Terror in the Aisles (1984)

terrorintheaislesIf there’s one film I’d suggest to blossoming horror fans that need a primer course for the genre, I’d suggest “Terror in the Aisles.” It’s not a horror movie, so much as a compilation of some of the most interesting thrillers and horror movies from the seventies and eighties, and it touches on the idea of horror’s role in our everyday lives. Why do people love to be scared? What keeps us coming back to horror movies? Why do so many people frighten by horror cinema when there are valid threats in reality? One of the more interesting ideas behind “Terror In the Aisles” is the exploration of movie going as a communal experience.

Once upon a time we could sit in a large dark room with a bunch of strangers and soak in a horrific experience together. We’d laugh, flinch, scream, and feel some sense of camaraderie, in the end. That’s become something of an antiquated habit with the advent of home entertainment. I won’t be seeing “Terror in the DVD Player” any time soon. The gorgeous Nancy Allen and Donald Pleasance host what is a pretty well put together montage that examines fear and how we use it as a means of excitement and exhilaration, even when we’re sitting in the comfort of a movie theater. Allen and Pleasance’s hosting is fantastic as they indulge the audience with charismatic introductions of key moments in some great horror films.

They’re fitted to topics like sex, natural terrors, the occult, and despicable villains. One of the reasons why the documentary is still so resonant is because there are moments during the compilation where we’re given a glimpse at movie goers watching and reacting to horror movies. Scripted as they may be, director Andrew J. Kuehn captures the thrill of the movie theater and losing yourself in frights accurately, and they result in some fun and funny slices of life. I’m still a bit taken aback that there are no clips to “Dawn of the Dead” or “The Exorcist.” You figure two films with such impact on the horror medium, including the latter title would be the centerpiece of the documentary.

Despite that glaring omission, there are still a myriad iconic moments from great films like “Scanners,” “Strangers on a Train,” and “Carrie.” Kuehn’s documentary is a thrilling and excellent celebration of horror and the movie theater community, and is a must see to this day.