Friday, October 4, 2013

Why Gore is NOT Horror


When I spotted it, I gasped just a little bit. And it's a nice segue.
With St. Hallows Eve nipping at our heels, I felt like getting a crushing boulder off my chest. After I tell chums that I love horror films, they’re always surprised at how few of them I watch.
World War Z was playing in our living room the other night. I heard two things, ‘virus’ and ‘shoot them in the head’, and wouldn’t you know it, the cliché’s kept stacking up from there on out, pushing me to go read a historical fiction instead. Golly, how original!

A few weeks before in a moment of repose, I had the time to plop down and catch an old Vincent Price American International creature feature entitled Madhouse. Although Price was a class act, admittedly, the sloppy plot summoned laughs, but the fun of it took me back to childhood. My roomie said, “We need to get Dave a bunch of 70s horror flicks. It seems like they’re the only ones he will watch.”
My response: “The way I figure, the old ones have an excuse to be bad. The new ones should know better by now.”

Yet Hollywood keeps spilling blood and all they can think to do in most cases is add more blood—or  make it more realistic—and it simply doesn’t pack the jolt of a good fright. Think about The Exorcist, Misery, and Silence of the lambs. Sure, there’s a little crimson in them, but do you even remember it? Rather, do you recall Regan’s head twisting a full 180, Lecter’s relentless see-through stare at Clarice, Annie’s bug-eyed rant as to why Paul Sheldon shouldn’t use profanity in his novel?

If you saw these films, I bet those images caused the chills to resurface.

Here’s why:

Whereas gory films can be effective (Hostel comes to mind, although I still maintain that if they would have set it up for the audience to imagine what was going on in the chambers rather than spell it out, it would have been way more petrifying), pain and or bleeding fails to freak us out too much because they’re readily a part of our lives anyway. The two would be better classified as drama. Every kid has stubbed their toe, scraped a knee, felt the sting, and saw the ruby meat under the casing. Big deal. It’s not common to panic during a surgery which is going to entail lots of blood. To be respectful, I realize that there are some out there who get squeamish at the sight of an open wound, but that nausea is NOT horror.
The real reason something scares us is the belief that something can strip away any control that we might have. That’s what all the three aforementioned masterpieces have in common. Pazuzu has Regan. Lecter has Clarice. Annie has Paul.

As for serial killer flicks, human depravity is unfortunately nothing new. In fact, unless done with creativity, rather than scary, they’re just pathetically depressing.


Anonymous said...

Bravo, Gusto! Well said and I totally agree! Great post and great line: “The way I figure, the old ones have an excuse to be bad. The new ones should know better by now.”

Patricia Stoltey said...

Great post, Dave. I love to read (and watch) creepy, scary stories like "Misery." But a tale that graphically glorifies chopping, chain sawing, or beating someone to a pulp loses me in a hurry. The one terrifying and even horrifying movie that kept my attention all the way through and sometimes pops back into my mind to chill my blood is "Deliverance." Shiver....