Archive for the ‘Horror Films’ Category

Since the dawn of human culture, a mostly silent debate has been occurring. It is one that transcends religion, cultural expectations, as well as political or geographical boundaries. You as the reader may have some idea as to what the topic might be, and I can assure you that some knew what to expect from this post just from reading the title. Either way, this post may at first seem out of place on my website, but I assure that as the subject matter unfolds, or more appropriately manifests, it will seem as right and familiar as a drinking buddy’s sofa bed.

husband sleeping on the couch

The debate I refer to is that of the existence of the paranormal. This can be considered a somewhat broad and all-encompassing word as it can refer to anything that falls outside the boundaries of normal perception; this could be a spiritual abnormality, an extraterrestrial presence, a crypto-zoological encounter, or a simple glimpse into the world of extra-sensory perception. These topics are almost always laced in obscurity and veiled by a tarp stitched with the thread of cultural taboo. Academics are often shunned or ostracized if they acknowledge any of the aforementioned topics with anything more than a wry comment and a disbelieving smirk.  Then of course there were the classical attacks on the paranormal by organized religions throughout history, including, but not limited to the Spanish Inquisition, and the Salem Witch Trials.

Now with the broad strokes taken care of, we can take a look at the esoteric meat and potatoes of the subject. Most people have had (or think that they have had) a paranormal experience or at least know someone who has. A 2005 Gallup poll showed that 74% of Americans believe in at least one aspect of the paranormal (which Gallup broke up into the following categories: Extrasensory Perception, Demonic Possession, Psychic Healing, Telepathy, Haunted Houses, Extra-Terrestrial Visitation, Clairvoyance, Astrology, Ghosts, Reincarnation, Post-Mortem Communication, Witches, and Spiritual Channeling). Notice that the pollers did not even mention the existence of crypto-zoological entities like Bigfoot, the Jersey Devil, and Moth Man; I would think that this would push the believer percentage up to at least 80%. According to Americans, the most believable paranormal categories were ESP (41%) and that houses can be haunted (37%).

With numbers and percentages like these, the reason that books, movies, and other entertainment mediums often find a reasonable level of success in the horror/sci-fi genres becomes self-evident. People are intrigued by the thought of the “beyond” and many find a sense of comfort and even quasi-immortality in the idea of some sort of existence beyond the grave, whether it be spiritual or  esoteric. I would postulate that many of the writers who choose to express themselves in the supernatural genre have likely had some type of paranormal experience of their own. This makes sense if you think about it; most drug and alcohol counsellors have had experience with substance abuse, most psychologists have experienced some level of psychosis (or have witnessed it in someone close to them), and every exterminator has probably seen Starship Troopers too many times.

Stephen King has sold an estimated 350 million copies of his accumulated and extensive creative works. Nearly all of King’s books at least skirt upon paranormal topics, and some of them would be more accurately described as driving through said topics with a bull dozer constructed with words and driven by fear. King has discussed paranormal topics in countless interviews over the years, and is a believer in ESP (like 41% of America!) and has alluded to some ghostly encounters at the Stanley Hotel, which became the basis for one of his more popular novels, The Shining.

Clive Barker, the spinner of such twisted tales as the film Hellraiser and the novel, Imajica, has never publicly alluded to any personal paranormal experiences. However, when Barker was a young boy, he witnessed the unfortunate accidental death of a prominent sky diver in a grandiose Liverpool airshow.  The experience, although not paranormal, may have set the tone for many of his macabre tales. Understandably so, considering how a young person’s mind often times tries to rationalize death as a point of spiritual transference as opposed to one of finality.

Dean Koontz is another well-known horror writer, who finds himself in the company of the aforementioned authors, but is included in this short list with a slightly different subtext. A quote from Konntz’s  novel, Velocity, is a very good example of how the author may feel on the subject of the paranormal; “Houses are not haunted. We are haunted, and regardless of the architecture with which we surround ourselves, our ghosts stay with us until we ourselves are ghosts.” The author is a proponent of spirituality, but in a way that may not be expected by some of his readers; Koontz is a devout Catholic and in reality his personal views on the paranormal are more likely to resemble those of a clergyman than a carver of gory and suspenseful stories. Koontz’s background with his sociopath father and the subsequent attempts that the man had made on his life also were likely contributors to the author’s paranormal lexicon.

The long and short of it: people have different views on the paranormal. Some embrace it fully and like to imagine themselves painted into the pages of some illustrious and terrible tale of demons or zombies or things with long teeth and short tempers. Some see the hope of otherworldly existences as a comfort to their own mortality; while others like to listen, let their imaginations run rampant, and fall asleep with one eye opened just wide enough to let their night lights give them comfort.

To me the question of whether or not the paranormal is real is irrelevant. It is all based on personal and cultural perception, and whether we like it or not, the dark and terrible is here to stay. And it is a part of us.

Until next time horror fans!

Many different archetypes come into play in the world of modern horror, the ever popular machete wielding psycho and the knife fingered pedophile are a couple of industry staples; what better time to change it all up? Twenty or thirty years ago these villains may have been enough to get your blood pumping and any right minded person who watched these movies would never go camping at crystal lake or be excited when their family moved to Elm street. The truth is that these static and easily avoidable situations simply no longer cut it. People are getting harder to frighten, and all of the easily achievable shocks and awes usually come in the form of gore porn like the Saw and Hostile franchises. Where does this leave the future of the horror industry?

Many great ideas have come out of the industry think tank recently; most notable of these new ideas may be the introduction of stories with an unstoppable force, an idea that has been utilized by the foreign film market for years. Sure, Jason and Freddy could be grouped in this elite category of fiends, but the truth is that they were not used to their potential simply because of the need for American audiences to have a sense of closure; or more appropriately a rational excuse for people to close their eyes at night…

The oceans are safe because Richard Dreyfuss blew Jaws up with an oxygen tank (busted on myth busters btw…).

Jason is bound to Crystal Lake.

Freddy is bound to Elm street.

And…

Every time Predator comes to L.A. Danny Glover lays the smack down!

The influx of Japanese themes and ideas in the early 2000’s brought a new scary kid to the block. In 2002 The Ring really threw traditional American horror for a loop. Followed up by The Grudge in 2004 these stories kept Americans screaming and coming back for more. What is the big difference?

NO CLOSURE!

Just when the tension is alleviated an anorexic kid comes out of the TV or a demonic gurgle echoes from the darkness. The protagonists usually admit defeat at this point, most put up a fight of course… But we all know how that ends. The beginning of the next episode of the franchise will have a piece of shameless exposition that touches on the details of our hero’s death (it’s still bad taste for the protagonist to die in the film itself, of course).

Now to turn this discussion on its head once again…

What if we want a movie that has more than an unstoppable bad ass to fuel the tension and keep the story moving forward?

This is where classic American horror films excelled. Rosemary’s Baby was a smart and sexy thriller that touched on HUMAN emotions, Kubrick’s rendition of Stephen King’s The Shining proved that “sometimes human places, create human monsters,” and The Exorcist showed that sometimes dark forces can show themselves in familiar forms.

Why the genre regressed to slasher films in the first place is not hard to understand, but where are these more intellectual horror films now?

They may be out there if you look…

Let’s get some reader feedback!

Which modern horror film has kept you thinking? Which ones have kept you up at night?

Why are we supposed to be scared?

Posted: February 23, 2013 in Horror Films

I figured one of the best topics to discuss for a semi-inaugural post of The Horrors of the Horror Business would be to briefly discuss the core of the horror genre. Many unique films and works of literature (yes literature!) are released year after year and aggressively marketed as the “scariest —- of the year” or the “scariest —- since —-!”  and this is all well and good; to quote a great source “for every market a sub-market grows” (Repo: The Genetic Opera), and the horror business is no exception.

So the question must be posed: what is scary?

IMDB has a very well rounded list of the highest rated horror movies of all time and I have noticed a number of them (especially in the top 10) have very human themes. If the antagonist of a book or film offers a direct threat to what people hold most sacred then that story (if executed properly) will likely be a success in the horror genre.  Take Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (#1 on the list) for example, almost everyone can relate to the effect that family can have on you; even taken to the extreme Norman Bates is real enough to be feasible and that makes him all the more terrifying! His need for his mother’s love and acceptance transcends rationality and as we come to learn as the story unfolds even “mother’s” own mortality.

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The Shining (#3) also uses many very basic human fears as building blocks for Stephen King’s (and Stanley Kubrick’s) masterpiece. What can be worse than an entity that turns family members against one another? How about an entity that can do that and make the damn walls bleed! Although I prefer the book to the movie hands down, the film still delivers. The reason I think the film is so successful is that Kubrick did focus on many of the human fears that King expertly used to craft his book, the ghosts of the murdered twin girls, the disturbing insights of Danny’s imaginary friend Tony, and the terrifying history of the hotel itself. King and Kubrick both knew these ideas were solid, but without the key element it would have likely fell short; the real danger came from themselves. Jack in his obsession forgets what is most important to him, and as a result his family must be snow bound with an increasingly unstable (and violent) mad man.

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Those are just a couple of the films on the list…

http://www.imdb.com/search/title?genres=horror&title_type=feature&num_votes=1000,&sort=user_rating,desc

Check it out! I found a couple of films on there that I haven’t even heard of, so I know what I’m doing this weekend!

Thanks for reading,

Jim