Are We Scared Anymore?
By: Scott M. Waldman
Horror movies in particular are a very broad category of film and literature that appear at multiple points throughout the year. These films are made to make us afraid and scared of the world and actions being projected, but are they truly scary? Are we afraid? With Halloween around the corner, it seems right to dig into what is wrong with today’s take on horror and how it can be possible to fix this genre to where we leave with goosebumps and not a sense that we just saw enough blood to make us wonder what our cup of fruit punch is really full of. Possible ways to drive through what horror movies need is a big dose of fear, a sprinkle of insanity, and just a hint of disgust. These films should make us not just sick to our stomachs, but also sick in the membranes as well (probably more here than the other; don’t want the custodian cleaning up too much).
Horror needs to be a possible or supernatural distortion of reality. The film either has a direction or meanders through random hallways until a variable finds you in the form of that psychopath you read about in scene one without much acknowledgement. The environments of these toxic events can exist in an everyday setting, but breaking that wall between what’s real and just plain insane is typically the best route. Don’t just present a random hotel or abandoned hospital; bring the viewer a paranormal medallion that brings us to a graveyard with a coffin that sends us to the underworld (something that a grunge person sings about minus the blood). Doing any film that could take place in our reality is like finding a news story, filming what you think happened, and saying it’s an original script. That is what most filmmakers call a ‘documentary’, and trust me, if someone tried to cover a real Jason Voorhees story, then the number of dollars spent on missing camera personnel would be higher than the production value.
A successful horror flick should make you scared and disgusted, but the definition of what is ‘scary’ and what ‘disgusting’ has changed over the years drastically. The most difficult thing with any horror movie is to balance out the two, which will define which film you will pee yourself and which film you will vomit uncontrollably (sorry again to the custodian). The film Monsters University (2013) said it best where Helen Mirren’s character (Dean Hardscrabble) talks about trying to make children scream instead of cry; there must be a control in this genre to make us afraid instead of harmed. There shouldn’t be unspeakable events shown on the screen that are so cruel, that the editing department would literally deem it ‘illegal’. Sure, illegal events do happen in horror, but to an extent. People die in horrific ways, minds are warped, monsters are created, and the darkest crevices of our minds are explored, but what does that have to do with a centipede powered by excrement? That’s just disgusting, and not scary.
One of the biggest issues with horror films, as of recently, is that there’re so many coming out and they’re coming out during the most random of times. It’s spring; let’s darken up the audience with killer trees. It’s winter; time to add some evil snow-people to their lives. Summer and fall should be the main times for horror movies to arrive, because as of now they seem to be put in theaters as fundraisers to gain funds for a later film. This shames a lot of what this genre can offer. Summer and fall respectively are scary times. The heat is getting ready to drop back to temperatures beneath 60°F, trees go from green to pumpkin orange and finally to the form of a shriveled raisin, and school is starting back up for most students (the worst contender of all). To make horror films scary again, make the genre feel like it is being released with a purpose rather than making them feel less important than the fact that the Oscar films are all coming out during the fall and summer.
By the way, clear your schedules for some time at the theaters; this award season is going to be a scary one indeed (more on that later). Let’s make horror scary again.