Monday, August 14, 2006

It's Halloween In August


So... I'm not really sure what The Film Experience audience's stance on horror film is. But I'm a horror fanatic and am curious to see what y'all think about this much maligned (and very often rightfully so) genre. I assume it's the same as any genre - make it well and you like it. Unfortunately horror's about as mixed a bag of rotten apples as there is.

But ya see, I've got horror on the brain after seeing The Descent yesterday (you can read my half-assed review here) and really, mostly, liking it, and then watching again some of High Tension which could've been fantastic if not for an horrific-in-the-worst-way-imaginable ending that succeeds only in spoiling everything great before it.

So I guess my question's this: What's the last movie you saw that scared the living bejesus out of you? I'm often thinking about the recent state of horror, especially with this wave of gore-fests (Saw, Hostel, et al) that've permeated the genre as of late. Or do you just think it's a crappy genre filled with shit and the questionable intentions of sadists?

Now, I've got nothing against a good gore-fest, but the argument's often made about these types of films versus the kinds that try to get you on a more psychological level; things that play by the old-school "less is more" rule like, say, The Others.

The Descent had its moments but, like I say in my review, it did not better the best new horror film I've seen in years, Wolf Creek. WC sat like a shudder down my spine for days. And unlike a Saw film (I've only seen the laughably terrible original), WC shows very little actual violence yet, like the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, is accused of being graphic because they both imply so much the viewer imagines they actually saw the things they did not see.

It doesn't miss my attentions, either, that the three most interesting, to me at least, horror films of the past couple years (WC, High Tension, and The Descent) were all made outside of the US. Maybe we ought to start thinking up some new ideas instead of throwing cash at remakes of, say, the J-horror films? Like the oncoming slit-my-wrists spectacle of Battle Royale being remade?

So what do we prefer? Pus-spewing eyeballs onscreen or possibly-bloody - but maybe not! - twigs outside the tent door? Do we have to choose? Can't we enjoy both? Without, you know, being a homicidal maniac barking up the wrong blog-audience, of course...?


20 comments:

NATHANIEL R said...

I'm totally curious to see how many of my readers are horror fans too.

speak up people! or are you wusses like me?

StinkyLulu said...

Most of my best friends are wusses. Which is honestly the main reason that I don't see more horror. I enjoy frightflicks much more when there's someone to scream with...especially at home. But, yes, deep down I am a screaming horror queen.

Gore: I'm definitely a less-is-more kinda girl, which is not to say I don't appreciate a clever kill. I "cut" my horror chops on 70s/early80s splatter so I can definitely go there. But getting grossed out isn't the main reason I love horror.

Faves: Carrie is very possibly my favorite movie ever. And it hooks into what I love most about horror: the supernatural. One of the recent trends in US horror that peeves me out is the most promising flicks over the last couple years have wound things up with some pat psychological explanation (ie. Stay or Identity or The Village or Cold Creek Manor). Gimme crabby ghosts or spawns of satan or demon-possession (my favorite, house or human) over splatter-raunch any day...

I've got my fingers crossed for The Wicker Man...but my hopes aren't too high. I'm considering venturing out for Descent.

JA said...

My boyfriend's favorite movie just might just be Carrie, too. In the five years we've been together he's made me watch it at least once a year, possibly more. I mean, I'd seen it before that a bunch of times and enjoy the heck out of it and could probably quote 50% of the dialogue anyway, on my own.

But I get what you're saying about the lack of good supernatural stuff lately - even when they attempt it it seems they need to supply too much explanation (Dark Water is what pops to mind, unfortunately... I'd rather forget that mess), and the best of supernatural horror doesn't do that - if you leave the reasons for what's happening open, it's so much more horrific. Especially with supernatural horror because you're not seeing much in the first place, so they've got to get you with that pyshcological hook and they just deflate that by giving you too much backstory. Okay, so blah blah blah this girl was killed in this spot and now she's back for revenge, yawn. Just scare me!

That's why I think Ringu, the Japanese version, works better than the American version - it leaves more questions at the end that nag at you when you leave the theater.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a huge horror fan (I'm too easily scared..and I don't like being scared), but I've liked a few I've seen. One of the most recent instances of me being truly scared by a horror movie was seeing the original 'The Haunting' on TV. Talk about a movie being frightening without showing you anything.

DL said...

I'm a big horror fan. In fact, The Shining is my favorite movie of all time. Though the whole film is genius, those last 45 minutes or so are unbelievably, relentlessly terrifying and gripping.

The ultra-gore seen in most horror flicks these days doesn't really bother me. (I like to think I have a pretty strong stomach.) But I do hate all these "horror" movies getting PG-13 ratings. If, according to the MPAA, a film is suitable to be seen by pre-teens, can it really be that scary? So why even make it in the first place?

And another thing I hate are the movies that go for the cheap "boo" moments instead of genuinely trying to scare the crap out of their audience.

Best horror movie ending ever: The Blair Witch Project.

Anonymous said...

The Devils Rejects scared me because its so twisted and so scary and so gory....very creepy stuff

Arkaan said...

I have a love-hate relationship with horror films. As an intense film viewer, I sometimes internalize things a bit too much (so if someone's going through a gory dismemberment on screen, I'm likely to feel pain a bit too intensely), so I avoid gory films.

That said, Wolf Creek, as terrifying as it was, doesn't touch the twin titans of Japanese horror: Audition and Pulse. Both films got to me on a primal level - nightmares and all.

Oh, and my scariest film moment? The sloth sequence in Se7en.

JavierAG said...

Last great horror movie: "Blair Witch Project".

etslee said...

I'm probably in the minority, but it's sad and disturbing to me that people can view scenes of torture as "entertainment". That seems to be a theme in movies like Wolf Creek, Saw and Hostel. I just don't get it. Then again, we live in a world of terrorism and televised beheadings. Maybe people view that as "entertainment" too?

Kamikaze Camel said...

"That's why I think Ringu, the Japanese version, works better than the American version"

That is something that few people think and it's a shame because the American version sucks, but the Japanese one is really great. I was surprised when I sat down to watch the original to discover it was actually good because after seeing the remake I just figured it was crap. Both Grudge movies are bad though.

I love me some good horror and I like both the slasher type and the less-is-more variety. In my top 100 of all tike list sitting next to each other quite highly are The Blair Witch Project and (yes, i know!!) the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

The former is just genius and gets me every single time. Those night time sequences are some of the scariest I've ever seen and that ending? Holy crap! And the latter, well, I judge a horror movie by how well it makes me go "if I were in the situation how would I be coping". Most horror movies just make make me go "meh, I'd run away" (even though I'd really be freaking out) but TCM just got under my skin and whenever I watch it I just sit there feeling doomed. When I first saw it in a cinema I turned to my friend at the 2/3 mark and said "I don't know how much more of this I can take" and that, to me, is the sign of a good gore-fest horror movie. Obviously I did watch the rest and now I love it. I like those characters and I wish they didn't have to die. Its hopeless.

But that's what a good horror movie is. It makes you scared and all that stuff so that when you turn it off you can realise life ain't that bad. You can do as Roger Ebert does in his ridiculous review and go for a walk and eat an apple.

They're cathartic. They give you a rush of adrenalin and make you think that all islost, to then have the credits roll and to breath a sigh of relief that it's over and realise you can go to the shops without fear of being shot or blown up or whatever.

...yeah. And then there's crap like When A Stranger Calls and you think "why did they bother?"

Agreed that PG-13 horror is the worst form. Like, what's the point? That's why I'm glad movies like Hostel and Saw are being made. I don't like them (i don't have a visceral responce to those ones like the others) but I'd rather a bunch of them than more When A Stranger Calls or The Grudge or whatever.

The one movie that I had to press stop on and walk away from? Romper Stomper. I eventually watched it all, but I just had to take a breather from that one.

Kamikaze Camel said...

wow, that was really long. Sorry.

NATHANIEL R said...

i scare too easily to enjoy horror much.

And like etslee I don't really get sadism as entertainment. I think the huge audiences for stuff like Saw says very disturbing things about our society.

but that said, good supernatural horror (like Carrie) can work so well on thematic levels that I sometimes enjoy those. And i'm glad at the love for blair witch --that last ten minutes scared the bejeezus out of me while NOT grossing me out or making me feel i was supposed to enjoy sadism
...and that particular combo is sometimes very exciting.

adam k. said...

Didn't you Nathaniel once say Blair Witch except for the ending was a "mindfuck" or something?

I don't really ever bother to spend my money on all the new gore horror cause I think it's stupid, but I love a good Carrie or Exorcist or The Others, and for a long time I had an unhealthy obsession with The Silence of the Lambs.

Ali said...

Only two films have scared me so much I had to close my eyes - The Others and The Blair Witch Project. And while I love both, the Amenebar picture is probably my favorite film of the last ten years.

RC said...

ugg...way to many horror films out this year...

horror fan I am not.

i like the psychological thriller, but the bloods and guts, scary music, try to make me scream movie...no thanks.

--RC of strangeculture.blogspot.com

Kamikaze Camel said...

The thing is, these days there are so many young directors who think they can get into the industry by making a horror movie. And add that to the directors who make horror regularly and there's gonna be a glut.

I usually have good enough sense to realise what's bad and what's good.

The two horror films of the last few years that received the harshest rating possible in Australia (your NC17, just not porn) were Wolf Creek and The Hills Have Eyes. They're the only ones. Shows how much our attitude towards violence is so lax these. Back in the '70s movies like Halloween received the harshest rating and if you watch that today it'd be PG-13 for you guys!

And for Ja, let me tell you. It's even scarier to watch it if you're actually Australian and you've read all the stories and heard or the tales. It way more "oh jesus, this really happened" even though we know that it didn't happen that way at all.

Sometimes though with psychological horror, it can be just as bad as blood and guts horror. It's all got to do with your own personal feelings towards the subject and how it's made.

And then there's stuff like The Devil's Rejects which was one of last years very best comedies, that just happened to be filled with lots and lots of blood and gore.

JA said...

"One of the most recent instances of me being truly scared by a horror movie was seeing the original 'The Haunting' on TV. Talk about a movie being frightening without showing you anything."

God I love that film. I almost mentioned it in reference to the "less is more" thing because YOU SEE ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in that film, and yet it freaks me out so bad that I can't sleep after watching it.

"The ultra-gore seen in most horror flicks these days doesn't really bother me... But I do hate all these "horror" movies getting PG-13 ratings."

I do think that that's the basic problem with American horror these days, and I'm glad, even if I find the results questionable, that films like Hostel and Saw mark a return to hard R-rated horror. I too find myself, with a film like Hostel, asking myself during it what exactly it's purpose is and finding the reactions of the audience to be disturbing. I like Eli Roth a lot as a director and think he's a talented guy that's trying to do something that he's not quite accomplishing yet - he really does seem to be trying for a really harsh indictment of our baser instincts.
I do think he'll hit the mark one of these times, but until then I do think it is sort of dangerous that he's not quite there and his films are being so widely seen. It's an incredibly fine line to walk and Hostel unfortunately tipped right over into putting spectacle over substance. I think turning it around, having women be the protagonists of the sequel, might be the right approach but it's way too early to be seen.

"That said, Wolf Creek, as terrifying as it was, doesn't touch the twin titans of Japanese horror: Audition and Pulse."

Audition I'm with you on; it's probably in my top five movies of all time and scares me, quite possibly, more than anything I've ever seen. Takashi Miike is who Roth wishes he were. Pulse... which I'll call Kairo so I don't confuse it with the remake I haven't seen yet... I had some problems with it, but I did really appreciate and enjoy. I kept feeling like "I have absolutely no clue what the hell is going on", which worked at some points and was just confusing at others. Like, sometimes we need something, anything to hold on to, to ground us, and I felt adrift for maybe the entire last hour of the movie. That said, there are moments in Kairo that absolutely work. For me.

"I'm probably in the minority, but it's sad and disturbing to me that people can view scenes of torture as "entertainment"... Then again, we live in a world of terrorism and televised beheadings. Maybe people view that as "entertainment" too?"

I totally get where you're coming from, etslee, and I find myself, like I said, wondering about what the huge popularity of these films means these days. And I'm sure there are people that watch those beheadings online and find them entertaining, and they make up some of the audience for these films. But speaking for myself and the many friends I have that love horror too, there is a need for these films for other purposes. Catharsis. Especially in reference to the horrors we're seeing in the world. Everyone might not feel the need, or be able to use what these films provide as a means to find catharsis, but it does exist and work for a lot of people. Like KC says, "They're cathartic. They give you a rush of adrenalin and make you think that all is lost, to then have the credits roll and to breath a sigh of relief that it's over and realise you can go to the shops without fear of being shot or blown up or whatever." I have never felt the slightest urge to watch one of the terrorist beheading videos, but I know they're out there and that these things are happening on a daily basis around the world and how do I deal with that? It just sits there in the back of my mind all the time. So we go, we see people play-acting out these horrible fears that are on our minds, it's done in three acts with a begininng, middle and end, and we walk outside and feel better. We screamed, we got shaken up, and released... something. It's an easy and cheap two-hour therapy session.

"It's even scarier to watch it if you're actually Australian and you've read all the stories and heard or the tales. It way more "oh jesus, this really happened" even though we know that it didn't happen that way at all."

I'd been meaning to ask you about that, KC; I know the film (Wolf Creek) was a big hit down there, right? How was it received? I was pissed off that I missed it in the theaters here, especially after seeing it and how beautiful a film - purely visually I'm talking here - I thought it was. But then I wonder if I'd have gotten so completelly sucked into it if I'd seen it with an obnoxious horror-movie crowd.

Lyn said...

Clearly, I'm not KC! - but Wolf Creek was a big hit in Australia relative to population size, and particularly given that a good sized portion of the cinema going population (eg: my parents) would have ruled out going.

The director of "Wolf Creek" is currently making (or has just finished making) "Rogue" - a film about a bunch of backpackers getting menaced by a giant crocodile. I think the smart money is on the crocodile. The actor who played the villain in "Wolf Creek" apparently gets to redeem himself in "Rogue" by playing one of the good guys.

There's been some interesting industry vibes about "Rogue" being difficult to make. I'm not clear on the details, but part of the deal of making "Wolf Creek" was to give the relevant film company a first run on any follow-up/sequel project - and there was some dispute over the status of "Rogue" in this deal. (eg: could the director just make the film, or did someone have to "buy out" the first option right of the Wolf Creek producer?) Apparently it got messy and expensive.

This also points to a problem someone pointed to earlier: these directors are young(ish), talented and ambitious - but often end up in "deals with the devil" with endless sequel rights just to get the first picture made. (Case in point: "Saw II").

I saw the original "Descent" at the Sydney Film Festival, and am INTRIGUED that they have changed the ending . . .

Anonymous said...

nothing will ever tops "Rosemary's Baby", but try El Espinazo del Diablo - The Devil's Backbone, directed by Guilhermo Del Toro. It's Amazing.

JA said...

Thanks, lyn! Rogue sounds... odd. Not sure if I like the idea of another Evil Alligator movie, but I'll see it just since I loved WC so much.

Devil's Backbone is a really great movie, one I need to watch again.

And as for Rosemary's Baby... let's just say that it's been engaged in a war with Rear Window for years, duking it our for my favoritest movie ever. I'm not prone to unclouding my head-fog long enough to list such things, but I can honestly say that nothing tops those two films in my book.