Since the start of October, I decided to challenge myself to watch a horror movie every day. It’s not a new thing, it’s called the 31 Days of Horror. I’m trying to watch films that I haven’t seen before in order to keep things interesting. Another stipulation is that I didn’t always want to watch mainstream horror, films that you can watch in theaters. There are a couple reasons for that. I wanted fresh, untraditional ideas that Hollywood deemed unmarketable.
With 11 days into the horror movie marathon, I’ve rekindled my love for the horror genre. My appreciation for the genre has, admittedly, grown a tad stale over the last couple of years. The thing that I like about horror, good horror at least, is that horror is a way to discuss certain topics and bring to light certain real-life scenarios.
Back in the day, circa 1980, there was a horror movie that centered on a camp of kids. One after another, the kids were picked off by a crazy psycho murderer because of their “activities”, you get what I mean.
Not too long ago, in 2005, there was another film that told the tale of American tourists that travel to Europe and get kidnapped by a torture/murder organization.
In 1984, there was a film that instructed children of the dangers of breaking the rules. Don’t eat after midnight kids.
In 1975, there was a movie that taught the lesson of what happens when you don’t have a bigger boat.
Okay, maybe that last one isn’t such a great example, but you get my point.
I watched a film on Day 11 called Grimcutty that was recently released on Hulu that cautioned parents and children of the dangers of leaning too far into the hysteria of a new internet challenge.
I think that horror is unique because it can call attention to issues when other movie/book genres can’t. When was the last time you watched a romance film, and it tackled a serious issue? Okay, fine, Me Before You (2016) was about a caretaker that falls in love with her paralyzed from the neck down client, but it ends sadly when he decides to end his own life.
But let’s be honest, Me Before You isn’t your typical romance film. It’s a film that is realistic. Mainstream romance viewers don’t want to leave the theaters filled with sadness. They want to be comforted with the fact that everything will be alright, and they’ll end up with the love of their lives.
Comedy films will sometimes cover sensitive issues, but they have to walk a razor’s edge, or it could seem like they were mocking the issue rather than creating awareness to it. One example of a good comedy that succeeds in walking that line is 50/50 (2011). It’s about a guy who gets diagnosed with cancer and his whole life gets thrown upside down. And really if I’m being critical, it’s more of a drama than a comedy.
Horror films are able to examine subject matter in a way that doesn’t bash the audience over the head. If you look at my favorite film, Night of the Living Dead (1968), it’s a way to examine race while using a zombie apocalypse as the smokescreen.
The question that has to be asked is, why is this an important thing? Why is it important for horror movies to mean something?
I think the first answer is that we need it to mean something. Look at the Saw franchise. Jigsaw stalks, kidnaps, and has his victims go through an extremely gory and painful experience. If the victim does, they often love to see another day. If they refuse or fail, they die. Now, if you’re reading this overly simplified summary you might be asking what the point is. That’s where stalking comes into play. Jigsaw only kidnaps those he deems needing saved. Drug addicts are a popular choice. Once they come out the other side, the victim often has a better appreciation for life, deciding to throw off the shackles of whatever was chaining them.
If Jigsaw simply captured and tortured people, the puzzles and traps would mean nothing to both the survivors and the audience. It would just mean that there are cruel people in the world that only want to harm others.
I think that’s why most horror movies are viewed with such disdain and poor ratings. Horror movies bring human difficulties to light that we just don’t want to deal with. People want to go to the movies to watch the hero triumph over the villain. We want to see Captain America lift Mjolnir and tell everyone to assemble. We want to see the protagonist get the girl at the end of the film. We want to laugh, to spend two hours away from our own dismal lives. The last thing we want to watch are people going through an exaggerated form of what we are currently going through. Sure, humans are normally not being kidnapped and tortured, forced to face their own vices.
But every human on the face of the earth has vices. We have an addiction to one thing or another. It could be something major like heroin, pornography, and gambling… but it could also be something like an addiction to your phone or video games.
…or to bad James Patterson fiction.
Watching good horror movies forces us to admit that the person being tortured on the screen could easily be us. And that, my friends, is horrifying.
Unless I am kidnapped and forced to read a James Patterson book, I’ll be here next week to talk a little more about horror. Until then, keep calm and write on!