Monday, October 17, 2016

Is There Still Hope for Horror?

I was actually planning to write this article post-Horrorfest but, as a lot of things fell on me all at once, I found I wasn't able to really give a movie any attention. At least not enough attention to allow me to poke fun at it while also attempting to review it. Thus, here we are to talk about something that's near and dear to me: horror. Specifically, I wanted to follow up on an article I wrote about the state of horror previously that you can go read here. Let's just say Eli Roth and me probably aren't going to be friends any time soon.

"What? But I just sent you a friend request!"

So, previously I talked about things I hated about modern horror films and where we've gone, but I also talked about how there's some new films that are finally scrapping the Roth method in favour of things subtlety and mood rather than gallons of gore sandwiched between really stupid unlikable asshole characters and shitty writing. I cited It Follows, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, Stake Land, The Babadook, The Battery, and many other films as examples of how there are truly talented filmmakers out there trying to salvage horror as a genre. That begs the question, how's horror doing now that a year has passed?

Well, Rob Zombie made another movie about trashy people murdering other people while spouting his signature "dialgoue", so there's that.
In all honestly, I actually think horror really is doing better. Since that last article I've been able to see some truly entertaining and well made horror films that don't suffer from the many problems that have plagued the genre. We got a sequel to The Conjuring that is arguably better than the first film, a new shark movie that actually doesn't feel like it belongs in a bargain bin, a rather interesting take on a ghost movie with a ghost that can only appear in the dark, and we even got some returns to classic franchises that made people...argue a lot.

"Queef jokes are way grosser than dick jokes and if you disagree then you're clearly being paid off!"
Yeah, for all the good it still has been a really rough year. Hell, for people in my generation it has really been quite awful as we've watched many of our icons get taken away from us from the year that simply will not stop feeding on our pain. In horror alone, we lost some of the greatest figures in the time between that last article and now. Angus Scrimm, Christopher Lee, Gunnar Hanson, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Anton Yelchin, and Gene Wilder all joined the armies of the dead. And, for me personally, one of my favourite icons who had a small tie to horror died, Dan Haggerty. I'm not kidding at all, that hit me hard.

Now who will pet all the bears and fight off the Nazi elves?
But honestly, they really all did. It's been very hard not to cave in to my depression with so much loss. It's taken a toll on all of us and likely still does, as we all sit here hoping the year doesn't take more from us. Or at least that, if it has to take someone, maybe it takes Donald Trump or Ann Coulter. You know, someone we won't miss that has no positive effect on the world. But there has been something good to hold onto, as I said, because we actually got some solid horror (and horror related) films this year. Even last year I got to finish things off with a dramatic horror themed film that moved me and shocked me all at once.

Wait, you mean Schwarzenegger has emotional depth and range as an actor?
Yeah, if you missed my Best of 2015 list, the top two entries were horror. It Follows took the top spot, because of course it did, but the second spot went to a movie that floored me by giving us Arnold Schwarzenegger as he'd never been seen before: being a compelling actor. Now, no hate on him, I love his action movies. Seeing him chomping on a cigar while blowing away baddies is always fun, but he's never really had to really act. The most emotional range he really showed was in the original Conan, which mostly consisted of him being very broody. In Maggie though, we got to follow his arc as a father coping with the reality that his daughter was dying. Seeing him struggle with acceptance as he had to face others with her condition felt real. Seeing him sink further into a sad malaise towards the end was incredibly heart-wrenching. It left me amazed, frankly, and left me wanting more of this from him.

Or he could just go back to what he's always done because I was one of the only people who loved that movie. *sighs*
It Follows, Maggie, and Dark Was the Night felt like a primer for a resurgence of truly interesting new horror and I am happy to report that we did get that. This year we got some really unique films exploring the genre in ways that really felt fresh. Even in movies that had serious issues, like Don't Breathe, we got a really unique set-up with a blind villain stalking people using only his hearing ability. In The Shallows we were treated to a shark movie that wasn't about gore or T & A but rather having it focus on building up our heroine as a truly likable and sympathetic character. Her struggle to survive while being stalked by a hungry shark kept us on our toes to the very end.

And seeing her dress her leg wound was far more intense than anything I saw in The Green Inferno.
In addition, James Wan's return to world of The Conjuring gave us a thrilling and disturbing version of one of the world's most famous hauntings and brought to life a design that truly was beautifully nightmarish in the form of the Crooked Man. I could not get enough of seeing it lumber around, scaring our protagonists. Not to mention the fact that this year we got to revisit some old franchises with interesting results. Sadly, I've actually not been able to see the new Blair Witch film due to the hurricane that decided to interrupt everyone's lives, but the reviews have not been very kind. I won't jump on the bandwagon and tout as a failure, because I haven't seen it, but it's definitely not looking good for it.

But hey, it could always be much worse. Much much worse.
Of course, we also got the new Ghostbusters film, which seems to have divided everyone and created a lot of animosity in the fandom. People lashing out at other fans because they dared to enjoy it and other fans decrying those that didn't enjoy as rampant sexists. It's a clusterfuck that only such a massive fandom can create. Me? I liked it. It didn't reinvent the wheel but it stood up as a solid comedy and the mix of practical and CGI was well done. It's a shame that it didn't get a fair shot from many simply because they're ruled entirely by nostalgic bias, but that's how it goes sometimes. I hope it does get a sequel, because I personally think that more Ghostbusters is always good. It's funny too because the really bad Ghostbusters reboot that actually exists rarely gets brought up by all these "fans"

You know, the super edgy grim and gritty one that ignored the second movie. That one.
I actually thought Rob Zombie might even be out to surprise us this year with his film 31, but I ended up mostly disappointed like a lot of other people. It was a sad return to form for him, full of violent greasy people saying fuck a lot and being like pale shadows of the characters from his one big success, The Devil's Rejects. I really don't like having to hate on the man's work, as I am honestly a fan of him. I like his music, his love of monsters, and his dedication to keep trying. But his work is so depressingly formulaic and uninspired, leaving me feeling like I watched a movie I had already seen before every single time.

Except for maybe that one really weird one that no one knew what to think of. Yeah, I should probably talk about that at some point.
But then, movies aren't the only place where we got some horror. Horror started getting more serious about invading the world of television. SyFy even shocked me with the surprisingly entertaining van Helsing and even more with the addition of the new anthology series, Channel Zero. Oh, I good talk for an entire article about that premiere episode of it alone. It's also following that trend towards slow and subtle horror too. The building of a mystery that creates an unease in the viewer. The reveal of the menacing antagonist not feeling like some cheap jumpscare. And using a children's show about puppets is the perfect vehicle to immediately tap into everyone's psyche, as we all grew up on those types of shows.

I don't quite4 remember the Land of Make Believe being so off-putting though.
Is there still hope for horror? Yes, I think there is. I look at what we've gotten, both good and bad, and I see change and creativity being employed. New ideas are being looked at, new ways to approach old concepts are being explored, and it all gives me tons of hope for the genre as a whole. I do still think that fans need to work on their overall behaviour though. Seeing people tear one another apart over something we love isn't the way to accomplish anything. It's just depressing and upsetting. I hope that as this year rolls on in its last few months, we get some more solid surprises and that next year will be even better. Because I want to shudder from fear rather than anger. Later days, bleeders.

Or you could just hate on me for having my sexy special editions. I suppose that works too.

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