Original Publish Date: April 13, 2012
Well, sadly, I didn’t get to see Mirror Mirror yet because life likes to intercede and mess with my carefully laid out plans. So, you’ll get review of it next week, but today, you’re going to get something even better! A TOPIC POST!
…I assume you all booed at the screen – I’m sorry! I promise the next review will be hilarious. But I’ll try to make this one just a good. So what are we going to talk about? The depreciation of horror as time progresses!
…or why scary movies aren’t as scary when audiences view them a long time after its initial release. Or, simpler yet, why when you watch Rosemary’s Baby you’re not scared.
The horror genre has, like all media genres, gone through phases. One such phase is zombies. Ever notice that those come in droves? It’s never just one zombie movie, but twelve different ones. Or vampire films? Once Bella Lugosi got into costume, everyone and their mother were making a vampire movie. Or so it seems! In reality, it works that one producer took a chance on a movie, and suddenly when it becomes a hit, every movie cashes in to get produced. This isn’t how all films are made, of course, but it is how a sizeable portion are.
But more than that, horror movies evolve incredibly quickly. Whatever is “new” quickly becomes old as new directors take it over and try to use the technique as their own. People say comedy is the hardest to pull off? Try scary people for a living, constantly. Jokes are always funny, even if you get less of a laugh – scares don’t stay fresh for long. It’s like a possessed snowman in the Sun – one minute terrifying, the next minute barely threatening. And this happens in no other genre – dramas are still heartfelt, comedies still funny, children’s movies still magical.
So, going back to Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby, no one had even seen a story about a woman bearing Satan’s child, doubting her sanity the entire way there, only to horrify the audience by accepting the demon spawn. It was the first of its kind, playing on the seemingly normal atmosphere, and using kind old people of all things to be the undertakers of Satan’s wishes. That was hard-core. But now we know to expect the unexpected, and that old people are evil. No one is going to get scared by this film today, even though they may find it eerie.
Audiences today demand guts, gore, and thrills, not the subtle styling of early horror pieces because that’s how the genre evolved. Slasher films, blended with supernatural or serial killer elements. That’s how we got a film like Child’s Play which is both a curse and a blessing. It was silly, somewhat stupid, even mind-numbingly so but it’s terrifying to think of inanimate objects coming to life and killing us, especially when robots were first being developed around that time. And what did we learn? Nothing with a human face should be allowed near sharp objects.
And that’s why remakes are so popular amongst the moviemakers. It’s hard to come up with good scares, and even a remake can make more money than an original that turns out to be a flop. The tradition of making and remaking and then re-remaking films in lights and contexts has been going on for decades in part because taking chances on original scripts is dangerous for studio execs. Also, they used to be smart, interesting, and looked at the subject from new, scarier perspectives. Now? Well…
Another issue? Music makes the horror. Have you ever seen a scary movie without sound? If you did, often it looks like the really funny and awkward looking, and you never expect any of the jump scares – they just kind of happen. In fact, the whole effect is useless without the sounds, especially since imagery is only as powerful as its connection to the context, and the context lacks when you don’t know if a scene is supposed to be suspenseful or not. Bad soundtracks have probably aided in the death of many a horror film.
Just you wait – we’ll get a horror musical soon enough. Mark. My. Words.
But we need horror movies just like we need Sci-fi. In my last review, I talked about how Sci-fi media discusses what’s wrong with present day society, through exaggeration or parody. Horror exploits societal fears and stigmas. After all, Audition picks at people’s fear of crazy blind dates, and torture, and look how amazingly successful that was. Romantic comedies with similar themes get panned all the time because they try to laugh at it. But crazy people aren’t funny (…sometimes but not usually), and more than laughs, audiences seek the thrill of being presented with inner fears and night terrors without any personal risk. We can laugh at every day life. You probably shouldn’t face a serial killer in a rickety old house.
So while often I’m not in love with what the horror film industry is producing these days, and feel it’s a shame that the nature of the genre lends its scare to a short shelf life, I’m sure someday we’ll be back to the glory days of horror. Hell, maybe even Cabin in the Woods will start a new trend!…Maybe I should review that one too…