Having covered multiple genres and disciplines during his time as a filmmaker, Martin Scorsese has championed stories of crime in Goodfellas, religious epics in The Last Temptation of Christ, and even children’s fantasy in Hugo.
Whilst he may have spread his wings in cinematic terms, he has personally never engaged with the horror genre, though still remains a keen purveyor, even preparing a list of his own eleven favourite horror films which includes his pick for the most terrifying film ever.
Speaking of his cinematic tastes, Scorsese has previously noted: “I prefer the escapism of fantasy, rather than the escapism of incredible sentimentality,” he said, before adding: “What I’m afraid of is pandering to tastes that are superficial. There’s no depth anymore. What appears to be depth is often a facile character study… But they’re making a product, and a product’s gotta sell”.
Turning heads when Scorsese’s list was released in 2013, the director’s picks feature a mix of obscure horrors such as The Isle of the Dead and The Uninvited, as well as popular classics including The Innocents and Psycho from Alfred Hitchcock. In addition to these choices, Scorsese also includes The Exorcist from William Friedkin which he calls “as utterly horrifying as it was the day it came out”, as well as The Shining, from filmmaking royalty Stanley Kubrick.
Placed in seventh place on his list of favourites, Scorsese explained: “Kubrick made a majestically terrifying movie, where what you don’t see or comprehend shadows every move the characters make”. Topping the list, however, was not Friedkin, Hitchcock, or indeed Kubrick, with his personal favourite horror movie of all time being The Haunting, from director Robert Wise.
Calling the classic haunted house flick “absolutely terrifying”, he would later compare the film to Ari Aster’s Hereditary, noting that both films embrace stories of familial fracture, with horror elements weaved in. Like Scorsese, director Robert Wise was used to jumping from genre to genre, enjoying great success with musicals West Side Story and The Sound of Music as well as science fiction in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and The Andromeda Strain.
Dedicating his passion for horror to Val Lewton, the iconic producer behind golden age Hollywood horrors, Cat People, The Leopard Man and The Body Snatcher, Robert Wise explained his inspiration in Fearing the Dark: The Val Lewton Career. Recalling his success, Wide notes: “I’ve had any number of people over the years say to me, ‘You know, Mr. Wise, you made the scariest picture I’ve ever seen and you never showed anything. How’d you do it?’ And it goes back to Val Lewton, by the powers of suggestion”.
Take a look at the trailer for the film Martin Scorsese called “absolutely terrifying”, below.