I often get asked why I like horror films and what enjoyment I get out of them. Horror seems to be a very misunderstood genre, and especially in films there are many different types of horror.
So why do I like horror films? That is a tough one to answer, so I think it is time to tackle that one. Firstly as I stated above there are many different types of horror, you have horror/comedy such as Re-Animator or Evil Dead II. You have the slasher horror such as Friday the 13th and its sequels. You have brutal horror such as Last House On The Left or I Spit On Your Grave. You then have Vampire horror, Werewolf horror, and so forth. Yes, many, many different types and for the most part I am a fan of all the different types of horror.
The horror/comedy does not always work, so sometimes that can be a big fail. I believe a perfect example of a horror/comedy that works is Re-Animator, and for anyone that knows me I classify Re-Animator as my favourite horror film. The film works on so many levels, the acting is great, the script is sharp, and it is just a lot of fun. If you check out the unrated version is it rather gorey, I know people can't handle that, but I can and you know what, I get a kick out of it. There is a scene in particular where someone gets their head cut off, and it actually works in a rather amusing way because the head and the body both get re-animated and walked around and cause trouble. Just read that if you haven't seen the film you're either thinking, no I will pass or hell yeah gimme gimme! Its funny, its bloody, its good fun.
Moving to the slasher genre, again it is hit and miss, you either want to have characters you care about and when they bite the dust it hurts. Or you want a really groovy bad character, with idiot minor characters who you want to see get sliced up. Now either one, when done well, works. Sometimes they are done so bad that they are just really funny and you still enjoy them. Others just make you wish the badie would end it for you, so you don't have to watch such rubbish. Theres something sickly fun about rooting for the badie, maybe its because deep down theres some pleasure to be had in seeing people you can't stand get it in brutal ways? A great example for me was The Tripper which was written and directed by David Arquette. The Tripper is about a bunch of hippies who get targeted by a Ronald Reagen masked killer. I found the hippies to be so damn annoying, I wanted them to get it. The actual back story to the killer worked well too, and he really did me a favour by offing the hippies. I had a lot of fun with the film, and that folks was David's intention. A slasher film where I acually scared for the characters was actually the originally April Fools Day, I honestly didn't really want to see anyone go. The fantastic surprise ending (I wont spoil) almost gave me a heart attack! Those feelings however are good to have, and in the end I enjoyed the film and I felt everything was done perfectly.
I'll move on to more brutal horror films, which is probably a lot more difficult to explain. What pleasure does one get out of a film like that? Well you know what, there isn't a lot, and films like this remind you that life isn't always peachy keen, unfortunately there are bad people out there and bad things happen to all of us. In the case of Last House On The Left (original), it is brutal, it isn't easy to watch. Two innocent teenage girls meet the wrong group of people, these people know they are sick, and even their behaviour I believe made them sick. For their thrills, they torture and kill these two girls. The scenes are not always easy to watch, it is brutal and raw and it does remind you things like this happen (Think of the Manson Family murders), but these guys do not get away with it. Revenge happens, and there is a bit of satisfaction to be had there, but was it worth it? All this leaves it open for debate and it makes you think. And that is what I want in a film too, I want it to make me think about it afterwards, I want to feel conflicted about it. Last House works in that way, and yes I do think if the bumbling cops were left out or handled differently the film would be more brutal. The same can be said about I Spit On Your Grave, another very brutal film, hard to watch at times and again it has the revenge theme in it. Another seemingly innocent women gets brutally attacked and raped by some men, and one by one she gets them back. As a woman, I felt those pigs had what was coming to them, the brutality of what they did to her, I mean you felt it was warrented. I know people who agree and disagree, and again it is what I want out of a film, discussion, thinking and all the rest. Listening to the directors commentary really opens up about what ideas he had about the film, and how he had found a rape victim and agains my feelings about the film got stronger. It is another reminder that we live in a messed up world, and if put in the situation of the main character would we do the same thing? I am a fan of the revenge film, we all feel like getting revenge one time or another and ones like this I think really make you think, and feel things. The more brutal, the more harsh they are, the more affect they can actually have (Whether that brutally is shown on screen or not).
Moving to horror involving mythical creatures such as werewolves and vampires, why are they appealing? Well I find them interesting, how the myth has evolved over time, and how the films have changed since the 30's. Personally one of my favourite horror films with vampires is Near Dark. What I liked about it, is a lot of 'hollywood' mythos are gone, no bs with garlic, no bs with crosses, its straight to the point. Avoid the sun, and feed. And it works, fantastic characters, mixed in with a love story that works (They dont always work and these two had great chemistry). Another film where there is a good conflict, for me I didn't really feel the vampires were bad, they were doing what they had to do, to survive. And the introduction of a new person can certainly ruin a good thing. The themes are clear in the film, and you know its a good ride. It has its gorey moments and the way in which they are done are actually quite well and fitting, it felt justified. You have films that use excess gore just to shock, but it does work when fitting. For me its a great and enjoyable film and I think the situation works with or without vampires.
Hopefully I've offered some insight to a very misunderstood genre. I am sure I'll get asked why I like something so sick as Hostel, but again it relates to what I discussed about the brutal horror film. While things are very excessive in Hostel, I think it works for the film. I don't think it worked so much with Saw, but I am not a huge fan of Saw having only seen the first two.
Well folks until next time....
Oh and if you want to further your horror reading, check out Arrow in the Head, via JoBlo.com, I am proud to say I am mentioned in the AITH's latest podcast, a big thanks there :)