Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Horror, The Horror

While I fully endorse the apparently eminent zombification of North America and its attendant territories (what up, Guam?), I have to admit that, if society was going to be playing by the rules as set forth by a generation of horror movies, I would be woefully unprepared. My taste in "horror" movies skews to a funnier set; my scares often come with hysterical giggling after. Unrelenting fear usually finds me hiding in the kitchen, pretending to cook lunch. In reality, I'm totally avoiding the scary music.

I figure I come by it honestly; when I was 10, prime time for easing into horror movies, my sister was six and my brother was two. Movie nights were still family movie nights. As my siblings got older, their interests lay mainly with the Disney clamshells. My brother watched Robin Hood three times a week for two years - even now, whistling that opening tune brings me right back. My parents, especially my mom, weren't interested in letting Freddy Krueger babysit her children. The wholesome upbringing probably did a lot to damper down my latent anxiety, but it didn't do much to prepare me for horror flicks fifteen years down the line.

Everyone's definition of horror is different - for some, it's gorefests like Saw, while others like the atmospheric creepiness of The Sixth Sense, or the craziness of Antichrist, or the teen-slasher classics like Scream. Going back, we can choose from Carrie, Poltergeist, The Exorcist, Nightmare on Elm Street, Child's Play, Night of the Living Dead, and a slew of other classic, and not-so-classic, movies. There's every level of bloodshed, every level of scariness, every possible villain, and, in the teen-slasher flicks, tons of nipples. Seriously.

While I don't often watch horror movies, I'll reading the living crap out of a big fat scary book. Somehow I'm able to handle it a little better. I guess folk wisdom dictates that books are supposed to be scarier than movies, because books can let your imagination wander. But I've always been a pretty visual girl. Scary movies? With the freaky music and the crash zooms on people's guts falling out or evil little girls? I am affected. That shit is scary! Somehow, I can read The Shining and then fall into a deep and dreamless sleep. Show me an unsettling film and I'll be up at three in the morning, wondering if I'm going hear the slow creak of the closet door, or if I'll just be stabbed to death by vicious clowns.

Horror movies make us face some of our ickiest fears. None of us sit around after work, planning for when the homicidal maniac rolls out from under our bed. Horror is useful for folks to get all sweaty about something scary in a safe way. Humans like looking at gory things. Could the Roman colosseum be considered an early outlet for our love of watching entrails blorp all over the floor? Maybe. All I know is, movies, with their corn-syrup blood, are a much more humane way of exploring our dark side. We can identify with the victims, sure, with their squishy parts all over the place; but, and it's not always charming to admit it, the killers are often pretty damned magnetic. We're drawn to the power, the violence, the single-minded commitment to mayhem and craziness. Villains that strike a balance between gentility and insanity - Hannibal Lecter is one notable example - are so interesting to watch. They make us second-guess what we think we know about evil. And villains that don't - all the possessed girls and hockey-mask-wearing nuts - are kind of fun too, with their gleeful destruction of their victims.

Toronto is one of the cities, uh, "blessed" with a horror (/sci-fi/action - basically anything where the probability of one of the characters getting a slug to the guts is fairly high) movie festival, and it joins New York, LA, Edinburgh, Cape Town, and loads of others in showcasing some of the newest releases and most memorable classics, along with all the freako flicks that aren't going to get the Criterion treatment any time soon. If you'd prefer to catch up on your horror content while lounging in the tub, grab a copy of Rue Morgue or Fangoria, magazines that specialize in the bloodier side of cinema. Horror movies are big business, an indelible part of our collective pychosocial imprint, and divisive in their likability.

I need to get over the fear and the gross-out factor and see some of these movies. I'm not going to sit through stupid films, but a lot of horror movies might be considered classics at this point, and they can appeal to my film-snob side as well as dangling fresh hunks of bloody human in front of me. Bring on the brains! Bring them with fava beans and a nice chianti! I will eat every bite.

1 comment:

  1. I'll show you some films. Oh you'll see...