Then Suddenly...

Having spent my life up until now really not caring about (if not actively repelled by) horror movies, I find that I've developed an interest in them recently.

I chalk this up to a lowered tolerance for gore and an heightened appetite for cheap thrills brought on by a heavy diet of our modern action flicks.

As I reflect upon this, a few more things occur to me... 

One, that many of this generation's filmmakers were heavily influenced by the horror movies of their youth.  Joss Whedon, of course, had 2 major TV series built around vampires and sundry other supernatural beings and co-wrote one of the best horror movies in recent years, the deconstructionist The Cabin in the Woods, which came out the same year as his mega-massive ultra-blockbuster, The Avengers.  Zach Snyder, director of this year's Man of Steel, got his big-boy pants with his remake of zombie classic Dawn of the Dead.

Two, that our special effects have gotten SO much more realistic that the old ways seem pretty quaint anymore.  I watched the notoriously gory Re-Animator the other night, and it played as pure camp.  A severed head with dangling gore was just surgical tubing and stage blood.  It was clear that the head, sitting in a pan, was just an actor poking his head through a hole in the table.  This was just... fun.  Meanwhile, the recent film The Raven included a scene cribbed from The Pit and The Pendulum where they felt obligated to show the ENTIRE slicing-through of a human body, cut by cut.  It wasn't scary.  It wasn't fun.  It was just crass and uncomfortable.  The mind had already pictured what would happen, but had to wait, and wait, as the film caught up in masturbatory detail.  I'd rather watch the old stuff, and not just because The Raven mostly sucked.

Three, that horror stories represent a very fundamental form of storytelling.  They have essential story elements and push specific emotional reactions, like romances and pornography.  Our filmmaking has become MUCH more targeted and manipulative of emotional reactions.  One need look no farther than the commercial success and influence of Michael Bay to see this.  As much as it makes you hate yourself, it's almost impossible not to feel his fingers working your heart-stings like a marionette with schmaltzy slow motion power ballad sequences.  Yeah, you know the one I mean.  Well, horror films are all about the emotional reaction, and obviously some take more evolved approaches to this than others.  There's "BOO! Ha, I GOT you!" and the ever-so-slightly creeping dread or dangerous curiosity, and for good or ill, it seems that the "Boo!" approach has a more direct impact on the safer commercial vehicles.

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