Modern Horror is all about butts in seats. But let's be honest, Horror is a genre's genre, and most of the people who produce it are in the field because they love dem seat butts. There is a formula, people. And that formula is easy for hacks to follow in order to make a quick buck. When people talk about the state of Horror films, they mostly speak from an "All is lost" perspective. The great Don't Look Now's of yesteryear are lost to buckets of blood and graphic torture. Where is the suspense! Where is the mystery! I've written a couple of blogs on the subject myself. And for a movie lover like me, it is painful to see other cinephiles scoffing at Horror films like they are the lowest form of entertainment. Even if they are.
Of course, when a Horror film does turn out to be good, its genre is always transferred to thriller. The Sixth Sense, The Silence of the Lambs, The Exorcist--all now widely written about as thrillers. Why? Because the very word, Horror, is demeaning to the film.
It reminds me of a joke from 30 Rock, where Alec Baldwin's character tries to stop Tina Fey from calling a man Mexican. "No, Lemon, don't call him that. That can't be what he wants to be called."
The fact is, Horror has always been a dead genre for film. Going as far back as Nosferatu, true cinema lovers often wonder why any intellectual would want to feel such a "feely" feeling as fear. Certainly tragic catharsis is the only true emotion an intellectual can have. But Tolstoy claimed that Comedy is for the intellectual and tragedy is for the commoner. Furthermore, an interesting thing about comedic films is that they are structurally quite similar to Horror films. Their purpose is similar as well.
I suppose I could write about the difference between the Saw franchise and the Paranormal Activity franchise as two ends of a Horror spectrum. One side being too gory and up-front, and one side being too slow expecting too much from too little. I suppose I could talk about Kevin Smith's newest film, Red State, and how it's trying to satire the very genre it becomes--and not very well. But I'm going to talk about something else instead. You've heard enough about these other things.
I want to talk about Horror fans.
More specifically, I want to talk about The Human Centipede (Full Sequence). Not because it's disturbing, disgusting, revolting, blah blah blah, but because it is extremely aware of the state of Horror fandom. And in this way (and, I promise, in this way alone), Tom Six's film is...kind of brilliant.
The first Human Centipede is a pretty standard torture porn film. It has the annoying young women, the creepy older villain, the gross-out shots of mouth-to-anus surgical binding. The usual suspects. Six's film is by no means the most repulsive movie I've ever seen (I'm looking at you Martyrs), but it is certainly in the same camp as something like High Tension or Inside.
The full sequence, however, is another beast altogether. It stars a man named Martin, fat, alone, sad, and the biggest Horror nerd you've ever met. He becomes obsessed with the original Human Centipede film and decides that he is going to attempt his own sequence. The film is shot in glorious black and white (to add an extra level of artifice) and uses unknown actors.
While the film kind of turns into one long poop joke, I can certainly appreciate what Tom Six is doing with the material. But I am also extremely upset by it. He is taking the common stereotype of a Horror nerd and putting him in the situation that the media absolutely loves to cover. This is the guy who shot his classmates because of Grand Theft Auto. He is the weak minded, highly malleable superfan that horror is famous for. He is the extremist.
Which brings me to my problem with the genre. Horror has some of the most devoted fanboys imaginable. When Horror films are released, they are sold to this demographic. The trailers are cut to please the guys and gals on the forums and fanboards who religiously say things like *Most Boring movie EVER UGH*. These are the most vocal supporters, and detractors, of any Horror franchise.
But what about the people who don't want franchises? What about the people who don't spend all of their time on forums? I suppose we just have to accept the extremes of the spectrum. Do I want to throw up when I go see Saw or do I want to fall asleep during Paranormal Activity 3? I don't want to do either, really. But, as politics has been split into extremes, so has Horror. We have liberal and conservative, and the moderates are the ones who suffer. Again and again.
It's not often that we get good Horror. It's sad really. But we can thank the few extremists who ruined it for everybody else.
Speaking of good Horror, I suppose I should let you guys in on my favorite Horror films of all time.
That's next in line, folks.