Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Fraud of the Dead

Spring boarding off yesterday’s topic, horror movies have seen yet another resurgence in popularity (they seem to have one every 10-15 years), while at the same time they have declined in quality.

The origin of the horror genre is found in the old medieval morality play. Audiences were scared as they witnessed a person reap the consequences of poor judgment. Early on in film history, that was the formula for horror. Audiences were scared on an intellectual level. They left the theater with disturbing ideas and thoughts that stuck with them. The films scared because they delivered messages hidden in creepy unnatural elements.

Audiences today find the old horror, from the Universal variety up through Rosemary’s Baby and the Exorcist, boring because they have been fed a steady diet of thrills and adrenaline inducing jumps. Moviemakers have by in large taken the easy, lazy route to fear and tapped into instinct rather than intellect.

George Romero contributed greatly to today’s crop of “Torture-Porn” (movies that substitute gore for scares) when he made his cheap independent Zombie movies in the 70s and 80s. His “Dead” films do not induce fear. Disgust and fear both produce aversion, but they are not the same thing.

This is not to say that there is no place for gore in horror; or that the only good horror movies are those with a message. The ultimate measure of a good horror film is: does it scare? In the last several years the best movies on that scale have tended to be the ones that show little to no gore and more creepiness derived from the “out of place” or unnatural. The Japanese Horror Genre or Spanish input such as last year’s “El Orfanato” are some of the best the genre has produced in a decade.

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