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Music

Alice Cooper picks his five favourite horror movies of all time

@SamWKemp

It doesn’t come as much of a surprise to learn that Alice Cooper, a man who (legend says) decapitated a live chicken onstage, is a fan of horror cinema. Blending elements of vaudeville, glam, and industrial rock, the performer successfully bought theatre to heavy rock, establishing himself as the progenitor of a new genre, shock rock, in the process.

Back in 2011, he opened up about some of his favourite horror films of all time: five spine-chilling picks certain to frighten the pants off even the most battle-hardened horror fan.

Cooper’s passion for horror cinema has cropped up throughout his career. He popularised a Kensington-gore brand of rock music, using spooky costumes and bizarre stage antics to make his shows utterly unforgettable (and deeply haunting) experiences, laying the foundation for the likes of Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails and Rob Zombie. Without Cooper, the world of rock would undoubtedly be a much less interesting and far less camp place.

This selection covers the expanse of classic horror, from the noir psychological thrillers of the early 1960s to the slasher films of the 1970s and the gore bonanzas of the ’80s. Some will turn your stomach, others will leave you sleeping with the light on for weeks on end. So, let’s get to it.

Alice Cooper’s five favourite horror movies:

Salem’s Lot (Tobe Hooper, 1979)

First up, Salem’s Lot. The 1970s was a golden age for the TV movie, especially when it came to horror. Many children of the era will remember slinking downstairs late at night to quietly switch on the TV and watch some late-night horror flick against their parent’s advice. This sinister offering from the pen of Stephen King tells the story of Ben Mears, who returns to his former hometown of Salem to find a once-friendly community plagued by vampires. Apparently, Salem’s Lot inspired Josh Weddon’s hit TV series Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

Talking to NME, Cooper named Salem’s Lot “one of the great vampire movies. I don’t think they realized how good this movie was until after they made it. Barlow was the great, maybe the scariest vampire of all time. James Mason was great in this movie, David Soul was great in this movie. So if you haven’t seen Salem’s Lot, don’t write it off as a TV movie. It’s one of the really, truly scary movies.”

Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1977)

Another ’70s horror classic now: 1977’s Suspiria. This Italian slasher staple, set in a ballet conservatoire in Germany, is as unsettling as it is artfully shot. Blood has never seemed redder than in the hands of Dario Argento.

As Cooper points out, the key to the film’s eerieness is the spectral presence of a witch living somewhere in the building: “It’s just creepy. You never do see a monster, and that’s what makes it creepy. The really good horror movies are the ones where you don’t see the monster,” Cooper said.

The Haunting (Robert Wise, 1963)

The Haunting is a film that takes not seeing the monster to the extreme. Released in 1963, this loose adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s incredible novel depicts the slow disintegration of two specially-selected guests of Hill House, a reportedly haunted mansion. It is the house itself rather than what lurks within its walls that eventually drives the guests to madness.

While pretty tame by today’s standards, The Haunting remains one of the finest examples of psychological horror in the 1960s filmic canon. “Another movie where you don’t see the monster,” he began. “But it is just the way it’s shot in black and white. It is absolutely terrifying. They did a remake of it with Catherine Zeta-Jones, who is a buddy of mine. But what they did was they showed the monster and it killed all the scariness of it.”

The Evil Dead (Sam Raimi, 1981)

Cooper’s fourth pick sits at the opposite end of the spectrum. Immediately recognisable by those long, low-slung POV shots of unspeakable creatures running through the woods, Evil Dead has got to be one of the most iconic horror films of the 1980s.

Full to the brim with gore, this is one to turn the stomach. “For pure fun, you can’t beat the Evil Dead, the original Evil Dead. It’s so over the top bloody that there’s one point where I was sitting there going ‘there can’t be any more blood in this movie’. Right as I said that a pipe breaks over the guy’s head and he is covered in blood, drowning in it. Great movie.”

Carnival of Souls (Herk Harvey, 1962)

Rounding up Alice Cooper’s list is another chilling example of early ’60s psychological horror. Carnival of Souls, released in 1962 tell the story of Mary Henry, who survives a car accident and moves to Utah to take up a job as a church organist. Her dreams of a normal life are scuppered when she starts experiencing strange visions of a pale-faced man.

Soon, she finds herself drawn to the deserted carnival on the outskirts of town, which may hold the key to her past. Spoiler alert: she’s been dead all along (cue eerie string vibrato). “There was a scene I remember when I was a little boy watching it where she is dancing in this ballroom with these dead people,” Cooper said of the film. “She doesn’t realize she is dead. So if you get a chance…Carnival Of Souls. Good movie”.