This one’s hard, being the ardent cinephile that I am, and in no way reflects my top ten choice of movies in general – as I probably couldn’t narrow it down to a top thousand! – but these are just some of the films that have had the most impact on my life and my work, I think. In no particular order…
1) Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Philip Kaufman, 1978). As much as I love the original black and white version by Don Siegel, this one has the edge for me in the paranoia stakes – and it isn’t afraid to present a bleak ending. It’s got a special place in my heart, mainly because my parents sat me down in front of it when I was about 7 years of age. I couldn’t sleep for about a week! But God bless ‘em, because they instilled in me a love for horror that’s never really left since. I’ve attempted to capture the sense of dread from this one in a number of my own stories, but most recently and most successfully I reckon in ‘Shells’ – published in Terror Tales of the Seaside, edited by Paul Finch.
2) Hellraiser (Clive Barker, 1987). This choice should be a no-brainer for anyone who knows me or has been following my career over the years. I fell in love with Clive’s writing first, then his movies – this one especially, when I saw the cover of the video at a local store; Doug Bradley with nails banged into is head makes quite an impression… actually Doug Bradley makes quite an impression anyway, but I was years away from actually meeting him. It was the start of a lifelong obsession to rival that of anyone looking for the Lament Configuration puzzle box, and resulted in books like The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy, Hellbound Hearts – which I co-edited with my better half Marie O’Regan – and most recently last summer’s Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell which pitted the World’s Greatest Detective against the Cenobites. Hellbound: Hellraiser II I love almost as much, as it widens the scope of the mythos, but the original will always be the one that kick-started it all for me.
3) Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941). I’ve loved this one since my film tutor at art college showed it to us. Citizen Kane was one of the reasons why I went on to study film at uni, getting a BA and then an MA in it. Technically, and from a student’s point of view, it’s brilliant – notable of course for its revolutionary use of deep focus, amongst other things. But it’s also an excellent character study that has much to teach us about what’s important in life, and that appeals to the writer in me as well (the evidence of which you can see in stories like ‘The Butterfly Man’, reprinted in my ‘best of’ collection Shadow Casting which you can pre-order here). Welles is terrific in front of and behind the camera, with a solid supporting cast to back him up. This film’s also important because it’s one of the reasons I’m called what I’m called – Kane being my fiction pseudonym.
4) The Thing (John Carpenter, 1982). Another movie that had a massive effect on me in my formative years – when I crept down to watch it late at night on ITV one Saturday and totally freaked myself out. I remember not being able to face my Sunday dinner the next day after seeing that autopsy scene. It was probably my first exposure to the sub-genre known as ‘Body Horror’ – which would become so important to my work. Marie and I even edited The Mammoth Book of Body Horror years later, and included ‘Who Goes There?’, the original John W. Campbell tale which The Thing is based on. It’s also a perfect example of how flexible horror can be, in this instance an SF-Horror (other examples of this in my all-time favourites list would definitely have to include Alien and Event Horizon).
5) Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975). This movie is simply an exercise in cinematic suspense, executed perfectly. We can forgive the rubber shark that makes its grand entrance towards the end, because the way the tension is built up before that is a masterclass in how to have an audience on the edge of its seat. The shock where the fisherman’s head appears in the bottom of the sunken boat still makes me jump all these years later, almost as much as it does Richard Dreyfuss’ Hooper. And, of course, we wouldn’t care at all if it weren’t for the portrayal of the characters by him, Roy Scheider – as ‘fish out of water’ New Yorker Chief Brody, transplanted to Amity Island at the worst possible time – and Robert Shaw’s Quint, one of my favourite characters in anything ever. When he tells the story of the Indianapolis, not only do all the hairs stand up on the back of your neck, you totally understand where this Ahab-esque man is coming from. Not many films deserve the classic status they’re given more than this one. As a side note, Roger Kastel who painted the famous poster for the movie was also responsible for the cover of my Holmes book The Crimson Mystery (you can still order that one as a limited paperback here).
6) The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008). My favourite comic book character is Batman, hands down. He’d have to be, right? A guy who dresses up as a giant bat, with all the gothic trappings that come with it – as long as you’re not talking about the more colourful version of the ‘60s, which I also have a real soft spot for. I’m still holding out for that dream Batman project – I nearly got one off the ground a few years ago, though that’s another story – but in the meantime I have plenty of comics and movies to keep me going, especially this one. I’ll say this up front, Christopher Nolan can do no wrong as far as I’m concerned; I’ve adored all his movies. The fact that I’m a Batman nut just makes this choice that much easier (and to my mind, the whole trilogy is one of the best adaptations of this character there’s ever been). Throw into the mix the late, great Heath Ledger’s Joker and I’m in seventh heaven. And, for the record, I do really like Ben Affleck’s version from Batman v Superman (especially the way he moves and fights), but the Nolan one is definitely a more rounded and considered take. Also yes, before you say it, the creator of Batman was another reason why I chose the name I did to write under.
7) Evil Dead II (Sam Raimi, 1987). Here we have a toss up between this and Dawn of the Dead – which is one of my favourite zombie films, and probably directly responsible for my writing ‘Dead Time’ (made by LionsGate/NBC as New Year’s Day). But Dead by Dawn just narrowly scrapes through because of my love of horror comedy – and this, for my money, is the perfect embodiment of it. It’s also one of the few examples of a sequel that’s also a remake of the original with a bigger budget and better effects. When Ash (the wonderful Bruce Campbell) sticks that chainsaw on his stump and says “Groovy!” I cheer every single time. Never dared hope we’d get more after Army of Darkness, let alone a series starring Bruce, but I’m very glad the Evil Dead have been revived!
8) Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960). I love reading and watching crime, in particular the darker side of things reflected in the serial killer sub-genre. The Silence of the Lambs, Se7en… all excellent. But none of them would exist without good old Norman Bates, chillingly portrayed by Anthony Perkins in what might just be Hitchcock’s most famous film of all time. This one pulls the rug out from underneath you and never stops with the twists, even at the end, while at the same time happily absorbing or even creating tropes of the horror genre – like the spooky house up on the hill, the voyeuristic eye through the peephole… Without Psycho, I’d never have written my serial killer chiller novel The Gemini Factor, nor would there be the stories that make up my Nailbiters collection coming in 2017.
9) Goldfinger (Guy Hamilton, 1964). Bank holidays growing up were always spent with my dad watching a Bond film. And, for me, Goldfinger was the one where all the elements we recognise today as being ‘Bond’ came together. The quips – “Shocking, positively shocking!” – the suaveness – it doesn’t get any better, or funnier, than stepping out of a wetsuit and having a dinner jacket on underneath – the gadgets, like the Bond car in the form of an Aston Martin DB5, the maniacal villain and his massive henchman (Gert Fröbe as the titular Goldfinger, with Harold Sakata as man mountain Oddjob). Then there were the Bond girls, with Shirley Eaton making an impression covered in gold, and action lady Honor Blackman as…ahem…Pussy Galore. If I was pushed I’d have to say that Skyfall is my favourite Bond movie of all time, but Goldfinger was probably the most important – particularly for a writer who went on to do lots of action scenes.
10) Sherlock Holmes (Guy Ritchie, 2009). One of the characters I’ve become most associated with – alongside obviously Pinhead and Robin Hood, in my post-apocalyptic Hooded Man books – I’ve spent the summer telling people in interviews how Jeremy Brett is my favourite screen Holmes. Which he is. But, as we’re talking films, then Robert Downey Jr. is my favourite cinematic Holmes – starring here in one of my favourite Holmes adventures. Now, I know what you’re going to say: horror again. And yes, this one does revolve around a satanic cult, led by Lord Blackwood – played to creepy perfection by Mark Strong – who rises from the grave to try and take over parliament. But it’s more the refreshing nature of the relationship between Holmes and his Watson (Jude Law) that fascinates me; like an old married, bickering couple. Then there’s the fact that a lot of the action which gets mentioned but not in any great detail in the Conan Doyle stories, gets pride of place now – even showing Holmes’ thought processes before a fight. Wonderful. There were definitely elements of The Great Detective’s character I absorbed from this one, as I did from many of the other representations – while still making the character my own – so bringing everything back full circle to one of my latest releases seems like as good a place as any to finish this compilation of My Life in Films. Thanks for reading!
Paul Kane is the award-winning, bestselling author and editor of over sixty books – including the Arrowhead trilogy (gathered together in the sellout Hooded Man omnibus, revolving around a post-apocalyptic version of Robin Hood), The Butterfly Man and Other Stories, Hellbound Hearts and The Mammoth Book of Body Horror. His non-fiction books include The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy and Voices in the Dark, and his genre journalism has appeared in the likes of SFX, Rue Morgue and DeathRay. He has been a Guest at Alt.Fiction five times, was a Guest at the first SFX Weekender, at Thought Bubble in 2011, Derbyshire Literary Festival and Off the Shelf in 2012, Monster Mash and Event Horizon in 2013, Edge-Lit in 2014, HorrorCon, HorrorFest and Grimm Up North in 2015, plus The Dublin Ghost Story Festival in 2016, as well as being a panellist at FantasyCon and the World Fantasy Convention, and a fiction judge for the Sci-Fi London festival. He is also co-chair of the UK arm of the Horror Writers Association. His work has been optioned and adapted for the big and small screen, including for US network television, and his latest novels are Lunar (set to be turned into a feature film), the Y.A. story The Rainbow Man (as P.B. Kane), the sequel to RED – Blood RED – and Sherlock Holmes & the Servants of Hell. He lives in Derbyshire, UK, with his wife Marie O’Regan, his family and a black cat called Mina. Find out more at his site www.shadow-writer.co.uk which has featured Guest Writers such as Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Charlaine Harris, Dean Koontz and Guillermo del Toro.
You can buy Paul’s latest releases Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell here, here and at the publisher’s site here, The Crimson Mystery here., The Rot here, here, and on Barnes and Noble here, and pre-order Shadow Casting – which celebrates his 20 years as a professional writer – here.