June 12, 2017

In search of a better horror movie



Many of the allegedly "horror" movies that I've seen come out over the last ~20 years are really just highly formulaic ghost stories for Christians. All the (Haunting/Possession/Exorcism of _______) movies exist within a thoroughly Christian world paradigm (God vs. Satan) and God is always presumed to be the "good" and natural victor of the contest. Which makes sense - if the majority of your audience is Christian, then you're going to make a movie which plays to their most overt fears - but for the rest of us oh so jaded horror fans, it's just silly.

Remember Rob Zombie's "Lords of Salem?" That wasn't a horror movie - that was a Christian movie stuffed full with messages of the opportunity for redemption, the choice of salvation, the "good" vs. the "bad" (with "good" God positioned as the preferable default.) There were lots of creepy, scary, and weird visuals, but it never really went anywhere.

And of course, there's the flood of Saw / Hostel / "naughty white girl gets brutally tortured" movies. To my eyes, those are derivatives trying to follow on the lurid fascination with Hannibal Lecter / Dr. Evil / Mad Scientist archetype. And to my eyes, they just weren't very good. They were full of disgusting gross-outs and scattered jump-scares, but ultimately were nothing more than poorly executed exploitation films.

Believe me or not, but one of the most memorable horror movies I saw was The Human Centipede. I went in with very low expectations, but I found it to be rather captivating and deeply unsettling. I feel like horror movies ought to be movies that you feel drawn to watch, yet aren't sure you want to do so because of the way that they unsettle you.

The Jasons / Freddies / Michael Myers of the 80's don't unsettle anymore - if they ever did. You know how this pattern goes: man stalks woman, fight ensues, people die. These are the kind of movies you can play at a Halloween party and everybody can have a good laugh while carrying on their regular conversations.

But put on a movie like Human Centipede, and people stop talking. They either stay and watch, or they find somewhere else to be. To my eyes, that's what horror should be, and I haven't seen much of it for a very long time.

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