why being a horror film addict is worth the grief

I would imagine that having a close friend (such as myself) with a healthy horror-film addiction is rather a pain. Having to constantly admit that you don’t have the balls to endure 90 minutes of harmless fiction is a real bummer, and my heart goes out to you. It really does. So, grab your helmet and strap in – I’m about to turn you girls into men, and explain why scary movies are good for the soul.

First, set your time machines to 1896, the year of release of Georges Méliès’ silent short-film ‘Le Manoir du Diable‘, often quoted as the first scary movie ever made. However, I would opine that the broader audience would acknowledge that the first ‘true’ widely-distributed horrors were those directed by ‘Master of Suspense’ Alfred Hitchcock during the mid-1900’s, with the most famous being ‘Dial “M” for Murder‘ (1954), ‘Pyscho‘ (1960) and ‘The Birds‘ (1963). There is something devastatingly elegant about sauntering around ones Manhattan apartment in a silk dressing gown, glass of Pinot Noir in hand, with one of Hitchcock’s finest playing in black and white in the background. The older horrors are far more adept than most of their more recent counterparts at tactfully integrating sex, violence and suspense into the storyline, almost removing the element of fear from the situation altogether. It’s all very Holly Golightly.

Now, I acknowledge that there are some really shit horror movies out there. Some so awful that watching them makes otherwise cumbersome tasks like laundry and spin class suddenly appear exciting and urgent. Please see below for my highly scientific graph depicting the distribution of quality of films across key genres.

IMG_0004

Although this makes it fundamentally harder to smoke out a toe-curlingly awesome horror, it also means there are some total rocket ships out there too. The most difficult to get right of all the subsectors, I think, are those based on the supernatural (your standard ghosts, monsters, zombies, etc.). Producing a film with these themes is a well-blazed path, with very few new releases actually managing to cover untrodden ground. However, sticking with it until Netflix yields a stonker is well worth it; special effects are usually incredible and some of the most critically acclaimed horrors have fallen in this subcategory (‘The Exorcist‘, ‘28 Days Later‘, ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street‘). My must-watches from the lesser-known titles include ‘The Cabin in The Woods‘ (don’t be fooled by the ‘teens in the woods’ standard template, watch for the twist at the end), ‘The Descent‘ (babes in a cave, shit goes down) and ‘Insidious‘ (exorcism, but with an interesting storyline).

Okay, hands up who likes slashers. It’s been a tough crowd in these parts ever since the deranged ‘philanthropist’ John Kramer graced our screens as the serial killer (and, apparently, highly skilled engineer) in the ‘Saw‘ franchise. The compelling and well developed storyline (only breaking down at episode 5 of 7, which is commendable) was more symbolic of a high quality psychological thriller in my mind, and the gore throughout was (and still is) second to none. Symbiotic with the mention of series such as ‘Saw’ and ‘Hostel‘ amongst critics is the label ‘torture porn‘, which I fundamentally disagree with; appreciating a cinematic representation of (extreme) events as a means of escapism is, to me, something quite different (and much more wholesome) than the label implies. A pleasing number of recent releases have introduced new initiatives to diversify away from the (increasingly more tired) pack, with key standouts being ‘All the Boys Love Mandy Lane‘ (teen splatter with a brilliantly executed twist), ‘I Spit on Your Grave‘ (health warning – this one is particularly graphic, only for the soul-less) and ‘Wolf Creek‘ (bogun Aussie kills annoying tourists).

I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the low-budget guys – did you know that ‘Saw’, ‘The Evil Dead‘, ‘The Grudge’, ‘The Purge‘, ‘Night of the Living Dead‘ and many more actually started out as short films/low-budge? In today’s world of talentless trust-fund entrepreneurs and obnoxious producers, for independent films to even make it to the point where you, the unsuspecting illegal-online-streamer, would have access to it, it needs to be really really REALLY ace. The Spanish science-fiction-esque feature ‘Timecrimes‘ is ridiculously unique, with an indulgently deep, psychologically-damaging storyline. Often these movies tend to lean to the extremes in order to define themselves; for the horror-fans out there who believe there is no longer anything that can shock you, check out ‘Antiviral‘ and await my ridicule as you sway back and forth in your white-padded cell. If I may, I would like to say a few words on the Asian offering here also – ‘Battle Royale‘, ‘Ring‘ and ‘Old Boy‘ is the vibe if you fancy not sleeping for the next century.

The last box to tick is a particular obsession of mine, and also happens to be the newest sub-genre within the horrors – found footage. This refers to the capture of the film as if it had been recorded by one of the movie’s protagonists, such as in ‘The Blair Witch Project‘, putting you, the viewer, right in the middle of some pretty believable, fucked up shenanigans – and that’s totally fine with me. In saying that, I don’t know how many times I had to watch ‘V/H/S‘ before I managed to have my eyes open at least once for each scene – the film is an anthology of six highly proprietary short films, and is without a doubt the best (for lack of a better phrase) horror-think-pieces I’ve seen that I still mull over two years after first viewing (you can make up your own mind about whether this means the film is good, or my life is boring). ‘REC‘ is a fabulous twist on the zombie/exorcism theme (but note that the subsequent episodes are awful) and ‘Cloverfield‘, whilst frustratingly obtuse, is a refreshing rehash of the Godzilla franchise. I am chomping at the bit for ‘Unfriended‘ (thoughtfully suggested to me by the boy, let’s call him…Sergey) due to be released April 2015, which I am hoping will open the door to a new genre of ‘social media horrors’.

It’s unclear to me as to whether I will have managed to convince any horror-haters with this post (if you need more convincing, Nerdist posts some eloquently written, insightfully excellent horror reviews), but know this – there isn’t a better reality check than watching Sidney Prescott flee from a masked killer in her own home after the graphic murder of her boyfriend to make yourself take a good, hard look in the mirror and say of your own problems – ‘Yeah, well I guess it could be worse’.

19 thoughts on “why being a horror film addict is worth the grief

  1. bennytiberious

    Hello,
    Great post. I have been an avid horror fan pretty much all my life, probably since forming an unhealthy obsession (for an eight year old) with Hammer Horror movies.
    However, despite my long fascination and affection for the genre, I can’t help but feel that it is in a dead end. Too many special effects and a limp glut of movies marketed to teens have robbed Horror of any bite. I don’t think there has been a truly scary film in a very long term. Sure, there have been lots of ‘jumpy’ horror movies, but nothing that genuinely stays with you afterwards.
    To my mind, the most disturbing horror movies are the ones that succeed in capturing the disorientating feeling of a nightmare, that present a vague and indefined horror of the soul, rather than just some dude in a hockey mask. The original Carnival of souls, for example, scares the bejesus out of me.
    I would love to see a return to that style of more experimental, intelligent and quirky horror movies.
    It’s the difference for example, between the Woman in Black and the Innocents. The former piles on the effects and scares but ultimately succeeds only in being ridiculous, where as the latter more restrained and subtle effort, is genuinely disturbing.
    Sorry, I’m rambling! I guess that’s what happens when you have watched TOO MANY horror films.
    I will follow your blog with interest.
    B.Tiberious

    Liked by 1 person

  2. brit • in • nyc

    Hey there! Couldn’t agree more with the idea you mentioned that too many modern- day producers see horror films as an easy formula without the need for much thought behind the gore. I must admit though, I quite enjoy the ‘treasure hunt’ that is finding a really good horror – as I mentioned I’ve been having more luck in the independents/short films as of late, and the foreign horrors often yield super scary, high quality but relatively unknown titles. Would be super interested to hear any awesome movies you find in the genre 🙂 I’m still a believer that Horror is the new Thriller is the new Horror 🙂
    Diana

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  3. movieblort

    Great post. It is difficult to put my opinion of horror into one post, I admire the effort you have gone to and the way you’ve broken it down – I will try to do the same;

    Firstly, I completely agree about Hitchcock. That would be why he is so widely praised, it’s no accident. I remember my Dad sitting me down when I was about 13 and saying to watch ‘The Birds’ as it was one of the greatest films of all time. I don’t think I quite understood what he meant, the Scream franchise was taking off and that was what I understood to be horror, but it was terrifying. It takes a certain person to appreciate that now, many people just wouldn’t be interested. Same goes for films like The Wicker Man, which is another classic favourite of mine, and remains one of the most chilling endings to a film I’ve seen.

    I can’t really get into the Netflix horrors as such, the UK has such an average selection and there are some absolutely awful titles out there – it really is difficult to know where to spend your time. I’d rather focus it elsewhere. The ones you have listed I have seen. Insidious was one of the few horrors I watched over recent years, and it genuinely messed me up. It was great. The ending was so obscure and insane that it made me laugh for ages. I had no idea that it would go down that way. 28 Days Later will always remain a favourite of mine, to the extent that I remember buying the OST on CD some time ago and that moment with that track will always give me goosebumps. Takes a special film to do that.

    This is where it starts to feel uncomfortable for me as a viewer, which I guess is the point. I haven’t made it past Saw 3, and Hostel 2 boiled down to absolute nonsense. What I will say is that I still put the twist of Saw 1 down as one of the greatest movie twists of all time. My mind was blown. Perhaps they look too real for me now. It feels gratuitous and tasteless at times. Those other films sounds good and the trailers look interesting – The only one I remember watching was the original ‘I Spit On Your Grave’ and I remember really enjoying it.

    I love that you reference the original Evil Dead. Will you be watching the TV series coming out shortly? It still remains one of my favourite films of all time. I remember seeing some horror compilation show late on Channel 5 and them showing so many clips from it; the tree scene, dancing skeleton, the eyeball on a stick. It was brilliant. By the time you get to the third film it’s just disintegrated into a comedy, and I cannot get enough of it.

    Other movies that I believe are worth checking out (personal favourites) if not seen already;

    Asian Horror; Tale of Two Sisters, I Saw The Devil, The Host, Bedevilled, Cello, Coldfish, Shutter, Exte: Hair Extensions, Meat Grinder, Suicide Club, Ichi The Killer, Audition (just for the final scene).
    French Horror; Inside, Martyrs, Haute Tension, 7 Days (Canadian French)
    UK Horror; Eden Lake, The Children, Mum & Dad, Kill List, Dog Soldiers, Deathwatch
    Found footage; The Tunnel, The Den, Afflicted, The Sacrament.
    Mixed bag; Taxidermia, Maniac, Splinter, House of 1,000 Corpses, ABC’s of Death (1 & 2), Deadgirl, Midnight Meat Train…

    This requires a place for itself – Faust: Love of the Damned. If you do anything, it is to watch this movie. Every Saturday me and my friend used to rent a scary movie, and see if it was any good. There were some classics in the mix; Everything from Ginger Snaps to Hellraiser to Candyman. Then this. Faust. The single most ridiculous horror film I have ever seen. Words cannot describe this film.

    As I said, it’s difficult for me to compile my love and simultaneous frustration for the genre into one post. They can be some of the most insane, mind altering films around, but as you eluded to, they are also some of the easiest films to make and as a result the pool of which we get to choose from is huge and often disappointing.

    I’ll be sure to check out some of the ones you recommended, a lot of these have been mentioned before but seeing as you seem to know your stuff I’m inclined to trust your opinion over someone who still rates Green Street as their favourite film.

    Cheers,
    Mark

    Liked by 1 person

    1. brit • in • nyc

      You’ve just changed my life – I just woke up and saw your list of movies and have written their titles down with my favourite pen; the list now sits by my bed and I am desperate to cancel every plan I have made for the next month to stay at home with a life time’s supply of Kiner Bueno and watch them ALL.

      I watch ‘The Collector’ last night and it was UNREAL, have you seen it? My boyfriend and i woke up this morning and tentatively said to eachother – ‘oh, so umm, it looks like The Collector’ was made five year ago…’ ‘yeah i know…i wonder if…naaaahhhh….’ ‘you wonder if there is a sequel?’ ‘well I don’t like to get our hopes up but…yeah…i wonder…’. So we looked…and THERE IS. We high fived, and are now about to start watching it – ‘The Collection’. I am very excited.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. movieblort

        The Collector looked very messed up – that was the one with the saw that came down in the nightclub and looked like it was going to chop off everyone’s heads?

        Drop me a message if you watch any of the ones I suggested. I’d start with Martyrs (if you haven’t already) – I have only been able to watch it 3 times in my entire life for it is so disturbing. The move onto Faust, and then take your pick.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. brit • in • nyc

          So the film you mention is actually the sequel – The Collection – but yes correct! As always, the second of the two does an only okay job of following a very tough first part. The trouble is that The Collector was magnificent because the storyline was unique – this door is obviously closed to The Collection (being a variation on the same theme) and so the creators kind of overdid it a bit with the special effects and crazy (wrong side of believable) storyline in The Collection, but it was worth watching none-the-less.

          I have started on your film list! I let the boyfriend pick so we didn’t end up watching Martyrs first, but it’s on my to do list. Kill List, however, ended up being an awesome way to start things off anyway – I’m going to have to watch it again as I haven’t tied up all the unanswered questions in my head yet, but I loved it. I love how it masquerades as a drama and then mercilessly flips to really disturbing (very real looking) gore; the unapologetically trashy dinner scene totally sucked me into believing the horror was going to be purely psychological, and pretty tame…boy was I wrong. Can’t wait to tick more off the list!

          Oh by the way I also watched Open Grave this weekend, it’s utter fluff and by the end I still didn’t know who any of the characters were and I didn’t care that they were all dead. Avoid at all costs.

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  4. Cindy Bruchman

    Nice tribute to horror–there are many good ones out there and you mentioned some of them–Exorcist, Ringu, I would add Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Cell. The first Saw, the first Hostel, were gory messes that stayed with me. I grew up watching Hitchcock–that’s what I like, psychological thrillers. I don’t watch horror movies if I can help it. You go on without me 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. brit • in • nyc

      Thanks for the films suggestions! I am always on the hunt for fresh titles and, as a couple of bloggers have mentioned, the ‘popular’ titles found on `Netflix’, ‘Lovefilm’, ‘Amazon Prime’, etc. are usually pretty one dimensional. I vote going back to good old days of video rental stores where the offering tended to be much more diverse!! Looking forward to your next blog 🙂

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  5. hgczarapata

    I really enjoyed the post! I can not say I watched all the clips, but that is only because I have seen most of the movies. I agree with you completely though when you say you feel bad for people who can not stand watching a horror movie. The reason I feel so bad for them is because most horror movies are not even “scary”. Most people just do not like the movies that make them jump, but I wouldn’t classify those movies as “scary”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. brit • in • nyc

      Hey! Ok – up until last night I TOTALLY agreed with you…and then – I watched ‘The Den’. I have not been scared like that in a really, really long time. It was AMAZEBALLS. MovieBlort (see comment above) recommended to me – that list up there he is left is high quality stuff, take a look and let us know!

      Liked by 1 person

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