Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Thoughts on violence in contemporary horror

My thoughts on violence in contemporary horror:

First of all, just let me say I have a hard time finding faults in horror movies in general. I can usually find redeeming qualities in most horror films (but that list would not include Borderline Cult, or the Prom Night and April Fool's day remakes!). However, if pressed to choose between say, Halloween and Friday the 13th (both originals) I would no doubt pick Halloween.

I do not believe it is necessary to have alot of gore in a movie to make it scary. The element of suspense is much more important to me than watching someone get an arrow through the eye. When Laurie was looking out her window of her bedroom and saw Michael standing in amongst the sheets on the clothesline, and then he disappeared - much more frightening.

That being said, wanting honest chills from a movie does not interfere with my glee at watching movies such as "À l'intérieur" (aka "Inside") or "Frontier(s)" -both French gorefests. They, in particular "Inside", mixed the suspense with the gruesome blood & guts and still came out with a fairly good total product. I felt this was done rather well with "Haute Tension" as well. Funny how the French are running rings around us Americans in this category. I can only provide "The Strangers" as a recent example of how tension is done right here in the states (but even that was a remake of the French horror film "Ils" (Them).
Going back a bit, I would say the 1982 remake of "The Thing" is a prime example of a perfect mix.
Most recently, I think "Quarantine" is actually a pretty good film as well, if you can get past the shaky-cam.

So I don't think you need the graphic violence, per se. There have been a fair amount of horror movies that didn't have alot of gore but still managed to freak me out. Case in point: the classic Psycho, the aforementioned Halloween, Ghost Story, The Shining, The Ring, The Grudge - hell, even the Texas Chainsaw Massacre ('74) didn't have much blood to speak of.

But on a side note, you gotta give us something, anything: "The Happening" - WTF???

I have yet to see The Last House on the Left remake, but I sincerely doubt it could be as disturbing as the original. It was always known for its brutal violence and disturbing death scenes, but to be honest, even it pales in comparison to all the French movies I previously mentioned, along with flicks like Hostel, The entire Saw series, Dawn of the Dead ('04), The Descent, Halloween ('07), and one of my recent faves, Dog Soldiers. That scene of the dog pulling the dude's intestines out..yikes.

Movie critics today (and probably always will) find horror fans inexplicable. They just don't get why we run out to the latest horror movie on opening weekend. They simply do not understand we are looking for the next great horror flick. (Still looking.....)
Critics lump us into one small bunch of weirdos and complain that all the movies are doing is trying to find new ways to kill people. Indeed, a mish-mash of recent horror seems to prove that theory correct. Mundane, boring and useless sequels with amped up gore does not a good horror movie make.

And I'm not laughing, either.
Robert Ebert recently stated (in his review of the new Last House on the Left) : "Other scenes, while violent, fell within the range of contemporary horror films, which strive to invent new ways to kill people, so the horror fans in the audience will get a laugh."

I wouldn't exactly say that horror fans are looking to crack up during death scenes, though. I know I wasn't laughing when Michael Myers beat his sister's boyfriend over the head several times with a ball bat in the Rob Zombie remake. Not really that funny, actually.

But I know I have become more and more jaded and desensitized over the last 25+ years of watching horror. I do believe I've seen it all. I've seen people die in so many different ways that I sincerely doubt ANYTHING would surprise me. I mean, Hostel freaked me out, but more because it was the thought of something like that actually happening on vacation- not that someone got their achilles tendon cut. Been there, done that - Pet Sematary ('89) - and that was more disturbing cause it was a little kid doing the cutting.
Turistas did the same thing to me. I am not sure I will ever go to South America. It's the thought that it could happen, not the actual removing of the kidneys that got to me.
Even Eli Roth's first venture, "Cabin Fever", was scarier because you could actually get that disease (Necrotizing fasciitis).... but that scene where Cerina Vincent shaves her legs off... yeah, that was brutal.
But actually, I was more scared watching Daniel Craig get his privates whacked over and over in Casino Royale. Now THAT was frightening.

Today's movie makers need to realize that just plain old blood and guts doesn't win over the average horror fan. We are still a discriminating bunch, and though we will go see your latest gorefest of the week, we are still searching for that next 'Blair Witch Project", you know? And again... no blood in that one either.

1 comment:

Gryphon said...

Nobody is going to find the next great horror flick on the opening weekend of Hollywood's latest remake - especially not if they continue to patronize remakes or opening weekends - which is where half-assed crap movies make their money, and the bottom-feeding producers of said crap know it.

If a movie is any good at all, I find out about it later. Opening weekends are strictly for suckers. Save your money. Let someone else be your guinea pig. And stop supporting crap.

If there's anything inexplicable about horror fans to me (and I am one in some sense), it's their seemingly bottomless capacity to watch (and spend good money on!) hour upon hour of banal garbage that fairly announces that it's going to blow hard. Why, when there really are a million better things to do in life?

And why, when it only sends the message that it's profitable to deliberately produce crap - thus ensuring a glut of product designed to exploit the gullibility of the audience?

Y'all are being played for suckers - and it negatively impacts those of us who want good horror films.

If YOU stop, THEY'LL stop!