Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Psalm 27:1

I've decided that it's true that I'm not a horror fan. I can count on one hand the number of horror films I've found truly scary and/or worth my time. The Wolf Man's pining for death in the somewhat goofy Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man is sadder and scarier than anything I've seen in the horror genre in the past 30 years.

Part of this is that I could care less about "thrills." We've already established that I'm not a "roller coaster" type of guy. This is the same reason why so many action films fail for me. I don't find them all that thrilling. There's nothing scary about roller coasters until they start falling apart and dropping folks on their heads. I might be interested in horror that "goes off the rails." Most horror, though, is about as safe and dull as any roller coaster.

Part of this is that I'm aware of editing. Watching an eye get drilled through isn't all that terrifying if you see the editor's cut instead of the imagined slasher's cut.

Part of this is that I think that the genre is overwhelmingly and nearly completely morally depraved. While I acknowledge that Jason and Brandon and the rest are not monsters, I do seriously question what good it can possibly be for hardcore fans to fill their heads with gross images of violence, specifically the favorite violence of the genre, violence against women. I'm sure there may be a few out there, but I don't personally know many Rob Zombie fans who are happily married who treat their wives with loving respect and dote on their many children. Maybe I'm wrong. I don't think so. The Binghamton WKGB demographic does not strike me as being a model of virtue. They talk (and sing) about women and treat women in degrading ways. They do not value life beyond any sort of self-gratification. I don't think that I or anyone else is going to suffer or be wounded for life for watching any horror (though there may very well be individuals for which this is true). There's a great promo bit on WHRW that has a guy saying something against censorship, that there are no words that, upon hearing them, will send the listener straight into a burning pit for all eternity. I believe this. I'm not afraid of any of these movies any more than I'm afraid of hearing (or even using) the word "fuck." Nevertheless, I am convinced that habitually putting these things before your eyes and (necessarily) internalizing them is a recipe for suffering, just like the guy who substitutes "fuck" for every other word has lost all sense of proportion and probably has lost the ability to say anything worth listening to.

Part of this is that most horror films are poorly crafted. I hope that Chris still has my back here. It's easy to get the Howards (and other little girls) scared with the jump moments. It's about as easy as it is obvious. It's much harder to convince the audience (or at least this audience member) that there are any real stakes involved. (I'm remembering now that I did actually like that ski lift horror film, Frozen, from a couple of years ago. It just popped into my head is why I mention it).

So, why am I even bothering right now? Well, it's because you guys love the genre. I am interested in exploring what it is that separates us here.

In an effort to explore this issue, I've decided to watch through all of Showtime's Masters of Horror series. This seems fair to me. Maybe you'll disagree and say that I really need to watch 100 films by two dozen directors before I can make a final judgment. Nah. I think I'm on safe ground here. For those who don't know, this series featured an impressive collection of the genre's "greatest" directors often filming adaptations of the "greatest" of literary horror (and often with the assistance of these writers). This seems to me like a horror fan's dream come true. It appeals to me because each of these films/episodes clocks in at 50-60 minutes. Brandon and I agree on this definitely: Short features are often great features because there's no fluff.

I'm excited about this because, after watching these films, I can say that I've watched a film by each of these directors. Maybe I'll find a few directors that I want to explore further. At the very least, I'll have concrete reasons why I don't like many directors.

So far, I've watched the first four films. I'm calling this project the Mehsters of Horror Mehrathon.

Here goes:
(stars out of five as usual)

Incident On and Off a Mountain Road **
Directed by Don Coscarelli
Written by Don Coscarelli, Joe R. Lansdale, Stephen Romano

Basically, a woman has an accident on a long stretch of abandoned road. She's found by a slasher-killer named Moon-Face who finally gets what's coming to him. Along the way, we've got an old man dancing a jig for our amusement.

Right from the beginning, we're presented with a female character who has been made strong through abuse. This has got to be a favorite theme of abusive men. The final twist at the end must be very satisfying to those who love talking about empowered womyn. This episode highlights the theme of the victim becoming the perpetrator of violence and presents this in a favorable "retributive vengeance" light that the audience must be supposed to revel in.

H.P. Lovecraft's Dreams in the Witch-House **
Directed by Stuart Gordon
Written by Dennis Paoli, Stuart Gordon

I'm pretty sure that Lovecraft would have hated this adaptation.

There are cracks in the walls of a house, allowing a witch and her human-faced rat familiar access into our world. They use young men to kill toddlers for them. A young student goes head-to-head with this witch, wins then loses and loses some more.

Besides the goofy rat, this one fails to do anything interesting. I could have been convinced to like this one. I might have liked it a lot if the college student had killed the boy instead of fighting the witch. This one ends with a jolt and a rumble, but it's still your standard safe roller coaster ride.

Dance of the Dead **
Directed by Tobe Hooper
Written by Richard Christian Matheson (adapting story by Richard Matheson)

In a post-WWIII world, kids will be kids and they'll all be on drugs and zombie dance raves are the new craze.

The concept here is really great. This is probably my "favorite" of the films so far, because it reaches far even if its reach exceeds its grasp. The story ultimately doesn't work because none of the characters are developed enough. They all seem pretty stock. The actors do a lot with very little, but not enough to save it all. The ending is rather bleak, suggesting a transmission and triumph of care-free painless pain, bowing to the wisdom of doping up and dropping out when all else fails. This is all presented as a great thing and we're all glad to be rid of the controlling authority figure.

Jenifer *
Directed by Dario Argento
Written by Steven Weber

A wild child disfigured woman is rescued from being murdered, only to prove to her savior that she really ought to be murdered.

This was by far the worst of the bunch. If I tell you guys that the opening short of V/H/S is far better than this one, you'll just have to believe me. There's a twist at the end that's so easy to spot that I literally groaned at the obviousness of it. There's a kernel of an interesting idea here, but it's never developed in any but the most obvious ways. To all of you horror nerds, I boldly say: Argento sucks.

That's all I've got right now. I'll keep watching.

A Happy All Hallow's Eve to all of you. You all can keep your wandering monsters below. I'm not afraid to look at them. I just don't much like them and would rather not spend all that much time with them. I'll choose instead to spend my days with those fearsome Monsters congregated 'round the Throne.

If you haven't yet read Chesterton's The Nightmare, well, what are you waiting for?

And all of this has reminded me of my favorite Wovenhand song, appropriate enough for All Saints' and All Souls', so why not link to it here, whether you'll like it or not...

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