Monday, November 2, 2015

Why is Horror So Stupid?

Oh boy, if ever there was a title that might get me hate mail, it's probably that one. But really, that's a serious question. Why is the horror genre so dumb? Or, perhaps a better question is why are so many horror fans into dumbed down offerings? I'm not saying horror fans are stupid and I'm not saying that the genre itself really a bad thing. What I am saying is that it seems we as a collective really seem to reward the wrong kind of behaviour. Case in point, look at one of my least favourite directors and writers, Eli "FAAAACCCCEEED" Roth.

"Can I get ride? I'm late to the filming of my rip-off of Cannibal Holocaust."

Now, I haven't seen his newest offering, The Green Inferno. But I have seen pretty much everything else. Let's just say that Roth's "style" doesn't impress me. But he has a tons of fans who relish every second of his gore-filled works and who I seriously doubt could look at those same works and create a valid argument as to what else those movies have to provide outside of the gore. Again, I'm a fan of gore, I grew up on gory films that I still love today. But that gore? It should not be the primary focus of the entire work. There should be a strong story or, at the very least, a narrative that is somewhat engaging. In all of his films, we've gotten none of those things. No, instead we got the same thing over and over again: annoying unlikable characters who like to party until bad things happen to them, then stupidity ensues.

"Did somebody say something about a party?"
Roth's work has had an effect on the horror community as a whole too. I call it "The Shittening". Basically, his movies full stupid shit and characters you don't care about got popular, thus creating a standard that others would emulate. I'm not saying that Eli Roth is to blame for every bad horror movie, but he sure opened the wound in a big way. We got a large crop of films (and still do) that seemed to only exist to be shocking and gory. Turistas, Chain Letter, most of the Saw films, and various terrible remakes exist now and they offer nothing outside of being splatterfests. Is this what horror fans want? Is it really? Because, as a horror fan, I know I don't. I want more than that. I want something clever, funny, interesting, and possibly even original. I want films that honour what came before, not something that vomits all over it and then grins as we're left with a mess all over the place.

If I want that, I'll go to someone who actually does it well, thank you.
Now, since I brought it up, yes, Troma does make really gory films that are toeing that line with often stupid characters. Here's the thing though...Troma films? They're actually funny more times than not. And creative. There is a film from them that is about Native American ghost chicken zombie mutant people. It's also a musical. That is a thing that Lloyd Kaufman birthed into this world. I look at the work Kaufman has done of a low budget and wonder why when I look at these big budget films they can't manage to channel even a little bit of what makes his work so entertaining. I came to the conclusion that it's because he's not trying to do the same thing over and over again. Kaufman does whatever he wants to do.

Which includes being eaten by a big ass spider.
I loathe the repeating mentality that permeates our community and the industry itself that to succeed you're better of doing the same thing as someone successful. It's why we got so many bad Halloween sequels and it's also why nearly all horror films now are more about jumpscares than they are about legitimate fear and tension. I look back at films like Jaws, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, The Howling, Psycho where the emphasis was always on the mystery of what was coming. The looming threat that is built up over time so that when it finally becomes known it carries with it an impact that leaves a lasting effect on the audience. The best example of this in recent years is actually a film from this year called It Follows.

Despite appearances, this is not a movie about a woman being raped and tortured.
That was a movie all about the unknown coming to get you. The dark thing waiting on the outskirts of your periphery, waiting to strike. It wasn't a film built on cheap jumpscares, gore, and a cast of characters so stupid that you're amazed the can dress themselves. No, it was a clever film where the atmosphere is built to make the audience as paranoid as the main character, because like her you don't know where the threat is coming from immediately. It's that shark hiding beneath the surface, itching for its chance to eat its prey. But do you know what I heard from some people? They claimed it was boring. A film that may be on of the most tense and most atmospheric works of horror that I have ever seen is apparently boring. Do you know what some of these same people instead defend as a good film? Go ahead, I want you to guess.

Fuck my entire life. Just fuck it.
Yes, of course, Robert Zombie's remakes that he long claimed he wouldn't make, as he felt that would be insulting to the original and was against remakes of classic horror films. Good job being a complete and utter hypocrite there, Rob. I know I sure find them explaining that the reason Michael Myers was so evil is because everyone in his life was a complete asshole sure scared me. Wait, wait, wrong word, sorry. What I meant to say is that it bored me. Not initially though, as I was too angry at first, but boredom settled in as I realized that I didn't care about anyone in the film so it just didn't matter anymore.

Except for Danny Trejo. I always care about Danny Trejo.
And yes, I have gotten your messages and requests. I promise, I will be covering this film next year. Why next year? Because it deserves a proper thrashing that I cannot give it just yet. Patience. The point is, as a genre, horror has gone down a deep hole of stupid and it keeps trying to drag everyone in with it. I think that honestly a lot of us are to blame for this too because, as I previously stated, we reward bad behaviour. When you buy tickets, merchandise, and copies of the film then you are simply feeding the beast. We have only ourselves to blame. Can it be fixed though? Well, yes and no. See, the thing is, there will always be bad films. You can go back for decades and see plenty of truly awful horror movies that preceded "The Shittening" and perhaps even influenced it. But that doesn't mean we can't have good movies too.

Trust me, they're out there.
The problem is that you're not likely to see too many good horror films getting that big budget love, because that's how the machine goes. It gives money to "safe" things. New interesting ideas are not guaranteed to make money, but the stupid shock value shit is. That's the lesson the horror community has taught the big wigs and that's why we'll continue to get recycled garbage and remakes until we're all as dead as the founding fathers of horror. It's a depressing thing to think about, as I love the genre immensely. Look at how many horror movies I cover, for fuck's sake! I dedicate an entire month to it every year and even then I still cover horror movies during the year too. But I can't make you watch things that are worth watching, all I can do is give you my opinion and hope it helps you decide to give Ti West or J.T. Petty's work a shot rather than sit down for another recycled movie where it's so predictable that you find yourself tuning out until something gory flashes on screen. Short attention span movies for short attention span audiences, that's where we've found ourselves. But what do I know, I'm just an asshole on the internet who gripes about movies. Later days, bleeders.

"I swear, I'm gonna shoot the first person who calls The Babadook boring."

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