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Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Scary Movies
Britney over at NiT linked to my last post about The Omen re-make.

In her post, she asked:
I'll never know why it is so difficult to make a decent horror film. Most of them, let's be honest, are waste of celluloid. The remakes are often the worst offenders. Will you be seeing this remake?

And another thing, what is the scariest movie you've ever seen?

Interestingly, along those lines my good friend Becky had a post last week about wince-worthy moments in cinema.

Let me say that I agree 100% with what B says--there just aren't any great scary movies being made these days. I think part of it is that Hollywood seems so intent on serving up films that are nothing more than slasher-porn with empty, hollow characters that I don't care two figs about if they live or die. Instead, we're asked to be horrified by the ways they die and how creatively the killer or killers in the film can find a way to off the set of stock heroes who inhabit this celluloid world.

But I'd argue that if you had genuine characters or maybe even a halfway decent story, we wouldn't have to go so much for the gore factor and could, instead, get back to the business of scaring the pants off people. Sort of like Alfred Hitchcock did back with a little movie called Pyscho, Vertigo or The Birds. The thing with most of Hitchcock's films is that he took the time and care to set up a situation and the characters and then start dolling out the surprise twists and turns. And it was more than just six people stumble across the farm/estate/convience store where a pyscho killer has set up shop.

For me, the only movies that have come close in recent memory to emulating the success of Hitchcock have been those of M. Night Shamalyan. (Though I will say with The Village, he was trying too hard to have a twist in the end...) In fact, thinking of B's question, the last time I can really remember being edge-of-my-seat unnerved at a film in the theaters was Signs. (I just now have feeling returning to the hand my date was holding and kept squeezing as the suspense kept getting ratcheted up). Say what you will about whether or not you like the Shamalyan films (I think there is something to recommend in each one and they are all worth at least one viewing), his films do have characters who aren't just little more than red shirts on an episode of Star Trek.

What I like about Hitchcock and Shamalyan is they both allow your imagination to fill in some of the grizzlier details. And let's face it, your imagination is far more evil than any Hollywood gore effect ever could be. Look at the famous shower sequence in Pyscho, which is a mastework of quick cuts and the music. I know a lot of people who swear up one side and down the other that you will see the knife cutting Janet Leigh in the shower, though you never really do. The sequence lets you think you are by cutting away quickly and letting your imagination do the rest.

It's why I think the horror genre does better in print or as an audio experience. I can't tell you how much more unnerved I get by a Stephen King novel than I ever do by a movie based on the novel. And I can vividly recall an old epiosde of the radio series Suspense that I heard when younger. The premise is that the narrator has some disease where he can appear to be dead but isn't. He has something in his wallet or a bracelet to inform medical authorities of this, but it gets stolen. The story is our hero's internal monologue as he tries to shout that he's not dead as he is pronounced dead and then taken for an autopsy. Thankfully, at the last second he recovers but man, it was creepy as all get out in my younger days.

Honestly, when it come to movies that would be classifed as horror, I'd have to say the one that creeped me out the most as Silence of the Lambs. And not just for the blood, guts and gore that we get when Lecter escapes in Memphis. Sure, it's creepy but it's no where nearly as gut wrenchingly creepy as the scenes between Lecter and Starling as he delves into her past and the screaming of the lambs. Just the way those were shot and the performances....that's the kind of horror you just can't re-create with blood, gut and gore.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/06/2006 10:40:00 AM | |
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