Thursday, November 01, 2012

Random idle thoughts about the horror genre:

One of the benefits of taking a class about horror fiction (besides rereading stories and books I haven't read in a long time with a much different perspective) is being in an environment with people who aren't necessarily horror fans (it's an English Honors class) or who aren't horror buffs who have seen and read everything.  Through their experience with the texts, I'm allowed - in a strange way - to look at some works from a fresh perspective (with some interesting insights to the genre).

I told my classmates as much the other day but then I got to thinking about the sentiment further after I watched Black Sunday and thought about what I was going to say in my review.  It's a tough thing being a genre fan because you know what's coming, you know the tropes, the archetypes, the twists, and in a certain way desensitized - or perhaps more accurately unimpressed due to familiarity - therefore being at risk of turning into an overly critical, cranky, know-it-all (who really doesn't know all that much) who people think hates everything (not that I would know anything about that).

In a strange way this familiarity doesn't breed contempt so much as it takes the fun out of watching (or reading).  Example: We were assigned Du Maurier's brilliant short story "Don't Look Now" (1971).  About halfway through the story I had this nagging suspicion that I knew the piece though I had never read it.  As the story progressed I realized that I had seen Don't Look Now (1973) and was vaguely disappointed by knowing the shock waiting for me at the end of the piece.  Sure, I felt a little bit of pride and "Ohhhhhh, it's that movie." but still I got to the end and it didn't blow me away.  I basically spoilered myself.

There's also a tough habit to break (especially if I'm not involved in a movie) where I simply begin dissecting the movie while making jokes (I can't help but think of a coroner who eats a sandwich while saying rude shit about the corpse on the table).  I'm looking at the technical aspects.  I'm more interested in set dressing than I am in the action.  The bad writing becomes much more apparent.  If I'm lucky I can go glassy-eyed and just stare at the pictures on the tv box (or I'll put on some nature show narrated by Richard Attenborough or Patrick Stewart).

However, if a movie does engage me I'll sit there in rapt attention like a toddler (though I'll say to myself, or Moxie, or the person I'm watching it with, almost shocked, "This is actually really fucking good").  Those movies usually end up as favorites that I do my best to show other people.  One of my favorite modern horror movies  is Eduardo Sanchez's Altered (2006).  Every time I watch it, usually showing someone else for their first time, I get completely into it.  It's just so well done and I can't think of a single movie I've seen like it.  I think I've seen it probably a dozen times.  Strange that I've never done a review of it.  Gonna have to remedy that.

This has gotten a bit meandering and I need to start drafting the 1000th post so I'm gonna leave you folks with a very rough top ten of my favorite horror movies.  I call these favorites because of the number of times I have rewatched them and "enjoy" every time for a laundry list of reasons.  Yes, there are some of them which might not be "horror" movies but contain shit that scared me or have left an indelible grisly mark on me.  I'm considering doing a top 25 with a short review of each because this list is made up primarily of movies I've seen the most and does not include favorites I've seen less than a half-dozen times (e.g. Romero's original Night of the Living Dead, Rob Zombie's The Devil's Rejects, and Medak's The Changeling).

  1. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) dir Tobe Hooper
  2. Poltergeist (1982) dir Tobe Hooper
  3. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) dir Steven Spielberg
  4. Dog Soldiers  (2002) dir Neil Marshall
  5. Altered (2006) dir Eduardo Sanchez
  6. The Thing (1982)  dir John Carpenter
  7. Alien (1979) dir Ridley Scott
  8. The 'Burbs (1989) dir Joe Dante
  9. Predator (1987) dir John McTiernan
  10. Jaws (1975) dir Steven Speilberg


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