Without a doubt, however, the grandaddy of all killer tree films was 1957’s From Hell It Came, a film that is unfairly maligned as one of the worst movies ever made. None other than Leonard Maltin gave this his backhanded seal of approval by saying, “As walking-tree movies go, this is at the top of the list.”
Horror fans should be well versed in the language of low- or no-budget filmmaking. An average viewer would likely dismiss this film after approximately 15 minutes of its modest 65-minute runtime. But we’re not average viewers. We’re veterans that relish the enthusiasm of the men and women who pieced their films together with only blood, sweat, tears and a wicked sense of humor.
Some years ago, I immersed myself in the literature and film of “body snatching” and the culture of 19th century grave diggers in order to write a short for my MFA thesis. Among many others, I read the Robert Louis Stephenson story that supplied the story of The Body Snatcher. I read up on Burke and Hare and all sorts of other true tales of grave robbing and the like. It’s a wonder anyone survived this period in medical history.
And in the end Friday the 13th isn’t doing anything wildly new. It’s repackaging a known commodity for a generation of teenagers that had become numb to big screen horrors anesthetized for their entertainment. Halloween updated tropes by bringing terror to suburban teenagers. And while John Carpenter’s film sold legitimate white-knuckle tension and masked most of the overt horror — Friday the 13th upped the ante. Minimal story, maximum horror.
Turning Poe’s poem into a full-length cinematic property approaches the definition of insanity. Marketing shorthand dictates that Poe has been a successful cinematic commodity, and therefore more Poe must be produced to make the dollars — but only a small segment of the population legitimately cares whether the film uses the original text. There’s a reason that three “adaptations” of The Raven exist and none of them approach the material earnestly.