Mosaic / Reviews / May 20, 2010

Film Freak: A glimpse of horror

As a child, I was blissfully unaware of Chucky and Jason, spending my time watching Clint Eastwood and Kurosawa’s Samurai, my nightmares primarily haunted by Pee-wee Herman and the Nesquik rabbit. One day, however, I accidentally happened across a film by a Mister Stanley Kubrick called The Shining. I don’t recall exactly what I expected from the movie. What I do remember is developing an extreme paranoia of seeing children in hallways. The Shining, coupled with flicks such as Poltergeist and The Exorcist have solidified a very distinct idea in my mind. If there is one thing I’ve learned from horror movies, it’s this: do not trust children. Ever. At all. No.

As a child, these movies frightened me. The flashing scenes of violence and gore that shone through my fingers was something I was altogether unfamiliar with. But as I grew up, I became used to the same ‘don’t go in there’s’ and the ‘get out the room’s’ and eventually became completely uninterested in the entire genre.

Movies such as Freddie Vs. Jason were boring and laughable, with the fake blood and scantily-clad girls becoming as tedious as a trip to the orthodontist (and often as painful). One might liken the average horror movie to the average romantic comedy: both follow a basic formula for their genre, both are terrible and both seek to induce feelings of nausea in the audience.

But there are movies that are true gems, standing far above their generic brethren in all their truly terrifying glory. And even these follow a very specific formula as well, by fooling the audience, by playing off everyday fears, by being shockingly plausible. Is that bad? Yes and no.

All movies, to a certain extent, follow a basic formula. It’s the way things have always been. A movie (and I make a point here to identify this conversation as separate from Art-Cinema and the like) tells a story (and stuff of that sort).

But that’s not the problem. The problem lies (and not only with horror, but all genres) with mass-produced pieces of crap. And sure, you can “enjoy” (because I know the truth, you don’t. I can see into your heart) these crapfests, but they are undeniably awful.

Bikini-Vampire-Zombieslayer III is not a good movie (I can’t decide whether you should eat more or less paint-chips). A movie that is made to just make money (and yes, “All movies seek to make a profit, Dan,” you know exactly what I mean. Shut it.) is doomed to straight-to-VHS-bargin-binhood. And yes, there are exceptions to this, but they are so few and far apart that they act less as contradictions and more as confirmations.

I suppose what I’m getting at is that the evolution of horror movies works in a cycling manner.

A movie is made, it experiences success and shortly afterwards a thousand clones pop out of the ground and chase audiences through the street like money-hungry zombies.

And sooner or later someone makes a new breakthrough, but shortly thereafter that Kool-Aid Man shaped hole of innovation is clogged up by production company piranhas.

The problem with horror is that it’s become predictable (and predictably unpredictable). One day there will be a movie that makes the aisles run yellow, but until then I’ll be reminiscing about the old days when people were terrified of balloons for months after watching Stephen King’s IT.

Dan Kahn


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