Understanding Horror

Great to be amongst horror buffs!!

Brief backstory: Wifey and I are huge horror junkies. She loves classic slashers: Freddy, Jason, Leatherface, and her favorite Michael Meyers. She gets 5 weeks of vacation a year and takes the full week before Halloween off to watch the horror marathons all day. For one of our first dates I took her to see a new 35mm print of Rosemary's Baby at Film Forum in NYC. For one of her birthdays I bought her a handmade Hellraiser puzzle box, Lament configuration. I had made reservations at a nearby Thai place and went there ahead of time with the cube inside a rustic looking box and a letter in an envelope both made of old looking parchment and instructed the waitress to present it to my wife when we arrived. Wife was very confused but opened the letter which said, "Mrs. Bouchard. Take the box. It's yours. It always was." Then she opened the box and screamed in excitement. Very cool moment.

Anywho, I tend to prefer classic horror: slashers, Hellraiser, Poltergeist (probably my personal scariest), Exorcist (still scares me), and Phantasm.

There has been some newer stuff that's caught my attention: Saw, Hostel, Cabin in the Woods, Paranormal Activity, etc. however nothing really seems that scary anymore. Is it that we're older? Has the "Internet ruined us" and desensitized us so that we aren't nearly as frightened as we were pre-1990's? Has the addition of CGI and less raw looking effects created an Uncanny Valley effect that makes us subconsciously not as able to enjoy modern effects-laden horror? Who knows.

In regards to the suspension of belief, I agree completely. I'm an unabashed atheist and weigh most things in life based on data and evidence yet one of my favorite horror genres is religious-themed. Exorcist, Signs, etc. Anything with religious undertones, heaven vs. hell battles, etc. Can't get enough. I think the suspension of belief is important for immersion be it movies or even video games which is why I would suck as a critic of either. I focus my energy on the enjoyment of what I'm watching/playing rather than picking it apart or applying logic and rationale to scenarios that are the epitome of ridiculousness.

I'd like to mention the movie Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. It's similar to Scream in that it seeks to deconstruct old slasher flicks, however instead of going the satirical route it's a little more serious. It's a breath of fresh air and actually rejuvenated my love for horror and has given me hope that maybe more writers/directors will go that route. And yes, I picked up a custom made Leslie Vernon mask.

IMAGE(http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-oCsKkS9M-DI/TcVwoaSCu_I/AAAAAAAAB0w/le1NsY7KtME/s1600/leslie_vernon.png)

That film actually does look interesting, but it also seems to be doing something other than just trying to recreate another slasher icon. It also looks to start as satire, but then become something more. In other words, it starts by poking fun at the obvious tropes, but then subverts them with the film crew characters. You've now been introduced to the killer as well, you understand him as a human being, so there's something more to him than just this masked persona. If anything you know he's more vulnerable, which could give the protagonists a sort of chance to hope for.

But my concern would be, as usual, with the gore. I don't like cringing and that sort of thing can turn me off from buying a film. Cabin in the Woods is basically closer to my limitations in some ways, but fortunately shows nothing "bad".

I'm glad this topic has generated so much discussion. In a lot of ways it is merely reminding me that horror is a more interesting genre than it is often treated.

It is also thinking back that horror stories go way, way back in our culture. Technically a lot of fairy tales are a sort of horror story, reflecting fears or even the reality of the world. I mean, what is Little Red Riding Hood if not a horror tale of the woods?

What an interesting emotion to try and recreate. Though in some ways, I think it's more than just horror. As has been stated, sometimes it is a matter of shock value. Pushing the boundaries on expectations.

I actually found it interesting in a documentary on the History of Heavy Metal, where they had an episode on Shock Rock. It's sort of going for the same thing in a lot of ways, looking to generate an emotional reaction. They went over Alice Cooper, Venom, Marilyn Manson and Rammstein, observing how they approached it in their own manner. Yet at the end what I found most interesting was that Rammstein and Alice Cooper both said that they think you can't shock audiences these days like you once could, and the only way would be something like a live suicide, according to Rammstein. Or according to Alice Cooper, "to cut your arm off, but that's only good twice".

So maybe there is something to the new information age that makes it harder to be as thrilled or shocked, FSeven.

Tanglebones wrote:

I actually think literature's the best medium for horror, but games and movies are damn fine, too.

I agree with you completely about literature being the best medium for horror. No CGI is going to top your imagination. These days I consume most of my horror lit through podcasts, mainly the venerable Pseudopod and the newer Tales to Terrify.

FSeven wrote:

Anywho, I tend to prefer classic horror: slashers, Hellraiser, Poltergeist (probably my personal scariest), Exorcist (still scares me), and Phantasm.

Phantasm wormed its way into my nine year-old brain, especially that flying bladed ball. I had nightmares that my Hot Wheels were infected/possessed by the same thing and they'd chase me around my parent's house.

ccesarano wrote:

That film actually does look interesting, but it also seems to be doing something other than just trying to recreate another slasher icon. It also looks to start as satire, but then become something more. In other words, it starts by poking fun at the obvious tropes, but then subverts them with the film crew characters. You've now been introduced to the killer as well, you understand him as a human being, so there's something more to him than just this masked persona. If anything you know he's more vulnerable, which could give the protagonists a sort of chance to hope for.

I regard Behind the Mask as really just an homage. There are tons of easter eggs in the film which give nods to all the staples of horror. I think what I like so much about the movie is that it's trying to inject some new life into the classic slasher flick but doing it in a way which comports with how data driven the world has become.

Let's face it, in the 80's during the height of the slasher flicks, there was no Internet. For most people the world really only seemed as big as their local community. Urban legends were more, and I use this term loosely, believable. Since the advent of the Internet, by doing a simple search on something chances are it's been talked about ad nauseum, deconstructed, reconstructed, probably has a website about it complete with message boards, and it's probably been debunked on Snopes. It's taken the mystery out of a lot of things. For me, Behind the Mask seems to take all of this into account. The protagonist explains that there was nothing supernatural about guys like Jason or Meyers. They were just human specimens who worked their butts off. Lots of cardio, etc. It's still all completely silly but when you suspend your rational mind (just like we do to enjoy other horror flicks), in that moment of suspension, Behind the Mask makes it all a little more fathomable. It really is a cool movie with a few twists and turns that I hadn't seen coming.

So while many of the classic slasher series got sillier and sillier as their sequel numbers got higher (Jason X, Freddy vs. Jason, Halloween 5, etc.), which tainted the originals and diluted the slasher genre, I feel like Behind the Mask was trying to give the genre back some respectability.

OG_slinger wrote:

Phantasm wormed its way into my nine year-old brain, especially that flying bladed ball. I had nightmares that my Hot Wheels were infected/possessed by the same thing and they'd chase me around my parent's house.

It's such a bizarre horror movie. One of those that you can continually watch and always find something new.

I also forgot to mention Rob Zombie. I absolutely loved House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects and even liked what he did with his Halloween remake. Even wifey, who is a virtual Halloween encyclopedia, gave his remake the nod of approval. I would love to see him put out some more movies. I really liked how he developed the villians: Captain Spaulding, etc. Maybe that's what's missing from more modern horror? Aside from Jigsaw, it's hard to develop a villain icon when your villain is invisible (Paranormal Activity, Blair Witch), too numerous (Cabin in the Woods, zombie movies), or anything similar.

Ahh gotta love the Internet.

Full Behind the Mask movie on Youtube. 90 minutes long.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature...!

Horror movies for me or what gets to me the most are the ones that play on my personal horrors. Which have changed over time.

My very first movie i went to by myself at the movie theater was Evil Dead. I was 13 or so. I started near the front and had been scared sh*tless and almost left so many times that i was in the back row when it ended. When i was 16 and was with a buddy renting a vhs i told him we needed to get it because it was scary. We watched it and laughed our asses off at how crazy silly it was. Well and him at me for being a pussy.

The Blair Witch and these new Paranormal movies scare the sh*t out of me even though technically as a movie they suck. They just happened to hit on personal scare points.

The trick is to make a movie that hits that note across as wide a spectrum as possible. That's why we've seen these movies change over the years.

OG_slinger wrote:

Phantasm wormed its way into my nine year-old brain, especially that flying bladed ball. I had nightmares that my Hot Wheels were infected/possessed by the same thing and they'd chase me around my parent's house.

Movies like that didnt bother me when i was young for some reason. Reason i think i had such a hard time with Evil Dead is that i had just moved to TN from OH. We moved to the edge of a wildlife preserve and all that sh*t happening in the woods was just too much for me.

FYI I helped out on a movie a couple years ago that had Angus Scrimm in it. He's like one of the most adorable old men you'd meet.

FSeven wrote:

I also forgot to mention Rob Zombie. I absolutely loved House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects and even liked what he did with his Halloween remake. Even wifey, who is a virtual Halloween encyclopedia, gave his remake the nod of approval. I would love to see him put out some more movies. I really liked how he developed the villians: Captain Spaulding, etc. Maybe that's what's missing from more modern horror? Aside from Jigsaw, it's hard to develop a villain icon when your villain is invisible (Paranormal Activity, Blair Witch), too numerous (Cabin in the Woods, zombie movies), or anything similar.

I like the Rob Zombies movies. His new one looks like it's going to be just as good. I wasnt a fan of the Halloween remake though. It's like he tried to hard. There were too many moments that just didnt seem to mesh.

I was going to say that Poltergeist was the only movie that ever kept me up at night, but I had forgotten about Phantasm.

In Poltergeist the only scene that got me was the clown. I kept waking up, imagining those long arms snaking up from under the bed. Damn clowns. We watched Phantasm during a sleepover and even being surrounded by a bunch of other potential victims, something about it just tickled my brain stem in an unpleasant fashion. The ball didn't bother me so much, just the tone of the film. It's been so long that I can't put my finger on it.

Just remembered another horror moment that might have been my first existential crisis. One of Disneyland's attractions had a film that talked about the sun dying in a few billion years. As a little kid, I didn't understand the concept of a few billion years and thought the sun could go out at any moment. I remember trying to enjoy the electrical light parade while plunged into the depths of despair usually reserved for seventy-year-old alcoholics on their deathbeds. Now that was horror.

I like a good, unforgiving horror film that puts the viewer in a terrible place and lets them simmer in it. More of a Silent Hill than a Resident Evil, in game terms. Not big on jump scares, and I'm really not big on torture and gore. I can't watch a movie like SAW. I don't see any substance to it; it's just like looking at pictures of wounds on the internet.

FSeven wrote:

Let's face it, in the 80's during the height of the slasher flicks, there was no Internet. For most people the world really only seemed as big as their local community. Urban legends were more, and I use this term loosely, believable. Since the advent of the Internet, by doing a simple search on something chances are it's been talked about ad nauseum, deconstructed, reconstructed, probably has a website about it complete with message boards, and it's probably been debunked on Snopes. It's taken the mystery out of a lot of things

And yet just the other night I found myself getting out of my car around 1am and being disturbed by the eerie silence, looking around for fear of Slenderman, a creation I know was from the Internet.

Sometimes things can be so disturbing your rational mind just breaks way to the irrational. Or at least, it can for me. See my below comment on:

McFinn wrote:

Just remembered another horror moment that might have been my first existential crisis. One of Disneyland's attractions had a film that talked about the sun dying in a few billion years. As a little kid, I didn't understand the concept of a few billion years and thought the sun could go out at any moment. I remember trying to enjoy the electrical light parade while plunged into the depths of despair usually reserved for seventy-year-old alcoholics on their deathbeds. Now that was horror.

I was in middle school sitting in Church when I first grasped the notion of eternity. To this day the very thought of never-ending actually frightens the Hell out of me, and continues to be one of my greatest struggles with my faith oddly enough. What many people look for as a comfort in their faith is actually a really, really frightening concept to me.

Maybe that also explains some of why I like Lovecraft so much. Mortality, and therefore the end of all things, is natural. It is the pattern of our existence. Eternity is beyond my grasp of understanding and thus I am frightened of it. Something like Slenderman I acknowledge as being impossible, yet I can still be a grown adult scared of the dark because who knows what unnatural things it might hold.

Watcher in the Woods kept me up at nights.

McFinn wrote:

I was going to say that Poltergeist was the only movie that ever kept me up at night, but I had forgotten about Phantasm.

In Poltergeist the only scene that got me was the clown. I kept waking up, imagining those long arms snaking up from under the bed. Damn clowns. We watched Phantasm during a sleepover and even being surrounded by a bunch of other potential victims, something about it just tickled my brain stem in an unpleasant fashion. The ball didn't bother me so much, just the tone of the film. It's been so long that I can't put my finger on it.

Just remembered another horror moment that might have been my first existential crisis. One of Disneyland's attractions had a film that talked about the sun dying in a few billion years. As a little kid, I didn't understand the concept of a few billion years and thought the sun could go out at any moment. I remember trying to enjoy the electrical light parade while plunged into the depths of despair usually reserved for seventy-year-old alcoholics on their deathbeds. Now that was horror.

Speaking of which, Disney's Black Hole was a hell of a scary movie for its time; at least for a Disney movie. As was The Secret of Nimh.

The scariest story I've ever read was Lovecraft's The Colour Out of Space, though - still sticks with me 20ish years after reading-- every time I see trees swaying at night, I get a little spooked.

Tanglebones wrote:

Speaking of which, Disney's Black Hole was a hell of a scary movie for its time; at least for a Disney movie.

Black Hole was crazy dark for a Disney film. The crew freaked me out when I saw it as a kid and, even when I rewatched it recently, I still couldn't make heads or tails of the ending.

Tanglebones wrote:

The scariest story I've ever read was Lovecraft's The Colour Out of Space, though - still sticks with me 20ish years after reading-- every time I see trees swaying at night, I get a little spooked.

Here's an excellent audio version of it. If anyone hasn't read/heard it before, you should find yourself a nice quiet (and dark room) and strap yourself in for the next 90 minutes or so.

Tanglebones wrote:

Speaking of which, Disney's Black Hole was a hell of a scary movie for its time; at least for a Disney movie. As was The Secret of Nimh.

Still love both of those films. It was Dark Crystal that game be nightmares as a kid, however. That is a scary movie!

Mantid wrote:
Tanglebones wrote:

Speaking of which, Disney's Black Hole was a hell of a scary movie for its time; at least for a Disney movie. As was The Secret of Nimh.

Still love both of those films. It was Dark Crystal that game be nightmares as a kid, however. That is a scary movie!

Oh yeah.. but it was the slow horror of Kira's essence being drained out that really terrified me; not so much the Skeksis or the other monsters.

OG_slinger wrote:
Tanglebones wrote:

I actually think literature's the best medium for horror, but games and movies are damn fine, too.

I agree with you completely about literature being the best medium for horror. No CGI is going to top your imagination. These days I consume most of my horror lit through podcasts, mainly the venerable Pseudopod and the newer Tales to Terrify.

FSeven wrote:

Anywho, I tend to prefer classic horror: slashers, Hellraiser, Poltergeist (probably my personal scariest), Exorcist (still scares me), and Phantasm.

Phantasm wormed its way into my nine year-old brain, especially that flying bladed ball. I had nightmares that my Hot Wheels were infected/possessed by the same thing and they'd chase me around my parent's house.

I can't thank you enough for posting these! You introduced me to a genre of podcasting I did not know existed and I am thoroughly enjoying all of it.

ccesarano wrote:

Something like Slenderman I acknowledge as being impossible, yet I can still be a grown adult scared of the dark because who knows what unnatural things it might hold.

Going back to how horror films seem to have a muted effect and how perhaps the increased violence on TV and the Internet has desensitized us, I think it might be partially true and your referring to Slenderman brings up the other piece of the puzzle.

I'm 38 and the only time I've ever felt as scared as I did watching horror movies as a child is when I've played scary games. System Shock 2, Slenderman, Silent Hill, Dead Space, Condemned, Amnesia, Penumbra, FEAR, The Suffering. Some of these were so frightening I had to stop and walk away from the game, sometimes for days.

Maybe that's the next step in horror. The ability to interact with the nightmare in first person perspective.

FSeven wrote:
ccesarano wrote:

Something like Slenderman I acknowledge as being impossible, yet I can still be a grown adult scared of the dark because who knows what unnatural things it might hold.

Going back to how horror films seem to have a muted effect and how perhaps the increased violence on TV and the Internet has desensitized us, I think it might be partially true and your referring to Slenderman brings up the other piece of the puzzle.

I'm 38 and the only time I've ever felt as scared as I did watching horror movies as a child is when I've played scary games. System Shock 2, Slenderman, Silent Hill, Dead Space, Condemned, Amnesia, Penumbra, FEAR, The Suffering. Some of these were so frightening I had to stop and walk away from the game, sometimes for days.

Maybe that's the next step in horror. The ability to interact with the nightmare in first person perspective.

The most terrifying part of System Shock 2 was its sound design; hearing something in the distance and not seeing it was far worse than seeing a 1999 3D model of a monkey. Likewise with Amnesia and hiding in a cupboard while a monster sniffs around outside. This is where games (and movies) often fall down in my opinion - the ability to show icky things doesn't necessitate doing it. When the monster is unseen, imagination amplifies its effect on the psyche. This is, again, why I think literature is still the most horrific medium.

I liked The Descent (movie from I think 2005) for the same reason cited for System Shock 2. Knowing something is there but not being able to see it is much scarier than a bunch of gore. There are still movies out there that can and will scare the hell out of you but they are not necessarily slashers anymore.

ems777 wrote:

I liked The Descent (movie from I think 2005) for the same reason cited for System Shock 2. Knowing something is there but not being able to see it is much scarier than a bunch of gore. There are still movies out there that can and will scare the hell out of you but they are not necessarily slashers anymore.

Spoiler:

The Descent terrified me until the monsters turned up. The horror of getting trapped underground was way scarier than monsters.

yeah eventually they do show themselves but I think the movie still manages to keep the horror going.

I may be in the minority on this but I also thought that The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity (the first one) were excellent and you never see the antagonist in those.

ems777 wrote:

I may be in the minority on this but I also thought that The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity (the first one) were excellent and you never see the antagonist in those.

These really get to me due to personal experiences. My friends that saw them with me hated them because they could never just get into them.

ems777 wrote:

I may be in the minority on this but I also thought that The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity (the first one) were excellent and you never see the antagonist in those.

Was just talking about Blair Witch the other day. I had a pretty unique experience with that:

I actually got to see it about 1.5 years or so before it hit the big screens. One of my coworkers got a copy ("My boyfriend got it from a cholo in East LA") on VHS with a hand written title on masking tape on it. No one had heard of it, and back then there wasn't any snope stuff on the internet yet. There also wasn't any viral marketing yet, so when the only thing we found was a very realistic looking site dedicated to the Blair Witch research, we totally bought into it.

Throw in strong emotional memories of being freaked out in the woods at night from my scouting years, no previous 'found footage' films before it, and man, what an experience that was to watch it at home.

Cloverfield was great and the beast is only glimpsed in the first half. What's scary is the devastation in his wake and the stupidity of the main character.

Yeah I saw a foreign horror movie, The Baby's Room, and it uses a baby monitor as the central plot device. Really got to me as I had a newborn at the time and was using a video monitor.

Grenn wrote:

Cloverfield was great and the beast is only glimpsed in the first half. What's scary is the devastation in his wake and the stupidity of the main character.

What's scary is that someone can shrug off being impaled in the chest by a piece of rebar.

I still love Cloverfield, even if I have Pacific Rim to fill my "Godzilla with a better budget" niche now.

I haven't seen Blair Witch, but some of what I've heard actually does sound pretty frightening

Spoiler:

(my brother told me about the guy you hear screaming at night in the woods, and next morning his teeth are found).

From what I heard, it really captured that whole "fear of the unknown" thing, but when I hear people complain it's usually 1) how low budget it clearly was, and 2) you never saw anything. And to me, complaint two completely misses the point.

ccesarano wrote:

I still love Cloverfield, even if I have Pacific Rim to fill my "Godzilla with a better budget" niche now.

I haven't seen Blair Witch, but some of what I've heard actually does sound pretty frightening

Spoiler:

(my brother told me about the guy you hear screaming at night in the woods, and next morning his teeth are found).

From what I heard, it really captured that whole "fear of the unknown" thing, but when I hear people complain it's usually 1) how low budget it clearly was, and 2) you never saw anything. And to me, complaint two completely misses the point.

totally agree and the reveal at the end just hammers that point home