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Baker's Dozen

In Wide Angle: Simon Pegg's 13 Favourite Films
Elizabeth Aubrey , August 4th, 2018 09:07

Currently on cinema screens in the role of Benji Dunn in Mission Impossible: Fallout, Simon Pegg picks his 13 favourite films


Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1978 – Philip Kaufman

As I got older, I became much more interested in horror. I got an “encyclopaedia of horror” for Christmas when I was about 12 or 13 and it had all these pictures of stills from horror films. It started off with the Hammer classics but then it drifted into what would be happening in the mid to late 1980’s which was the arrival of John Carpenter and George A. Romero and John Landis and these guys who were creating a far more sort of brutal and visceral horror which ended up putting Hammer Films out of business. Post-Vietnam, what people were used to seeing – same now with what we see on the internet – was changing and those films reflected our changing horror tastes.

It took a long time for the video industry to cotton onto the fact that they could make money from new releases. The first video shops were like archives, they were like libraries. They were filled with weird old titles from Europe and things that hadn’t been given certification or anything as well as bizarre kind of Mondo horror movies. Then Mary Whitehouse had her cull – a lot of very good films were dragged into that, films like Evil Dead and Dawn of the Dead which were great horrors; it was a silly puritan knee-jerk response.

But then I remember seeing Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of The Body Snatchers on the TV when I stayed up one night to watch it and I think I was about 13. It was the first film that I watched which was a proper horror; it has a couple of fairly nasty moments in it and also features the dog with the man’s face which utterly terrified me. It’s funny because the dog sticks his tongue out and it comes out of the mask – when you look at it now, it’s actually fairly sort of primitive in terms of special effects because they literally just put a mask over the dog, but that moment is so terrifying. I remember my mum and dad went onto the theatre or something and I was allowed to be on my own in the house and I watched it. I think the fact that it didn't totally disturb the hell out of me – like if I'd have watched The Exorcist or The Shining that young, it might have had a different effect but it had the sort of sci-fi edge that’s not too brutal. [This] opened the door for me to An American Werewolf in London and The Howling.