Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Real Horror behind Horror Movies

My thanks to my friend, Nicole (see link just to your right to read some good poetry of hers) for suggesting I post my e-mail rant, apropos of seeing Hostel and attending the Philly Wizard con, all in the same week. Let the frothing at the mouth commence:

Yes you’re right. Halloween was freakin’ scary—that was the horror movie for our generation. But it’s different now, not just because there are very few restrictions.

It’s probably tmtt but it’s two things. one’s been mentioned a lot and is not that original. But in Halloween, what made it so scary was that you put yourself in the place of the victims. Like when Jamie lee Curtis is so scared she can’t even stand up and is half crawling half running across the lawn you actually feel it in your legs like you want to pick her up and run. But now the “sympathetic” character is the killer. All the attention and character detail is devoted to the killer, especially on the techniques or motifs (like "7" where the guy based his murders on the 7 deadly sins).

This is why CSI is so repugnant. Because it pretends to be about these heroic characters solving crimes, but really that’s just a guise to show elaborately orchestrated murders. Everything is focused on process, not personality or society or anything like that. And the victims are just props.

Why I’m so burned out about this is that this trend started in comic books about 20 years ago, but at least there was always some character moving through all this brutality with some kind of moral code (“Constantine” was a good example—the comic book was WAY more violent than the movie). But gradually what happened was as the writing detoriated the focus was more on the killer(s) themselves and their methods. Things got more and more insular and claustrophobic, to the point where you had stories about serial killers killing other serial killers.

And finally you get to movies like Saw and Hostel, where they don’t even bother pretending to tell a story set in the actual world (like Halloween does)—all the Saw movies happen in some fantasy underground dungeon. And there’s not even the pretense of having believable characters that act like actual people—you have either killers, who are always calm and witty and in control; and victims, who are always frightened and witless.

And the real subtext of this is: there’s no attempt at a believable setting because the filmmakers/writers already know that they’re audience is so far gone into this stuff they don’t need a conventional story, just get to the gore as quickly as possible. And the characters are always the same template (charismatic killer, inferior victims) because the writers know their audience identifies with the killers, not the victims.

So that’s the second thing that’s disturbing about it and I saw that all over the con [2010 Philadelphia Wizard convention]: that people accept this as just another form of entertainment (like the writer I saw at a panel who said “I try to think of different ways of killing people—that’s what I like to do”) totally divorced from the real world (none of these fans probably feel any compassion when they hear about a murder on the news). Fiction isn’t supposed to make people more isolated, but this type of storytelling isn’t just doing that, it’s encouraging it.