What Scared off the Good Horror Films?
I love a good horror movie. So, I’ve not really been having such a great time at the cinema lately. It left me pondering, what makes a good horror movie? Somewhere between making money and trying to shock the audience into submission, have we lost the hidden formula – why so many bad horror movies lately? But, and I’d like to stress this now: I do have hope.
Yes, I’m the person who went along to Paranormal Activity 3 with an open mind and a craving for answers. And did I get them? No, I did not. The fact that it comes from the same people behind the SAW franchise means it’s basically going to go on, and on, and on… and it wasn’t even that scary.
Talking of series, apparently there’s going to be a fourth Rec – and the difference there is, I’m actually looking forward to the third one. When it first came out, it caused a bit of a stir and stood out. It had all the right ingredients for a good horror film and it delivered. In fact, I thought the American remake, Quarantine, was completely unnecessary.
We seem to have a habit of remaking things these days, but why? For instance, everyone knows the Japanese version of The Grudge is much better than the American remake. What is with you Americans and remakes? The Ring was another one. And has anyone seen the remake of The Last House on the Left – the scene at the end with the microwave? That was the best part of the whole damn movie.
And why do we need sequels everywhere? Mirrors, as an example was rather good for a horror film. I remember watching this thinking it wasn’t actually half bad. It starred Kiefer Sutherland, and involved some sort of mirror demon going after him and his whole family. It got my attention, because it was different and actually rather scary. Visually, it was interesting too. The sequel ruined it.
Some of the best horror movies in recent (and not-so-recent) years, in my opinion, have been one-offs. No sequels, no remakes. They are the films that stand out in some way, that get my attention, hold my attention, and actually get a reaction out of me. I want to be scared, I want to feel something, I want to contemplate my own mortal existence in a hideous yet exhilarating way, and if there’s a good story I’m left to think about, well, that’s good too.
After I left the cinema at Awake, just for a couple of minutes, I thought I was going to throw up. I’ll never watch it again. But it got A REACTION! It’s not a bad film. So, watch it.
You know what else gets a reaction? Torture porn. In fact, films such as A Serbian Film and The Human Centipede are almost trying too hard to get a reaction, and the sequel to Centipede was just so unintentionally (or maybe it is intentional) funny, as well as disgusting, maybe you should watch it just for the experience. At least A Serbian Film had a believable story to it and didn’t sell itself on being a shock film.
Anyway, back to the more mainstream stuff. I loved The Strangers. It takes place in a fairly normal setting, but things just go incredibly wrong with some young delinquents in masks terrifying the hell out of a nicey-nicey couple who were on the verge of a split. Their relationship ends up being saved, not so sure about their lives.
One of the overall best horror films I’ve seen in recent years has to be Eden Lake (2008). Set in England, it also involves a nicey-nicey couple who get terrorised by delinquents – but these kids are seemingly normal ‘chav’-type creatures, who just take things a bit too far. The film really woke up Britain and played to all its fears about today’s youth. The actual horror scenes are compelling, the visceral nature of the film is wonderful, it speaks to you, and you really get a feel for the characters. The ending is good, in a terrible way. I’d really recommend watching this one.
We’ve seen the reawakening of another trend, haven’t we? Of course, this blog would not be complete without mentioning the glorious return of zombies to our screens.
28 Days Later stumbles right in there first and foremost as my favourite. It was chilling right from the start; it featured a gorgeous Cillian Murphy and plenty of action, suspense, and running zombies. Yes, the zombies can run now (well, they’re not really zombies in the traditional sense of the word, as they’ve been infected with the rage virus, but still)!
We’ve also had 28 Weeks Later (not THAT bad as far as sequels go), Dawn of the dead, Planet Terror, Deadgirl, Braindead, the Resident Evil franchise (groan – and yes, another franchise that’s gone on a bit too long, and kind of tainted the games for me slightly), Rec, and some pretty original (non-scary) spins on these with Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead.
Zombies are on-trend, and are set to stick around for a while, with the impending release of World War Z (2012). Who’s looking forward to that one? I know I am. Actually shot in Scotland (though set in Philadelphia), it stars Brad Pitt, and that alone should make it an interesting one.
So, I’ll admit, every once in a while, there’s a good (or at least half-decent) horror film. But you know what? If you want to watch a really good horror film, go back and watch Stephen King’s The Shining, directed by Stanley Kubrick. Just watch it, if you haven’t already – and even if you have, watch it again. Why? Because it’s done properly, and is a perfect example of a good horror movie that has lasted. And that’s my last word on the subject.