to believe that 23 is a ‘bad number?’ That’s for you to decide, but Schumacher’s film is quite clever in this regard. As Carrey questions his own sanity, you might start to question your own, especially if you start to see the number 23 pop up with alarming regularity in your own life! The film also has a great/terrible twist ending (depending on your point of view) that ties in with the Bible verse that is seen just before the end credits. Numbers: chapter 32, verse 23: “Be sure that your sins will find you out.”

Blood Creek (2009)

Evil Nazis, demonic rune stones, blood rituals, zombie horses…this film has it all and is a sadly underrated horror film that deserves more recognition. While it shares some of its themes with other films in the Nazi horror genre – Overlord, Outpost, Frankenstein’s Army – it is shot through with the style and visual trickery that Schumacher is well known for, and is perhaps all the better for it.

Blood Creek 2009
Courtesy of Gold Circle Films

The film utilizes Hitler’s obsession with the occult and begins in 1936 when Michael Fassbender’s German historian is sent to investigate a mysterious rune stone that has been found on an American farm. Needless to say, all hell threatens to break loose when the power of the stone is harnassed, but the evil within is contained through a blood ritual that freezes the farm and its inhabitants in time. Years later, two brothers come across the farmhouse, and they encounter the terrifying monster that Fassbender has now become. It’s a bonkers plot that is better seen than explained, but if you enjoy a good splatterfest, then this movie is for you. With blood-drinking monsters and undead stallions running amok, you will have a good time if you can switch off any attempts at logic and simply enjoy the CGI gorefest that Schumacher provides.

Fangs For The Memories Joel Schumacher

Joel Schumacher could turn his hand to almost any genre, be it a superhero flick, war movie, or urban revenge thriller. As we have seen here, he also had the ability to work within the horror genre too. While The Lost Boys is the only true classic in this list, his other films in the horror realm still deserve a mention. “You’ll never grow old Michael and you’ll never die” was the promise given by vampire Kiefer Sutherland in Schumacher’s brilliant vampire movie. And because of the memories that the director’s films have left us, he will never truly die either.

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