Saturday, February 21, 2009

Happiness In Slavery

I might stand corrected.

I love horror films, I think we've established that from the rant I posted last December, but really... I just want them to work. I want us to stop cannibalising old plots and films, I want us to move forward, and do something brilliant.

I want horror to be special again.

But I might stand corrected with a few of my points from the previous blog (Help Me. I Am In Hell) due to the fact that I've seen parts of the new Friday the 13th. And the thing is... it doesn't look bad. It looks... awful... but that's because in this day and age we can't take masked serial killers seriously.

I mean honestly, in Saw, Jigsaw, our villain/anti-hero, wears a pig mask and has a clown puppet called Billy. Those aren't scary (well they were in the first film, the scene with Cary Ewes in the parking garage and Jigsaw crawling out of the back seat... guh, and when the director does that irritating quick IN-YOUR-FACE cut/cut/cut shoot style...), they're funny. If you turn off the sound (ignoring the sultry tones of Tobin Bell) you've got this clown puppet yapping away. Horrifying-- Not.But we don't have masked serial killers walking the streets. No urban myths and legends really have those kind of terrifying figures (Obviously ignoring the Hook Man legend, but even then, he doesn't wear a mask, he wears a hook. Go figure) that instill fear.

Anonymity should be scary.

Films like When A Stranger Calls are scary because we don't know who the hell is doing what, and by the end of the film, we still don't. He's, like Michael Myers before him in Halloween, a "Shape", ethereal, ghostly, but when he strikes... he strikes hard and vicious. To be honest, the sequences without actually seeing the "Prank Caller" in When A Stranger Calls are the scariest. When we actually see him, he's a human being, and he's just there. Real. It looses something. Faceless serial killers are the best, in that we don't know who they are, or why they're doing what they're doing. Why is Jason killing? Because he nearly drowned and, oh, because of one the funniest quotes of the film: "Kill for mother!" Thank you Pamela Voorhees. And thank you, shades of Psycho (another film that brilliant in it's anonymity, and not diluted by the eventual reveal of "Mother" Bates)!

I don't like knowing why the killer is killing. Certain films work like that, "discovery horror", as I've just decided to call it, where-in the story is moved forward by a mystery, but others, not so much. I'm going out on a limb and declaring the remake of House Of Wax as "discovery horror", as we eventually discover the history of the Wax Town, the twins, etc, but what really matters is how fucking horrifying a lot of the murders are. How happy was I when Paris Hilton got skewered by a phallic symbol? Tres. One of the weaker murders, sure, but some of the events in that film were really bloody scary. The guy at the piano, his mate finding him, prodding his cheek and then-- oh, if you've seen the film, you know what I'm talking about. God. And Elisha Cuthbert's fingers!! Shit. That was a scary-ish film!

So Friday the 13th. I was a bit fanboy-ish outraged at the idea of Jason running. But now, thinking about it, so what? So what if he runs? That doesn't matter, does it? I mean, I may prefer my slow moving serial killers, Michael Myers, aka The Shape, the classic Voorhees... but fast moving can be scary too, in different ways. Freddy Kruger of Nightmare on Elm Street fame jumps around like a freaking ADD afflicted twelve year old, and he's terrifying, the "ugly clown", that glove, the close ups on his massacred face... scary as. The zombies in the remake of Dawn of the Dead and in 28 Days Later (one of the greatest British films ever made) too, are scary in a different way. They will get you. And there's no fun in that. I like zombies that loiter about and then won't stop till they eventually find you, moving in herds, never stopping, slowly but surely catching up with you. In Dawn of the Dead, they just... ran... and it was disappointing. Where was the suspense? Where was the horror?

But Jason Voorhees runs in Friday the 13th. And I don't know, really, I don't mind. I've not seen the entire film, I want to, sure, but I've not got round to it. As long as he doesn't, I don't know, dance about, I think I can be ok with it. So whilst I'm not a big fan of nu-horror, shallow and dilute as it is, I think I can abide it.


Brandon said...

Well, I haven't seen the new Friday the 13th yet either so that makes us even.

But the crux of the post hinges more on an approach to modern horror which is one that has lost a lot of much needed subtlety. It's a generation coming off of quick-cut music videos and the frantic film making pace ratcheted up a few notches back in the 90s and now everything is in the tricky and crafty camera work. All mood and action crammed in tight. But as stated most pointedly in the reference to Hitchcock, where is the suspense? Those long and uncomfortable quiet moments when you aren't sure if you can relax or not.

In the case with the slow-moving vs. the fast-moving killer, if you are in constant run mode then you know what the pace will be... full-on until the menace is decidely stopped. But with a Michael Myers or a lumbering zombie horde, when can you let your guard down? If the protagonist runs a mile up the road, can they really sit down and rest? Or did they misjudge? When they reach the safe house, are they really out of harm's way? Or is the killer just outside? Like you said, the unknown horrors and fears you concoct in your own mind are far more paralyzing than anything that can be shown on the screen.

I think the revived Doctor Who series has effectively used this technique recently in that it hovers somewhere between horror and sci-fi and rarely has the budget to fully back that up. (ha) With The Empty Child and then again in say Blink or Silence in the Library there is a threat that is almost an abstract concept yet it is slowly and inevitably closing in...

That's the good scary.

Chris Paugh said...

NO.The remake of Friday the 13th is the worst. I don't mind remakes and the running was not a problem either. In like running zombies because as a guy with a few extra pounds on him I can't even guess how long I can run away before getting devoured by zombies. I went to see the is new attempt with Jason Voorhees though and was insanely disappointed.

SPOILERS follow.

In this depiction they show Jason to have a system of strings with bells attached to them that he can hear when there are people to kill. The strings lead to what I can only call the "Jason Cave".
His mask is removed at one point and apparently, Ssloth from the Goonies is the new Jason Voorhees.
Terrible just terrible.

Donald R. Anderson said...

Although I'm not really into the horror genre, I do feel that in any genre there are things that can be renovated and used in new forms from the old... but to be successful they need to be ideas that were good to begin with and that haven't been done in the same manner or form as previously. The only way I'd excuse recycling plots (much more negative connotation than recycling cans or old bottles) is if it were a continuation of an unfinished plot.