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DEBUNKING SOME MORE STUPID SAYINGS

Eight years ago I wrote a piece debunking several popular horror movie related sayings with which I disagreed (such as “They don’t make good horror movies anymore,” and “The SCREAM trilogy rejuvenated the horror genre”). Well, here I go again! Below you’ll find nine claims about the horror genre and its practitioners that I find stupid, and my retorts, which I feel are far wiser.

     Let’s start with perhaps the most prevalent and outrageous saying of the lot:

Horror movies were so much better in the 1980s.
    
The eighties nostalgia boom, you gotta love it! Things were so much better in the eighties, after all, from the poofy hairdos, pop tunes of such musical geniuses as Boy George and The Pet Shop Boys, and apparent cinematic masterworks like the FRIDAY THE 13TH series and the 1989 BATMAN (a film, FYI, whose own director admits is a bore).
     I myself, keep in mind, am an unrepentant eighties nostalgia fiend. What do I miss about the decade? Among other things, I miss the fact that people of the time were unafraid to admit it wasn’t the greatest period in human history, and that movies of the eighties, horror and otherwise, frankly left much to be desired--and anyway, everyone back then was pining away for the good old days of the sixties!

This film/book/video does something new: it mixes comedy and horror.
    
Why is it that seemingly every time something appears that mixes comedy and horror (such as CABIN FEVER, whose sole appeal, it seems, was just that) everyone treats it as something radical and unprecedented? Doesn’t anyone remember the EVIL DEAD flicks of the 1980s? The ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN/THE MUMMY/etc. series of the 1940s and 50s? Or how ‘bout the very first horror movie ever made, Georges Melies’ two-minute LE MANOIR DU DIABLE/MANOR OF THE DEVIL, which Phil Hardy claims is “far closer to the tradition of comic fantasies in which smiling amazement, rather than terror, was the expected reaction.” In short, the mixing of comedy and horror is NOT “something new.”

The TWILIGHT saga has revitalized the horror genre.
    
a). The TWILIGHT flicks aren’t horror, and b). they haven’t “revitalized” anything, just started an annoying romantic vampire craze that’s threatening to render this once-vital subgenre completely irrelevant.

Rob Zombie has revitalized the horror genre.
    
I feel I’ve given Mr. Zombie quite a few chances to prove he’s got the stuff horror movie-wise. I liked THE DEVIL’S REJECTS, but the insanely overrated HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES, stunningly awful HALLOWEEN remakes and indifferent cartoon THE HAUNTED WORLD OF EL SUPERBEASTO offer conclusive proof that this guy is far from the cinematic genius he’s been cracked up to be.

Asian horror cinema continues to enrich the genre.
    
It’s the “continues” that I refute. It wasn’t all that long ago, admittedly, that Asian imports like the Japanese RINGU and the Korean OLDBOY impressed me and seemingly everyone else, giving the genre a much-needed jolt. Yet in a development as inevitable as it was unfortunate, the creators of this particular brand couldn’t help but run it into the ground with a succession of formulaic films that today seem as stodgy and archaic as the slasher flicks of the 1980s.
     I will say this: the Asian horror fiction that has been appearing in English translation, like Vertical’s RING novels and Kurodahan Press’ LAIRS OF THE HIDDEN GODS anthologies, is everything Asian horror cinema formerly was. Let’s hope their impact isn’t diluted like that of the movies!

You just can’t get enough zombie films.
    
Oh, yes you can!
     I find that the walking dead have long since worn out their welcome over the past few years. I mean, the father of this particular subgenre, George Romero, is clearly bored with it (judging by his last film SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD), meaning it’s probably time to move on. Really!

In recent years torture porn movies have overtaken the genre.
    
First of all, what IS a “torture porn” movie? Torture Porn is a lazy designation meaning, it seems, anything its user doesn’t like. Fact: using a strict definition of the term none of today’s horror movies, including the SAW and HOSTEL films, measure up. Yes, you’ll see a fair amount of torture in those flicks, but torture porn? I don’t think so. I’ve never seen a porno flick whose porn is concentrated largely in the final half hour, as was the torture in HOSTEL.
     For some films that DO fit the definition of torture porn, check out the Japanese GUINEA PIG series, many of which consist solely of women being bound and slowly dismembered. Interestingly enough, the GUINEA PIGS hail from the alleged good old days of the 1980s, when horror flicks were apparently “so much better” than they are now.
     Even if you stubbornly cling to the idea that SAW, HOSTEL and their ilk are indeed torture porn, the idea that such films have “overtaken” the genre is ludicrous. Are PARANORMAL ACTIVITY and its sequel torture porn? Is AMC’s WAKING DEAD series? The WOLFMAN remake? LET ME IN? Gory those films may be, but that hardly makes for torture porn.

Independent filmmakers will be the saviors of the horror genre.
    
I don’t know about that. Yes, there have been quite a few quality indies in recent years that have pointed the genre in the right direction--BUG, THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, THE LOST, GRACE--but those films are a tiny percentage of the overall whole. No less an authority than Joe Bob Briggs (who’s seen far more of these types of movies than I) called the current horror indie scene a “big mess,” and unfortunately he’s correct. For every BUG or THE LOST, in other words, there are several dozen digitally shot no-budgeters (check out the recent filmographies of Dee Wallace and Debbie Rochon for some examples) that are profoundly scary, in every sense of the word!

“This is the kind of movie you can watch drunk and stoned and have a good time with.”
    
Yes, that’s an actual quote from a horror filmmaker, proving these guys are clueless when it comes to promoting their films--after all, you could get drunk and stoned and have a good time watching GANDHI (and probably get a lot more out of the experience). Perhaps a better line would be “This is the kind of movie you can actually enjoy sober!”

 

--10/31/10

     

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