FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Mar 6, 2006

Easy like Monday mornin'

I spent about 24 out of the last 72 hours driving...driving...driving! Fucking A is Pennsylvania big. It should totally be broken up into several smaller states. Yes, I realize driving from the Midwest to New England would take just as long, but I'd really feel like I was accomplishing something during that time- you know, passing through 4 states instead of just one. The pilgrims or whoever it was that made all the states sure got lazy once they got out of the northeast. Connecticut and Rhode Island are so cute and tidy, then head west: oh, there's Pennsylvania's fat ass in your face. And girl, don't even get me started on Montana.

As you can see, I'm still in recovery mode from my trip. My brain hasn't quite yet re-solidified, so forgive me. I've also got big comic book deadlines sticking their middle fingers up at me, so Final Girl will be a little light this week.

I didn't want to leave you empty handed, though, so I've sunk to a new low just for you. What, you thought talking about "special time" with photos of Phyllis Diller and Cloris Leachman was as low as I could go? Pfft. No, my friends...those shenanigans pale in comparison to me giving you a link.

To an article.

Written by a college freshman.

In the Wisconsin Badger Herald.

Sigh. The article, Horror Film Genre Doesn't Impress, irritated me just enough that on a lazy Monday I thought I'd share it with you.

I agree with a few points author Ray Gustini makes, particularly about the current trend in horror towards torture flicks. I've mentioned my views on the subject several times.

What I object to, however, is this:
The horror genre is essentially an illegitimate one. There really is no way
to make an artistically worthy scary movie.
----------
No matter how good the script, and no matter how talented the production
team, no scary movie is going to be taken seriously because it doesn’t engage
the intellect. One can only admire the craftsmanship and ingenuity that goes
into making these movies so much before you eventually realize there isn’t
anything to hang your hat on.

Really? No horror films engage the intellect? What about The Shining, The Exorcist, and Silence of the Lambs (which swept the Oscars in 1992, for whatever that's worth) for just a few examples? Bah. Fie thee, Ray Gustini. Why, as a purported fan, set the bar so low for the genre? Yes, there's alot of shitty horror out there. There's alot of shitty comedies, too, but there's also Annie Hall, you know?

Why is horror so easily (and almost constantly) dismissed? Horror and intellect are not mutually exclusive. Yes, the dumb escapism of, say, Killer Workout is great, but that's not the best horror filmmakers can do, and that's not all we should expect from the genre. I'd be sad if it were. C'mon now. Hitch your wagon to a star, people!

11 comments:

Dan said...

Gadzooks, I read the article and thought, "Jesus, was I that much of a pontificating load when I was a college freshman?" And the answer is probably "yes." I took umbrage with many of the same points as you did but really hated the sentences "Going into it, I knew this movie was awful. Everybody else in the theater knew the movie was awful." If you're going to have pre-conceived notions about the films you're reviewing then maybe you should start reviewing music or TV or something else. Because once you do that to one film, no matter what genre, you'll do it to another and another and another. Yet he ends that same paragraph by writing, "Despite its awfulness, the movie somehow drew me in." So it was awful but you were engaged? Guess it couldn't have been that awful...

B.A. Slattery said...

Horror films are easy to dismiss because they exist on the fringe of consumer culture. Plus so many of them are so horrible, those who have no discernible taste often clump 'em all together and fluff 'em off with one wave of the hand.

Those are the people who haven't seen Audition.

Rachael said...

First, one should avoid reading all college newspapers because they are written by idiots who have only minimal language skills and even lower critical thinking skills.
But, on to the actual content. The author repeatedly states that scary movies do not engage the intellect but the (apparently lesser) emotions. Um, so? Scary isn't intellectual. Its visceral, fight or flight, biochemical. If I think rationally about the odds of a crazed killer attacking me while I jog alone in the woods of Vermont, it seems pretty silly. But, that doesn't stop my body from freaking out the entire time. Scared is a fucking emotion not a thought, so, duh, its not intellectual. That's why its so powerful; it can't be reasoned away.
Next, "There really is no way to make an artistically worthy scary movie." Now, we're talking about the theory of art and what makes something art. Not that this boob knows that is what he is talking about. Does he offer us proof of his (idiotic) universal statement? No. Is art only about the intellect? Um, no. At the same time, we could have a discussion about the properties of art, what one expects to gain from interaction with art, the differences between cultural objects/texts and art objects but perhaps they haven't covered that in Poli Sci 101 yet. He might have to wait until his junior year to learn to ask those kinds of questions.
I could write an entire thesis about the ill-reasoned idiotic comments of the author but frankly, I had to stop reading the article before I stole a bike, rode out to whatever college town he's in and kicked him in the shins. Thank goodness for a college eduction!

B.A. Slattery said...

I don't mean to be overly cynical, but I have to comment on this.

"First, one should avoid reading all college newspapers because they are written by idiots who have only minimal language skills and even lower critical thinking skills."

And we should all read ... blogs?

Mark said...

I imagine Ray will make a fine writer/critic some day, he's just a bit naive.

Of course statements like, "People don’t view Browning’s 'Dracula' and Whale’s 'Frankenstein' as great films but as cultural landmarks," aren't going to gain him any credibility. And, the comments you quoted in your post certainly dismiss him as a serious critic.

On the other hand, I give him some credit for insights regarding the William Castle/Vincent Price movies of old.

chris hopper said...

This is the end product of bad PG-13 horror. The remakes, the faux torture films... The credibility of the genre is in question because these new movies are not scary. Horror survived many generations with the ability to frighten the audience. People just don't take it seriously anymore. I suppose the best thing to do is accept the challenge and try to make scarier indie/low-budget horror films. And, in the mean time, support underground horror! Tell friends and family. Have retro horror parties... start high school and college horror clubs... start community horror clubs. We can't stand by and watch our favorite genre turn into a parody of itself.

Anonymous said...

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88Arterial Sprays

Chadwick H. Saxelid said...

Horror has always had a bad rap...from the Universal Classics to the Hammer Horrors to the Slasher Movie, each Era and permutation of the genre has been met with indignant sniffs. When a Horror movie comes out and is truly effective and intelligent, then I get "Well, it really isn't a horror movie, you know?"

Peter Stack raved about how great Aliens was, but only gave it three stars. Why? "Aliens is a horror movie, and no horror movie deserves four stars." Got bias, buttwipe?

Persoanlly I don't give a rat's ass what a movie is rated. Only that the story is effectively told. Jaws was PG, the original The Haunting is rated G for chrissakes! The terrifying Ringu, though unrated, would qualify for a PG-13 if rated by the MPAA. (I got into a discussion with someone who said it would get rated R for "intensity." I asked him how the American version, which had a horse chewed up by a ship's propeller and a man graphically electrocuting himself in a bathtub, was less intense. He didn't have a comeback.)

Chris Hopper said...

I am sorry, that came out wrong. I do agree with you. The original Texas Chainsaw lacked gore and had the intentions of TV play. What I was meaning was youth friendly films. It seems like generations past didn't have a problem scaring the hell out of children, while today they are more interested in bonding with them. I think Scream was one of the PG-13 titles that helped open the door to that kind of movie.

Chadwick H. Saxelid said...

Scream was rated R.

Back in 1983, when I was a Junior in High School, I met a fellow who believed that Horror Movies existed only to be laughed at. Watching Horror Movies with him was like sitting through a painfully unfunny MST3K episode, because the humor was rooted in his obvious contempt for the genre. So I didn't watch movies with him. Horror at least.

For me I think the blame rests more in the post-modern "The kids know all about these movies and think they're silly anyway" concept that really ripped the teeth out of the genre. When discussing Return of the Living Dead and how it hampered Day of the Dead's box office, George Romero told Fangoria that "Once something is treated as a joke, it is harder to take it seriously after that."

It's also why I dislike most horror comedies. When the horror aspects are treated as something stupid, then the comedy becomes grating. Shaun of the Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 are horror comedies that work, because the horror aspects are treated seriously.

I was pleased at how vicious Final Destination 3 was, (it had some real seat squirming moments) granted that did not make it a better movie, but it at least got back into the thrill ride aspect of the genre. I think that most viewers are getting pretty tired of self-aware horror movies that wink at the audience. I also think that audiences are getting tired of movies like The Fog that are simply bland productions engineered as product, rather than as a thrill ride for the audience to enjoy.

I hope my confusing rant makes some kind of sense.

Stacie Ponder said...

Chadwick, sir, you're absolutely spot-on with your assessment of horror not being taken seriously, even by the genre itself.

It saddens me that what filmmakers (and the studios...and the public...) took away from Scream was it's self-referential aspects, rather than the fact that it was a really good, really scary slasher flick.

Mr. Hopper, I applaud your call-to-arms! I'm hoping that SOME good will come from the movies made by people like Eli Roth, like a "seriousenning" (awesome new word) of the genre again. The torture might be toned down enough to appeal to me, and the movies might just become scary again.

This ties in to my ungodly anticipation over Silent Hill (thanks 88Arterial Sprays!)- it's taking itself seriously, it's treating the subject matter seriously, and it looks like the goal is to SCARE you. I like the fact that there's really no 'name' stars in it- replacing David Boreanaz with Sean Bean was a great move, in my book.