I've picked up a podcast called Now Playing a couple months ago and all throughout December they discussed the Silent Night Deadly Night series, capping the year off with another slasher called New Year's Evil. Throughout the series they brought up notions of why certain films failed as horror, what they loved, what their expectations are, etc. This reminded me of some of the discussion surrounding Cabin in the Woods, and even some of their own comments that seemed to suggest the film would have worked better had it stuck to being a typical slasher with a mild twist rather than...well, what they did do in the third act.
It really struck me that what I think of in terms of "good horror" is very much different than what horror film afficionados seem to enjoy or expect. Knowing some members here are evidently bigger into horror, I figured start a discussion and see what people like about it.
Personally, when I think of "good horror", my mind goes right to Alien and John Carpenter's The Thing. There's a psychology at work in each film, a suspense and a mystery as to what is going to happen. There is definitely a focus on the characters and their attempts to survive something they don't understand and need to figure out how to deal with. It goes into that sort of Lovecraftian notion of fear of the unknown.
Listening to the cast of Now Playing and some others, "horror" and "slasher" are much more synonymous and thus different things are sought out. They listed out all the tropes they expect in a film, like teenagers that all exhibit some sort of sin and come to pay for it by an omniscient omnipresent threat. That they not only expect but want this stuff explains to me why they were so disappointed in Cabin in the Woods, a film that was a criticism of this sort of expectation.
Two of their films in particular seemed to be trying for something different than a mere slasher. Silent Night Deadly Night and New Year's Evil each wanted to have villains that were human, that had a reason for going nuts, and trying to dive deeply into it to make the killer someone that is more sympathetic. But this point was hardly discussed, and instead the biggest criticisms were how long it took to get to the killing, whether the kills were creative or entertaining, or in some cases were they even bloody, and overall focusing on the violence of it all. Even the "horror" aspect was glanced over as no one seemed to be going in to be scared. One of the hosts commented on the remake, Silent Night, seeming like it would go for more the "torture porn" angle and was disappointed it didn't amount to that.
This has me scratching my head. From what I can gather from five (technically six) film reviews is that they want horror films to have a formula, to adhere to that formula, and to only be creative in terms of who the killer is (though clearly not that creative, all they require is a weapon shtick and costume shtick) and how people are killed. There is even delight expressed when someone dies in a particularly gory or painful fashion. This lines up with how I've heard other horror fans talk as well.
At first I began wondering if there has to be some sort of subconscious disdain for humankind, or some lack of empathy for others, but when I thought back to some of the Cabin in the Woods discussion that just didn't seem right. But I cannot grasp a love of watching people suffer, so to speak, even in a fictional environment like a movie. I like my violence to be unrealistic, where people get shot, grunt, and fall down never to move again (with exceptions of film like Saving Private Ryan, where the purpose is to highlight how horrifying violence and war truly are). I like violence to be a physical representation of the conflict going on within and between characters, as well as presenting a risk factor.
In truth, when I think of "horror", I feel like Japanese horror (which there is...none that I've seen fully, only enough clips and pieces to be disturbed) is a lot closer to what I feel like the films should be more or less about.
So before I keep writing, what do those of you that enjoy horror feel? What got you into it? I know at a young age I was the sort of kid that would voluntarily leave the room until the bloody parts were over if my family was watching a "grown-up" movie, whereas most of the people I know that like horror snuck VHS tapes of flicks like Nightmare on Elm Street to their friend's house to watch in secret or under the supervision of a parent that just didn't give a damn. So maybe part of it is just nature.
In any event, what are your feelings on horror/slashers?