Saturday, July 5, 2008
Why You Fail At Horror
After reading Stephen King's recent EW article "Why Hollywood Can't Do Horror" I started thinking about the state of the horror film. I realized that the large majority of my favorite horror films come from '60s, '70s, and '80s. Very few of the recent films were likable or memorable enough to make me want to watch again. Horror has lost it's way in the recent years.
One thing I can't stand about recent horror is the gross-out factor that half of the movie director's are going for. If the film isn't filled with graphic dismemberment, disemboweled organs, and gore then it's considered boring. I hated The Hills Have Eyes remakes, I couldn't finish Wrong Turn, and I thought the entire Saw franchise was dumb. I don't like to vomit and don't see why I have to spend money so that a director can try his damnedest to make me do so.
True horror doesn't need the best guts money can by. Horror is supposed to scare you not gross you out. Take Psycho for instance, the shower scene still scares the pants off me. It plays off one of my basest fears. What if someone attacked me while I am in the shower. There is no escape, there is no weapon to defend you. The shower scene from Psycho is one of the most chilling scenes in horror cinema and you never saw the knife penetrate Janet Leigh. Some recent horror films keep the faith. The directors of such films as Hostel, Frailty, and Ginger Snaps know when to use gore and when to scare the pants off of you.
We don't need to understand the killer in horror movies, we don't want to. In the real world people are killed for just being in the wrong place at the wrong time, that is a scary thought. Slumber Party Massacre is a movie that comes to mind. Granted it wasn't the best slasher film of all time but the ending was awesome. When we find out the killer was just some random dude with no connection to the final girl, it was refreshing. We didn't have to delve into his psyche and find out the reason he killed, he simply killed.
1974's Black Christmas was also awesome in the fact that we never knew why the killer did it. He stayed mysterious and uncaught, stunned viewers wondered who he was and better yet who was Agnes. It some cases there are questions that never need answers. When you answer those questions you get Black Christmas the remake. A film filled with unlikable characters, boring subplots and gore gore gore galore. Oh and yes we now know why the killer did what he did. He's not a bad man just a kid who watched his mother kill his father. A kid who was forced to impregnate his mother. A kid who is forced to live in walls. What's the point of the back story? Are we supposed to forgive him because he just didn't know any better?
Today's horror takes itself way too seriously. Sometimes a good horror film can be deliciously cheesy as well. Not every horror film needs to be "deep". We don't need some slap in the face about what horrible people we are. We don't need a message on how we brought this horror on ourselves. Modern horror seems more about being discussed and revered than actually trying to scare the viewers.
I miss being scared by a horror movie. Not startled, not grossed out, not confused simply scared. I miss slasher films that were all about the slash, not burdened down by back story. Michael Myers was scariest in the first Halloween movie. Because you had no idea why he was on his spree. They gave you the facts, mysteriously killed sister and lived in Haddonfield. His scariness failed as soon they brought in relatives and thorn cults. Freddy from Nightmare On Elm Street 1, mysterious and scary. But of course the back story fairy had to interfere. I hate the back story fairy.
True horror is mystery, suspense, the kind of film that keeps you from sleeping at night. The film that makes you want to turn on all the lights. We don't need big budget movies fraught with gore and socio-political meaning. We just need to get the that delicious chill up our spines once more.