I wanted to write on ‘Classic Horror’ in film, television, and literature and in areas that these images touch. We can look on our breakfast table and see Count Chocula, Frankenberry and Boo Berry cereals. The ‘monsters’ become ‘friends’ that you marvel at as you appreciate the mythology. It is why I am reluctant to discuss the ‘new horror’ that is produced today. I find most of the film, television and books to be offensive to my sensibilities of taste and story.
People have approached me when they learn I have an interest in this and get annoyed when I don’t seem that interested in watching BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974) over the holidays. I would actually prefer to see MAD MONSTER PARTY (1967) or NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993).
There is a line of demarcation between horror fans who want to see graphic blood and gore which started in the sixties with the films of Mario Bava, and those of Hammer Studios that continue today in a more amplified version. The horror film becomes an episode of endurance, self- torture and self-documentation. Post your photo of your scared friends. Appear in an on camera promo for the film you just saw outside the theatre. It is more than a ramped up version of William Castle exploitation techniques. Who will be the first to turn away from what is seen on the screen? Who will endure what is being done to a person as part of some strange ritual of passage between the audience and the film makers? I find nothing interesting in the sub genres of horror particularly in Asia and Europe such as torture porn, medical torture or cannibal holocaust style pictures. Do we have such a need to feel superior that we need to watch these acts being perpetrated on others and then walk away?
I am not charting the naïve course through the world of horror in general. On the contrary, I am showing or hope to show the inadequacies of some of what is produced today. Today’s audience is vastly different in temperament, mobility, income, and technology from those of the past. There should be a change in audiences as the years advance. There should be new points of view, new ideas, and new ways of doing things and what follows are new audience requirements.
I wrote some of that in a posting regarding how fans get up to the minute information today as opposed to having to wait for one of two magazines that came out each month. Some people are more in love with the act of information gathering then the content they receive. Every film update, every new advance, not need to be thrust upon us but it is by the film makers, the studios, the effects people in order to sell that all important next thing. Get those bums in the seats, grind them silly and get them buying the Blu ray or DVD.
Today’s audience is not motivated like the audience of yesteryear. They go to watch the acts of decadence, dismemberment, CGI indulgence to experience an endurance test from the safety of the theatre chair. They read online on some sites the number of kills in a picture and the way things are done. No way does this cause as some people say the sudden outbreak of violence we see and read about in the newspapers and television. We make our own monsters through other means that are not the subject of a film blog. I have wondered if today’s audience of the horror film really watches what is on the screen. I will say they don’t and if they do, what do you see that makes you come back?
This is not a giant retort against everything new in the horror genre, or some pining for the good ole’ days. It is about perspective, it is about message, it is about value that has changed in a genre that has in many cases become derivative. How much longer can the ‘zombie’ craze go on? How much longer can the high school vampire stories continue to be produced? The answer is simply as long as people keep going to see them. The basic formula of that part of film making has not changed since the days of Lon Chaney, Lumieire Brothers and Thomas Edison. The upside to it all is that the genre of horror has entered the mainstream commercial consciousness. The work is exposed to a wide audience causing many people to begin developing as film makers, writers, actors, directors and effects people. The downside is now that everyone has a script, everyone does effects, and, as we all know, everyone has a camera. One hopes that amidst all that is being produced that new talent will rise up from the rest.
I suggest people learn to use the information from the net, actually read it and be concerned with the content. The new films are a manifestation of our accelerated, immediate gratification, crisis photo op, watch/read what is called popular in spite of not understanding it society. We all seem to want the payoff then onto the next thing. Why not stay a while, smell and taste the coffee?
Lastly I find it personally difficult to watch many of the newer films because they show a side of society that is best seen by the unlikely few such as homicide police, mental health professionals, animal/ humane society people and child welfare workers. One does not need to watch torture porn film when one can live it as the stories of the confinement and abuse come to light. One does not need to see people such as Paul Bernardo (Search the name it if you don’t know) on screen as their stories onscreen would pale in the soul destroying they have done. How many times have you heard the phrase, “It was just like a Hollywood movie?” You couldn’t write what happens in real events into a film since you would never believe it. Those that really experience the blackness of the human monster are in a film they can never walk away from.
Some of the newer pictures of this genre that I have enjoyed to a point in no particular order are THE OTHERS (2001) , LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (2008) and the remake LET ME IN (2010), HOUSE (1986), HOUSE 2 (1987), HAUSU (1977). WOMAN IN BLACK (2012) , HENRY PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER (1986), RE ANIMATOR (1985), EVIL DEAD (1981), EVIL DEAD 2 (1987), THE FRIGHTENERS (1996), SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004) and FRIGHT NIGHT (1985). Just because you can show everything doesn’t mean you should. The monsters in the blog are my friends with a sense of history and I hope they will be yours.