This is an essay that was originally published in October of 2017. Since the home renovations are taking all my free moments at the present time, I’ve re-written portions of the essay and posting it again. The piece represents a lot of my philosophy when it comes to the subject of horror, and this time of the year in particular.
Word Count: 1116
A certain buddy of mine from the old Peace Corps days diligently follows the vegetarian lifestyle. He’s pretty faithful to his practice, but then one night during a bout of extreme inebriation he confessed to me that when no one noticed he once snuck into an Italian delicatessen and ate an entire 5 lb. round of sausage. At this time of year, and during the month leading up to Halloween, I’ve got a guilty pleasure that’s sort of like that indulgence of my friend’s. I love to watch old Horror movies.
Most of the time I’m indifferent when it comes to watching scary films, and during a lot of times during year I downright dislike them. The really old ones are just too lame and some of the newer, low budget productions are just downright too predictable.
What do I mean about “too predicable”? Easily explained actually, and movies in this category are virtual hotbeds for laughs in my book. Case in point, a film I just caught the tail end of. The group of people trying to hunt down the vampire cult decides they need to investigate goings-on at the castle right around sunset. In order to accumulate vital information, they then make the decision that it’s best to split up into small groups during the hunt. For safety concerns, of course.
Nobody wants to listen to a member of the group who keeps warning them about serious repercussions about to happen. Like I said, a total plethora of predictability that leads credence to my pet theory. The one where I’m convinced a lot of the writing budget for these horror flicks was instead spent on illicit powdered donuts for the cast and producers.
Another example of this: the greedy real estate developer decides he needs to build his latest get-rich-quick apartment complex on the site of a former cemetery. Since he’s blinded by dollar signs, the guy totally ignores most of the advice that’s given to him from local historians, figuring that those personal mishaps that keep happening are completely unrelated to the burial ground being dug up. Obviously, the plot is as predictable as assuming that your towel will probably get a little bit wet when you take a shower.
During October does the obvious nature of the storylines in these movies matter? Not much in my eyes so I’ll keep watching. The question at this point, why?
Part of it has to do with the time of year. As each day passes, the sun sets earlier and earlier. Additionally, it gets a little bit colder, the wind a bit more intense, and you spend more and more time in front of the boob tube. Watching mindless entertainment when you aren’t making a semi-valiant attempt to actually lead a constructive life.
A large part of it is this schizophrenic obsession I’ve got with violence in horror films. A large percentage of the new scary movies and TV shows out there are over-the-top gratuitous. Their producers have never even heard of the term, “discrete” when it comes to showing violent action into their feature. Case in point: I’m currently watching a continuing horror series on TV that involves the evolution of a fear based cult that comes about as the result of the presidential election last year. During one of the creepier scenes in the series, the victim is tied to a chair and the leader of the cult tells all his minions he needs to test their faithfulness by having each member use a nail gun to shoot said hooks into the head of the unfortunate dupe. One by one, they do it until the leader tells them he’ll put the victim out of their misery by shooting the final nail into the base of the skull. As the scene unfolds in excruciating slowness, there’s of course lots of blood (mandatory don’t you think?) and the producers don’t leave anything to the imagination. Obviously doing that would be much too difficult to pull off? Plus, by stretching the scene out they maintain viewer interest. Kept me interested when the scene first unfolded, but then after about five minutes of listening to the victim scream and nails getting shot into the victim’s skull, I couldn’t take it any more. Quickly grabbed the remote, and switched to something in the comedy realm. Oddly enough I switched back to the show ten minutes later.
Other examples in modern form of horror abound so it isn’t really necessary go into any more of the gory details. Finding modern horror that displays lots of violence in all its gratuitous glory is probably easier to locate than going to the beach with the hopes of finding a bit of sand.
Alternatively, I’m a huge fan of Alfred Hitchcock movies. “The Master of Suspense”as he was so often referred to by a lot of people, happened to be totally deserving of his title. His stories unfolded in a subtle way with the plot successively building over the course of the film, and violence was implied, but not shown. A lot was left to the viewer’s imagination.
In my eyes, the classic Hitchcock non-violent/violent implication film clip is of course the shower scene form Psycho.You never directly see the Anthony Perkins character, but instead see what looks like a woman lifting a knife then stabbing repeatedly downward with it. The mysterious figure is shroud in darkness.
The Janet Leigh character screams and you see the shower hooks being torn off their rungs. Blood is not splattered all over the place, but is instead shown washing down the shower drain. The violence was implied, but not shown and I loved the way the scene unfolded. All of Hitchcock’s films and movies were done in this manner.
I’ve concluded that this whole love/hate relationship I’ve got with horror movies and TV is entirely the result of my schizophrenic nature in general. At this time of year, I’m attracted to stories such as this in the same way a firefly becomes enamored of a bug zapper. The bug sees the glowing orb and knows it should stay away from it. Alternatively, it continues to fly towards the light because it likes to be scared. Am I being too anthropomorphic about this whole thing? Maybe that’s half the problem?