It’s a short one tonight, because I’ve got a legitimate question that popped to mind in the wake of watching The Haunting in Connecticut. For the record, the movie was sorely disappointing and predictable.
Where are the scary movies?
I haven’t seen a movie labeling itself horror, thriller or scary, that’s been deserving of the title for a long time. Granted I don’t see movies in the theatre half as much as I once did. Movies cost a ridiculous amount, I’ve got a pretty freaking great television at home and I’ve gotten sick of paying ten bucks to listen to some jackass guy miss a point or some brain-dead ditz talk to her friend (phone or next to her) through the whole movie. God bless the march of technology that made that possible.
But most of the time, when I take the plunge with a “scary” movie, I get sorely disappointed instead. Going back to The Haunting in Connecticut, I was gently heckling it within twenty minutes.
But I’ve been a fan of horror movies since I was young. Freddy Kreuger fascinated me, both thrilling and terrifying. Michael Meyers scared the living s*** out of me, to the point where I couldn’t walk up steps without lights on after I watched one of those movies. Jason Voorhees…well, Jason tried his best and I loved him for it, the little scamp.
Flashes of Fear
Move forward to adulthood.
I still like a good scare. A movie like Paranormal Activity got the heart beating, thanks to a novel approach to a perennial favorite: the paranormal. That’s been a good go-to since The Exorcist.
The Devil’s Rejects made an uneasy impression, warping the line between road movie, revenge movie, paranormal movie and then tossing in normal comedic elements to humanize monsters. While I wouldn’t really say it was scary, it was terrifying in the themes it explored.
But outside of that, are the so–called (appropriately) torture porn films like Hostel (I refuse to see it) and Turistas (I was bored, it was on a movie channel I got for free at the time, and it wasn’t scary at all). No suspense, just the expectation that fetid pig guts and corn syrup will soon be realistically sprayed across the screen.
Michael Meyers got remade into a torture porn icon by Rob Zombie. I’ll never forgive him in one regard, but in another, he helped get me past my irrational fear of un–killable psychopaths that I developed through time. As a quick side note, it was doubly disappointing that he screwed up so badly with the remake because The Devil’s Rejects showed a filmmaker with great promise in the practice of unsettling an audience.
Vampires are treated as either a blood illness (Blade), natural part of the food chain and sparkly (Twilight) or some such. All of our monsters are gone, replaced instead by…what? Wisecracking commentaries on class and status? Effects budgets with a giant line item for red food dye?
I blame the Scream movies for this.
Don’t get me wrong. I remember enjoying the first one a great deal. For what it was, it was witty, and though it got “the rules” dead wrong – groan – it was a good time.
But it set a precedent for horror movies that tied into the law of diminishing returns. Suddenly everyone was witty, and teenagers are urbane creatures with great wisdom. This carried over into mainstream horror until finally, the suspense was gone.
See, jokes can break tension in a film; it’s a good release for the audience. But use them too much, make the characters too self-aware and release a meta-aware movie, and the suspense is gone. Then it’s just a race to see what happens next.
For pete’s sake, I’m not even asking for Hitchcock to come back. I’ll take an in-his-prime John Carpenter. I’ll settle for Wes Craven to make something worth seeing, even if it’s not iconic. Sadly, I have a feeling that they’ve lost their Mojo as it were; Carpenter’s last forays weren’t anything special and Craven…sigh.
I suppose it’s possible as well that I’ve grown up and as a result, the thrills just don’t hit me as much. I know a little bit about fighting and survival now, trained to think my way through and past troubling situations. Perhaps I’ve seen enough crazy walking through DC to know that there’s nothing the silver screen can offer that’s more frightening than certain areas there. Maybe I’m just as desensitized as the rest of us, who play video games glorifying death (Grand Theft Auto, my go-to example) or watch horrific news about war without so much as a second thought.
Perhaps that’s why only the paranormal is frightening still? Because what waits after death is the one constant unknown that we can’t encounter or share until it’s too late, and something ultimately we cannot control or avoid?
I don’t know. Maybe.
So now I have a recommendation from my brother for something to watch and I’ll see how that pans out. But I’m waiting for the thrill to return.
Because after all, as someone once said, we’re all entitled to a good scare.