A Bloody Good Time 8.23.12: Why I Love Horror Movies
Posted by Joseph Lee on 08.23.2012
From Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream to the classic Universal monsters and new hits like Cabin in the Woods, why does horror have such a hold on us? The 411 staff gives their thoughts!
Opening Logo courtesy of Benjamin J. Colón (Soul Exodus)
Welcome to A Bloody Good Time.
Last week I looked at why a remake of The Evil Dead is a terrible idea. In a rare moment here on ABGT (and really, 411mania), no one disagreed with me! Let's see what you had to say.
Levikeinz replied: I was hoping you mentioned Cabin in the Woods. I think that movie rendered horror's most overused cliches (like Evil Dead's entire premise) completely useless.
I think those movies still work on their own, but if you attempt to make a new film with those same elements then yeah, it's pretty much been rendered moot.
Guest#8463 said: Remakes are a complete and utter waste of time. What remake didn't suck? Name one. You can't because they all suck. Especially horror remakes. Evil dead was greater than the sum of it's parts; it was all the intangibles things that made it work. Don't even get me fucking started on Cabin in the woods.
Not all remakes suck. John Carpenter's The Thing, The Fly and The Blob, just to name a few good remakes.
Guest#5967 added: I've always thought remakes were best used for great ideas that suffered from poor execution the first time. This movie is sort of the opposite of that.
Yeah, there are a number of obscure horror films that suffered from being great ideas with poor execution. The problem is that they're obscure, so no one in Hollywood cares. They don't think they can improve upon the original, they just want the name value. Which makes a remake of The Evil Dead even more mind-boggling.
AG Awesome suggested: I dont know if anybody has listened to (or even gone to see) the Evil Dead Musical, but I feel that if they made it into a movie there would be a lot more forgiveness. The musical covers 1, 2, and the S-mart portion of Army of Darkness and fits the story into an amazing retelling. The music in it is fun and hilarious, the tone of the whole thing gets the horror and humor perfectly. Plus as a pseudo remake we wont all have to be offended since it isnt doing anything to damage the original.
I agree and have said something similar to friends. A big-screen version of the musical would be preferable to a flat-out remake. It would be something completely different while retaining the love for the original.
This week, it's not just me ranting at you, as I've managed to grab several of my fellow 411 staff members to explain just why we love this crazy genre known as horror. You may remember we did something like this three years ago, detailing our first horror films which eventually paved the way for this. But I thought it would be great to have several fans explain exactly why they love being scared or watching someone get cut up in a gruesome fashion. It's not just guys from the movie zone, as all types of writers decided to pitch in.
So I'm going to take a backseat this week, only giving my own personal thoughts at the end. Until then, let's start with a guy who was here the last time we pulled this together.
Ben Piper (Fact or Fiction: Movies moderator)
I think the reason why horror movies strike a resonant chord for me is because when done right, it has to do with something primordial. After all, horror movies help shine a light on the darkness in the world around us, and in us all. Horror movies hold a mirror up to us and help reflect our fears and anxieties, and allow us to confront them in a helpful and entertaining way. And again, when done right, elevate our heart rates and thrill us in a way that is both visceral and completely enthralling.
Whether it is confronting our own human darkness, the fear of the unknown (The Thing) or confronting the supernatural, (The Exorcist, Paranormal Activity) horror movies help provide an invaluable service to us as viewers by allowing to look at our fears from an outside perspective, to where not only can we see them in a new way, but we can also hopefully come away from it completely thrilled with an adrenaline high.
Horror gets a bad rap for all the tired retreads and "been there done that" of it all. After all, for the most part they are cheap to make so it isn't outside the norm for people in the entertainment industry to jump on the bandwagon, steal what worked for previous successful efforts and try to run it up the flagpole once or twice again hoping for a net result in the box office.
But when it's really done right, it transcends the genre and elevates it. I personally agree with Mr. Lee in his inclination that Silence Of The Lambs is a horror movie, and it swept the major Academy Awards that year. The Exorcist is considered a classic movie, and it's hard to argue against that, as it still holds up to this day.
Two of the best recent horror movies I have watched actually can be considered horror comedies, as both Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil and Cabin In The Woods don't really qualify as being ‘scary' per se. But both were completely original in their takes on the genre and provided gore galore in abundance while really being greatly entertaining in their own right.
Horror gets a bad rap. For when you get the right people involved and interested in the material it stops from being a pure logistic cash grab and elevates into being a great movie, period. That's why we still remember Bride of Frankenstein eighty years after it was originally made.
And that is why horror remains relevant and important. Because once again, when it's done truly right? It is awesome fun. And that's why for all the tired remakes and retreads and bullshit that the studios throw our way? Every once in a while, we all get rewarded with something quite great that we can tell our friends, family, and anyone else whose ear we can get into that this is something that they should see, squeamishness be damned.
And yeah, there's also the fact that it's fun to be truly scared, not knowing what to expect next, as you sit in a darkened theater as things play out. Afterwards, you get to walk out of the movie, tell your friends how f**ked up that movie was, (And when I use that term in regard to horror, I usually mean it in a good way) and decompress in the afterglow of what you just saw.
I love good horror movies. I don't like bad, lazily constructed horror fluff churned out to make a cheap buck. You bring me the real deal? My ass is in the seat. Take my money, please. For horror has a functionality and serves a purpose in our society. And for all the lame direct to DVD chaff, (as well as more than a few theatrical releases) when it's done good, right and proper? (which admittedly, is few and far between) THAT is why I have and will continue to love horror movies.
Todd Vote (411 Games Reviewer)
When I first started watching horror movies, clear back when Moby Dick was a minnow, it was the thrill of being scared, of not knowing how these people would get out of the terrifying situation they have found themselves stuck in. Another aspect that has always drawn me to horror is trying to figure out how I would handle the situation. Would I too, always run up the stairs when the best, most obvious answer is to just get the hell out of the house?
As I've gotten older, my views on the horror genre have changed. Very rare are the moments that offer legit scares these days. I still love it when a movie manages to scare me, and it does still happen, and it is great!! Instead, most movies going for shock value, or torture porn as some call it. While I am not a fan of people being tortured, I am a fan of the quick, creative kills. Don't get me wrong, I am about as far from a violent man as one can get, never even been arrested and haven't been in a fight since I was in highschool. But if a horror movie can make my jaw drop with the way they just did away with that naked teenager, then I'm happy.
Kane Hodder's Jason Voorhees was always one I looked forward to watching, you could always tell he loved playing the role, and had so many mannerisms for the character that really helped to make it his own. I remember an interview with Hodder, I believe on the extra DVD features for Jason X, where he was talking about keeping the kills different and exciting. to illustrate what he meant, he gave an example of how the script for the movie called for Jason to snap the neck of one of the space marines. Hodder stated how we've seen Jason do this before, so to make it seem a bit different, he opted to slowly crank on the neck until it snapped. Keep it fresh, show them something new, it should be the mantra of the horror genre.
Bryan Kristopowitz (The Gratuitous B-Movie Column)
Why am I a fan of the horror genre? Well, for one thing, it's really the only genre that demands you find a way to scare the audience for some reason. You can scare the audience if you want in an action movie or even a straight drama, but it's not required. With a horror movie, you have to find a way to make the audience freak out, intimidated, or weirded out. If you can't, or if you don't even try to scare the crap out of the audience, you're not making a horror movie. And it doesn't matter if the scary stuff is balls-to-the-wall gory, subtle and all about suspense, or if it's all intellectual. As long as it's meant to scare you, it's horror.
The horror genre is also the only genre that forces the audience to accept the possibility of an unhappy ending. Sometimes you will be able to defeat the monster, but more often than not you're just fighting that monster to a draw and it'll be back in a few minutes, ready to do battle with you again. And the monster, much like life, isn't interested in what has happened to you, whether or not you're a good person, a bad person, or someone who really cares about the world. That monster is there to destroy you because that's what it does. How are you going to handle knowing that? It's a good primer for life in general. You have to be willing to accept that you can lose. But you're still going to keep fighting anyway. You have to. You don't want the monster to win.
But then, above all else, you really don't have to take what the horror genre is telling you about life in general seriously. It doesn't care if you don't latch on to the darkness or revel in the possibility of the main character, despite decapitating the monster and throwing its body down the elevator shaft into the wood chipper in the basement, not getting out of the movie alive. The genre is okay with you thinking it's all one big joke. For some reason I just find that reassuring. The action genre does this every now and then, too, but not as consistently.
Accepting oblivion. Fighting monsters. Blood and guts. A shadowy figure hiding in the closet waiting to jump out. Laughter (well, you know, uneasy laughter). That's what's so great about the horror genre.
Sean Garmer (411 Games Top 5 Moderator)
I´ve really never thought about how I would answer this question until we in the 411 staff were asked.
I think most of my fandom at first came from having this sort of secret love of wanting to be scared and see things like gore on a movie screen. I also wanted to see if it would stay with me afterwards in nightmares or random thoughts. I remember the first time I watched "The Exorcist" in Junior High, I was crazy scared of seeing Linda Blair spider walk down the stairs and then to watch "the demon" spin her head around. Of course, when I watched the film in college I could not help but laugh at the "scares." I was still a little freaked out with the "demon rape" scene though. Freddie Kruger was another one of my childhood frights as well.
In high school, I will admit that part of the reason I was into horror films so much was because they were a very good place to see naked chicks or have a could laugh with some friends at the stupid scenes. However, as time went on I learned to love horror films for a entirely different reason. I´ve always wanted to be in the journalism field, and high school was when I got my first crack at really getting to try out. So, I had to start watching the news on television and reading the newspaper as well. I quickly understood what made horror films so awesome. I could watch a horror movie and have any number of emotions at watching the characters die in gruesome, sadistic, or humorous ways. When I watched the news I could only react in one way, with sadness.
In college, I was lucky enough to become roommates with one of the biggest true horror fans there is. My now best friend, Gary, showed me many Italian horror films like Dario Argento ´s "Suspira" and Fulci´s "Zombi." I learned to appreciate true artists of the horror genre and see what made each one of them special. From the way Argento tells stories and creates some of the most terrifying deaths to the way John Carpenter created a legend with Halloween. I had an extra disc on my Netflix order just so that Gary and I could watch horror films at least three or four times a week. We became enthralled with the "Masters of Horror" series on Showtime and by the "8 Films to Die For" independent films. Pretty much any time there was a horror movie we probably went to see it in the theater whether it was terrible or awesome.
Nowadays, I am married and have a daughter so I cannot really go around watching scary movies all the time. However, I try to catch the latest ones like "Cabin in the Woods" or "Don´t Be Afraid of the Dark." I really appreciate that Mr. Lee has this column so that horror movie fans can unite and have a place to banter about one of the most hated or beloved genres in all of film. If anything, horror films have desensitized me to being scared by real life occurrences, even though I still loathe the news. I have learned a few things from these films though, chief among them, is that your status in life is worth fighting for because you could always be worse off than someone else. I mean, at least you are not at the other end of Jason´s blade or Leatherface´s chainsaw.
Jeremy Thomas (Music Zone Editor, Writer of The Movie Zone 8 Ball, Music Zone 8 Ball, Music Zone Top 5, 411 Music Buy or Sell...is there anything this guy doesn't do for 411?)
You know, you would think the answer to a question like "Why do you like horror?" would be easy. And I suppose that on some level. The simple answer is this: scary movies are fun. But obviously, there's more to answering such a question. WHY are scary movies so much fun? What is it about slasher films, ghost stories, exorcist flicks, monster movies and all the myriad variety of horror films that appeals to us...or in this case, to me?
I believe that the answer, when I really think about it, goes back to the fact that I always loved horror as a kid. Yes, I was one of those kids. I wasn't watching Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Cannibal Holocaust in my elementary school years or anything, but it did start at an early age with the Universal horror monsters like Frankenstein and Dracula. They are creepy to a kid and there was something that definitely struck a chord with me. If you had asked me at the time I probably would have just said that they were cool, but more to the point they were something forbidden, something that could not be. Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney Jr. may be more quaint than terrifying to anyone over thirteen, but when you're six and seven those guys are damn frightening. And I liked being scared.
Actually, no...I loved it. That's not the kind of thing a six or seven year-old can really reason out, and thus they were "cool." But yeah, I really liked being scared, the anticipation building up to that shock moment and then the relief that follows after. Psychologists have done studies on this and they theorize that people like scary movies either because they like to feel relieved after the credits roll, or they're just the cinematic equivalent of adrenaline junkies. There are a rare few of us, we devotees of horror, who feel both. We love that build up, creeping to the edge of our seat as the Promiscuous Girl and Meathead Jock slip into the Abandoned House where the Masked Serial Killer once lived for a close encounter. It isn't necessarily that we get off on violence and gore, like some critics of horror suggest. We like that feeling of tension, because it makes us feel more alive. And the relaxation, the relief afterward, that's an added bonus.
So that's how I got into horror. But how did it stick with me? Well, like any adrenaline junkie-in-training, I wanted to push that level. However, my parents were careful about what I could watch and thus certain levels of horror were forbidden at a younger age. Well, we all know what happens when you tell a child that something is off-limits: they want it all the more. And thus I ended up finding ways to get my hands on more adult, sophisticated horror. Now I was loving the adrenaline and digging the relief, but it was enhanced because I was watching it quietly downstairs lest my parents wake up and ground me. By the time I was approaching junior high, it was over--I was a horror addict for life and I would always be looking for my fix.
And like any junkie, I moved on to other things. Universal Monsters were a gateway drug into The Lost Boys, then Freddy and Jason and then Pinhead, Leatherface, Near Dark and so on. I grew up and my tastes grew up with me; as I got more access to horror, I branched out. Horror comedies became a favorite of mine, because what's a better release than the relief you feel after a fright? Laughing in the middle of a gorefest. Psychological horror was particularly good as it would really mess with your mind. I made my way into other countries' horror films and J-Horror, K-Horror, giallo and the like all became favorites.
In the end, I think the reason why I still like horror today--even when there's a lot of crap that litters the genre (The Devil Inside, Silent House and Intruders, I'm looking at you guys)--is that it makes me feel like a kid again, with all the wonderment that entails. Horror still feels like forbidden territory, something taboo. And it's fun to break the rules. It's also a lot of fun to be scared...you know, assuming you're not actually living a horror film. So yeah, it all comes back to the same thing. I like horror because scary movies are fun.
Joseph Lee (That's me!)
No one has ever asked me why I loved horror before. It's amazing that the question has never come up, since people who learn about my love usually have one of three reactions: 1) They shrug and think I'm weird. 2) They also love horror (these people become my friends). 3) They laugh derisively, say horror is stupid and we quickly move on to something else (these people I don't talk to much). But no one's ever really asked me why I traveled 100 miles two months ago just to get choked by Kane Hodder for a photo. No one seems to care why I've seen Pet Sematary at least 100 times. It's just one of those things that people who know me accept.
Here's what I know. Being scared gives me a rush. It's a safe kind of rush too. Nothing's really going to get me. There are no boogeymen hiding under my bed waiting to grab my feet when I slip them over. I can have a rush of adrenaline and not have to endanger myself like someone who uses drugs or tries extreme stunts would. It's a safe way to experience fear without ever having to actually experience real fear.
Of course not every horror film is scary. I've never been scared of the Puppet Master dolls and yet I've seen every movie in that series. So why would someone want to watch another person die? When I was a kid it was just to see things I hadn't seen before. Now that I'm older I tend to like to enjoy how the effects were pulled off, how utterly nasty some films try to be and just laughing at the misfortunes of fictional characters to forget, just for a few hours, that there are real horrors in the world. I watched Freddy Krueger then because I wanted him to scare me. I watch Freddy Krueger now because I find his dark humor hilarious. While I don't get scared as much as I used to (but it does still happen), horror still finds new ways to entertain me as a movie fan and that's why I prefer it to any other genre.
It's hard to explain why anyone would love a specific thing over another. I can tell you that Halloween is one of my favorite movies of all time, or that I would rather sit down and watch Basket Case or Re-Animator over anything by Terrence Malick. I can tell you that, but unless you too are a horror fan, you aren't really going to understand. Normal people don't understand why it's fun to be scared in a safe setting or why it's fun to watch that man's head explode in Scanners over and over.
As I've said before, I was told my certain members of my family that I would "grow out" of horror...when I was a teenager. That was a long time ago and I've still got a Jason poster on my wall. I still have a Freddy glove on my bookshelf. I still have more horror movies in my collection than I really know what to do with. At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter to me why I love horror, just that I do. I've loved it since I was young, I love it now, and I'll love it until the day I die, which hopefully happens when I find LeMarchand's Box, unleash the cenobites and I tell Pinhead how flipping cool he is.
That's it for me. Why do you love horror? Leave some comments here on or my Twitter. Next week, I stay positive and reveal ten movies that everyone else seems to hate, but I don't think are that bad. So I'm pretty much expecting flames.
Closing Logo courtesy of Kyle Morton (get your own custom artwork and commissions at his Etsy account)
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