I'm an animated (and frequently loud) guy, but the truth is I'm kind of a baby. I can't watch the evening news for fear of some story about a dumpster baby or a dying child; I often trickle a tear at even the corniest of sincere sentiment; and aside from roller coasters I'm pretty much afraid of amusement park rides. So how is it that such a sensitive little Sally like me has become such a passionate student of the horror genre? Well that's a good question, and it's one that's fascinated parents, filmmakers and psychologists since long before I was born.
So to welcome in my favorite month of the year -- and to kick-start Cinematical's month-long ode to all things related to scary cinema -- I thought I'd get the ball rolling on the WHY of the horror film. As in: Why do completely normal and emotionally healthy people enjoy producing, watching and dissecting pieces of art / entertainment that are A) grim, B) brutal, C) terrifying, and / or D) frequently unpleasant to look at?
The answers are as numerous as you can imagine, but I'll offer a few opinions before welcoming the month of mayhem:
1. People like seeing things on the screen that they'd never want to see in reality: Imagine if Friday the 13th actually happened. It'd be too freakin' tragic to imagine. (Anyone remember Gainesville?) But toss a bunch of fictional teenagers up on the screen and we get to experience a vicarious little thrill. Some might even say that horror movies are healthy and cathartic. Some like me.
2. The roller coaster effect: With very few exceptions, roller coasters are totally safe -- yet amazingly scary. It's that people can fill their brain with 90% terror -- and yet still there's that 10% that reminds us how safe we actually are. Plus it feels pretty good to come out of a nasty little horror movie and see that the sun's still shining, babies are still beautiful, and life's a whole lot better for you than it was for the screaming victims you just said goodbye to.
3. The craftsmanship! I fully understand why the mega-gooey gore in John Carpenter's The Thing is simply not for all tastes. And that's great. Personally I can't see the appeal of TV shows about lawyers and/or doctors, but I know there's some great stuff out there. But to a 14-year-old discovering The Thing for the first few times, it's a pretty big deal. I went from terrified by the movie to fascinated by its creation. Plus, c'mon ... Rob Bottin's effects work is the pure movie magic. Graphic and disgusting, yep, but absolutely beautiful too.
So there. All I know is I get just a little more excited to see stuff like 30 Days of Night and The Mist than I do for most comedies and dramas. I'll get some arguments for this assertion, but I believe that "horror" is the purest genre there is. If a filmmaker knows what he's doing, he can have you in the palm of his hand for two hours. And that's fun. So hopefully I've inspired a few Halloween Grinches to re-think their position and run out to rent a few horror flicks. If you're looking for a few 'under-the-radar' options, I'll offer a little list before I go. If you're a crazy genre junkie like I am, then you've probably seen most of these, but hey, one can only watch Halloween so many times in one month.
Oh, and be sure to stick with the Cinematical creeps all month long! Here's just a gory chunk of what we'll be offering: "Retro" reviews on Dawn of the Dead, Poltergeist, The Fly, Rosemary's Baby, etc.; Cinematical Sevens on sub-genres, Stephen King and flicks for the wimps; and a whole lot more door-creakin' craziness. Plus a lot of info on horror movies that (get this!) aren't even out yet! Creeeeeepy! And as a very special month-long bonus, be sure to check out Moviefone's 31 Days of Horror calendar!
Oh yeah, a rental list. Please do try some of these DVDs on for size: May, Frailty, Dog Soldiers, Mute Witness, From Beyond, Session 9, Hatchet, Below, Isolation, Severance, Death Line, Ravenous, The Devil's Backbone, Event Horizon, The Host, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, Wrong Turn and Wrong Turn 2. Let me know if you need more.