Thursday, April 5, 2007

Silent Night

An unexpected but fond farewell to Bob Clark, who died last night in an automobile accident with a drunk driver, and whose limited but highly respected and influential work in the horror genre endeared him to many and will likely one day put his name among that of Tod Browning, James Whale, and the like.

About three years ago I had the opportunity to interview Bob for Fright Media, the site I was writing for. At the time this was something of an honor, not only because I really enjoyed his horror films (Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things, Deathdream/Dead of Night, and, most noteworthy of all, the original Black Christmas -- one of the few movies that always seem capable of scaring me all these jaded years later), but also because interviews with Bob weren't very common. His was a name that everyone in the genre knew, but would always prompt an "Oh yeah" response, always an afterthought in a discussion about great horror directors.

As we talked, it became clear to me that Bob was not really much of a "horror fan," though he knew the genre and its signature films, as well as his place in it. He pointed to A Christmas Story as the most important film in his career, as it was the one that made him a "Hollywood director," as he put it. I was a little disheartened to hear that the man primarily responsible for what I've long considered to be some top-tier horror films looked to his "mainstream" work as the watermark for his success in film, but after all, John Carpenter's admitted he's only after the money, and we still continue to fawn over him. Besides, Clark's work remains just as effective for those who know what his motivations were as it does for those blissfully unaware.

At the time we spoke Bob was in the negotiation process of getting Black Christmas remade, and was writing the script for a remake of Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things. Neither one seemed like a good idea to me, and I've yet to see the James Wong-helmed Christmas redo, but I remember being satisfied just knowing that Clark was willing to come back to the genre, even if it was only for the potential money involved. Perhaps, I thought, the remakes would be successful and would encourage him to make new horror movies based on new ideas.

Perhaps the most tragic aspect of Bob's death, for horror fans, is that now we'll never know.

Goodnight, Bob.