This Halloween as you all get dressed up as whatever personality you deem worthy, take note on what makes them worth dressing up as in the first place. Because that’s something a lot of today’s generation of horror flicks are failing to do.
Horror movies are the single reason this country still thrives amidst a recession. That something can be so cheap and reap such a profit boggles the mind. It is obvious when such a cost-effective piece of work brings such heavy returns to follow it up with another. Back in the day, Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolfman and all their friends kept coming back for more. Even teaming up on occasion ‘cause there’s just so much killing to do. In more recent years, horror franchises such as Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street and Police Academy would go seven, eight films strong. But sometime between when Jason was sent to hell and when he was sent to space, the sequels died out. A few monster movies found their way to the Oscars while the rest were becoming parodies of themselves. That was, until a real self-parody called Scream came along.
Scream was an odd experience. Smart enough to be tongue-in-cheek, innocent enough to be taken seriously. It was directed not by an observer of the genre, but by one of its masters. So in a way, it felt like watching Don Rickles roast himself, rather then someone else. True parody, like Blazing Saddles, should kill a genre dead so it can rise again later on. In the end, Scream was too gentle. So films just like it were popping up as usual not months later, while the impact it did create was a negative one. Because it shifted focus from the butchers to the meat, spending more time with pretty faces spouting witty banter, to make the film appear more intelligent then it really is. Meanwhile, the monsters they are supposed to be running from fell firmly into the background.
The characters are now so snarky that they could audition for The Daily Show if they weren’t portrayed by such empty-eyed actors on break from whatever CW show they troll. They are also so predictably sex crazed that Samuel L. Jackson should show up and lock them in chains while he sings the blues. But thankfully, their only real purpose in life is to die. Except more attention is paid to their manner of death rather then whose doing the killing. So the monster, the one ingredient no scary movie should be without, is now made up of a rotation of characters donning the same ghost mask, a fisherman with no recognizable personality, a cancer patient who lets his contraptions do the work, an invisible demon, a camera-shy witch….and let’s not forget, Death himself.
I wonder how all their costumes are selling.
Without a monster to spark our interest, the genre just goes through the motions, relying on loud booming noises to keep the audience on edge. Even Hollywood knew it was time for a change. For something fresh and original to take flight. A bold step in a new direction. In other words, it was time for a remake.
Like sequels, remakes are nothing new. But they’re supposed to be re-imaginings. New spins on old stories. The need for such alternate interpretations is even more vital today, since we can access the originals at the push of a button. The best remakes transcend the need to compare to the original by succeeding on their own.
But as the remakes of Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre have shown, we’re not getting much in the way of newness. We’re just seeing the bland killing machines of the past decade wearing the costume of monsters far more unique then they could ever be. Because of their name, we no longer run from them. We root for them. And we lose what made then scary in the first place.
That connection is what makes horror films scary. Sure, the thought of dying prematurely in a violent, even creative fashion is scary. But nowhere near as scary as living across the fine, possibly non-existent line between man and monster.
When audiences first laid eyes on Frankenstein’s monster, they screamed in terror. Not because of how hideous Boris Karloff appeared, but by how human he appeared. Alfred Hitchcock would go on to show that make-up isn’t even needed for us to feel much closer to man’s darker side then we thought we were capable of. Jason appealed to us because we felt pity for him. Freddy because he was charming. Dracula because he was longing. Hannibal Lecter because he was brilliant. And so on.
We connect with these savage creatures and that connection is where the real horror exists. Because the only thing scarier then the monsters we lock our doors from, are the ones that manage to get inside.