If horror movies have changed over the years--and few would disagree on
that point, I think--then so have the fans. I’m not talking about those
"fans" who line up for mainstream fare like JEEPERS CREEPERS or the
obnoxious SCREAM sequels (judging from those films’ massive box-office
takes, most everybody seems to be doing so, and true horror fans tend to
be far more exclusive, even cultish, in their tastes). And I’m certainly
not referring to the old horror fans. Yes, my use of "old" means exactly
what you think it does: the folks—the old folks, of course!—who always
complain about the gore quotient in today’s horror movies and tout all
things old and in black and white (this applies to old fans of all movie
genres, certainly, but let’s stick to horror).
I’m referring to the new horror fans. This breed—you’re
probably one yourself—tends to be young, male, reasonably well-educated,
and voraciously committed to, even obsessed with, horror movies.
Who else, after all, would shell out upwards of 20
bucks for a foreign language, subtitle-free, tenth generation bootleg of
a movie simply for a few extra seconds of gore you can’t see in the MPAA-approved
version? It’s horror videos that almost single-handedly fuel the bootleg
market--sure, European auteurs such as Werner Herzog and Jean-Luc Godard
are popular with "alternative video" outfits like Video Search of Miami
and Shocking Videos, but the films of
Lucio Fulci (THE BEYOND, ZOMBIE)
and Jess Franco (FACELESS) remain the prime draws.
Speaking of Herzog, Godard
and their ilk, I believe horror fans have taken the place of the
cineastes that so avidly flocked to foreign films in the 60’s and 70’s.
While the average horror fan would likely turn his nose up at the
above-named arthouse filmmakers, he can give you a rundown of auteurist
tendencies in the films of
George Romero that would put Andre Bazin (the
French critic who first coined the phrase) to shame. And that rundown
would most likely include Romero-helmed stinkers like THERE’S ALWAYS
VANILLA and THE DARK HALF—whatever else they might be, new horror fans
are loyal to a fault.
Once again: I’m talking
about the new horror fan. In other words, I don’t mean readers of
Monsters of Movieland.
While there may be some
Forrest Ackerman fans amongst today’s horror buffs—and he does seem like
a nice enough guy, I guess—I don’t know any of ‘em. Old-school horror
manuals tout the quiet and stately (read: boring) black and white scare
films of Val Lewton (the original CAT PEOPLE, I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE),
but the new horror fan’s Gods are guys like Tobe Hooper (THE TEXAS
CHAINSAW MASSACRE) and John Carpenter (HALLOWEEN), filmmakers who ain’t
exactly known for their restraint.
Wait a minute. How exactly do I know all this? And just
what is the point I’m trying to make? The answer to the first question
should be obvious: I am a card-carrying "New Horror Fan" (even if I do
like Werner Herzog movies). As for the second question…well, a little
more elaboration is required. Bare with me.
Being a new horror fan, I
did sit through THERE’S ALWAYS VANILLA and THE DARK HALF (and I’m not
happy about it!), and even Carpenter’s ghastly MEMOIRS OF AN INVISIBLE
MAN (though I’m apparently the only one who bothered to do so). I’ve
also purchased more than my share of bootleg videos. And yes, I far
prefer THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE to I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE…and
furthermore, I’d much rather watch Paul Schrader’s sexy, vibrant remake
of CAT PEOPLE than the dull original (for that matter, I also like
Carpenter’s THING remake lots more than the original film, which I find
about as exiting as MY DINNER WITH ANDRE on downers).
But about that
was trying to make. I’m speaking to old horror fans out there when I say
please, knock off the "too much gore" and "quiet horror" bullshit! Gore
in a movie does NOT signal the end of cinema as we know it.
equal and even top the original film (the recent PLANET OF THE APES and
THE HAUNTING remakes notwithstanding), and just because a movie is in
black and white does NOT make it a masterpiece!
Uh oh. In defending
modern horror flicks and their fans, I’m starting to sound just like you
old horror fans. Oh well…why don’t we all agree to disagree? I
mean…can’t we all just get along?