Friday, 22 April 2011

Where did all the scary movies go?

I went to see SCRE4M at my multiplex and it seems that there is not much of an audience for horror films at 10.30am on a Monday morning.  I was the only person in the screen apart from the cleaner, who was still doing her thing even during the trailers!
SCRE4M seemed content in pointing out how the horror genre had become nothing more than torture porn and remakes.  And what better (or meta) way to critique how modern horrors attempt to reboot tired and cliched slasher films than producing a tired and cliched slasher film that once again fails to have the guts to deliver what the audience (well, me at least) wanted to see.

"Bugger, I didn't mean to kill the horror genre.  Oops"
The catchphrase of Ghostface is "What's your favourite scary movie?" and it struck me as I left the cinema that it has been a while since I've seen a really good "scary" movie.  Not a horror movie, like the Saw movies where you are only really going to see people dismembered in inventive traps, or remakes which lack suspense as we have already seen it 20 years ago.  I'm talking about seeing a film that leaves with a feeling of unease, that gives you goosebumps and your spine tingle, that makes you think twice before switching off the light when you go to bed.
I honestly struggled to think of a great scary movie that was released within the last few years.  There was Paranormal Activity in 2009, The Orphanage and REC in 2008, or even The Descent which was all the way back in 2005 which for me contains one of the all-time greatest "jump" moments in cinema history (hint - night vision).
Other people on Twitter ranked Eden Lake, The Others and Martyrs quite highly too.  All of which are now on my Lovefilm list.
There is very little originality left in the horror genre at the moment.  Torture porn seems to have killed the genre.  The more Saw sequels that come out, the traps get more elaborate but the returns are diminishing.  If it isn't that (or The Human Centipede) then they find a successful breakout hit and start to sequelize it to death as well like Paranormal Activity 2.
The most interesting, scariest and original films that have been released over the last decade or so have been foreign language films from Asia, France or Spain.  But Hollywood then sees these films and decides to remake them and they, for the most part, lose some of that magic i.e. Dark Water, Quarantine, The Grudge, etc, etc, the list is endless... but I did like the US remake of The Ring.
The horror movie genre has always been cyclical.  In the 30's it was the Universal gothic monster movies, the 70's/80's was the Slasher film, then Body Horror, Scream briefly revived the Slasher film in the late nineties before Torture porn took over in the noughties and at the moment we are going through a cycle of remakes.
There is a glimmer of hope though in the form of Insidious.  The makers of the original Saw (but not the sequels) James Wan and Leigh Whannel have produced a scary movie that has been a hit at the US box office and delivers good old fashioned scares in a haunted house/possession type of horror that harks back to the days of The Exorcist, Poltergiest and the granddaddy of them all The Shining (my personal favourite scary movie).
I haven't seen it yet but Robbie Collin of the NOTW claims that it was "so scary I was whimpering in sheer terror".
I hope that this marks the return of the classic scary movie, the ones that work on the premise of "less is more" and that what the mind can imagine is much scarier than anything you can put on screen. So Hollywood, give the mutilation a rest and get back to having people appearing in mirrors after someone looks away for a second otherwise the next time I watch a horror movie will be in 2012 to see Hammer's take on The Woman In Black in which the scariest thing could turn out to be Daniel Radcliffe's acting!

1 comment:

  1. I'm just writing my review of Event Horizon (not a classic I know, and all the way back in 1997), but it did unsettle me. I've seen it several times before but it still gives me the "wanting to make sure all the lights are on as I go upstairs" feeling!