Now let's get this straight, right here, in my second post- I am a horror movie fan. I love them. For about eight months last year I inhaled all available horror movie knowledge, specimens and articles. I was sitting in a bar this evening and an advert for the DVD release of Cabin in the Woods played on the one the TVs abobe the bar. Someone made a lightly disparaging comment about it, and I killed him. Not just killed him, you understand- but killed him using a spear made to the exact measurements of the one used in a scene in Friday the 13th Part II in a sequence that has been accused of plagiarizing a similar scene in an earlier Giallo movie.
And here's what makes me a bit cross about the whole affair.
Horror movies have almost no gravitas. Grossly underrepresented in almost every prestigious awards ceremony, The Exorcist was the last horror film that made any kind of critical splash, winning director William Friedkin an Oscar.
I suppose people feel a bit uncomfortable giving out gongs to movies that are based around fear. And gore. Lots of it. Take Saw, for example- if you ignore the rest of the franchise, the first film is a masterstroke. With two powerhouse performances from Leigh Whannel and the unpronounceable Cary Elwes, an innovative soundtrack and the creation of Jigsaw, the most considered psychopath since John Doe in Se7en, Saw is a pacy, claustrophobic thriller that raises some genuine questions in an intelligent and unpatronising way. The same year, Finding Neverland was nominated for Best Picture. Yes, there have been arbitarty awards for Best Visual Effects or Best Makeup, but horror films always seem to get ignored on the wider stage, despite producing some of the most innovative films of the last twenty years. You only have to look at The Blair Witch Project and it's brilliant publicity campaign, as well as it's use of the still relatively untested found-footage style, to see that.
And I'll have none of this "Being scared isn't fun.". Any killjoy who you overhear saying this should be promptly beaten with a flat stick and sat down in front of Gremlins for an hour and a half. Horror has the capacity to be genuinely entertaining, in the same way that a comedy film can have emotional depth. I'll admit that sometimes you have to buy in to a darker sense of humour (at the first showing of Final Destination 5 at my local cinema, after one particularly brutal death scene, the entire audience paused for a moment out of decorum before roaring with thigh-slapping laughter), if you're going to be stroppy about it, stick to light family horror like The Hole or Beetlejuice. Not all horror films choose to have a comedic streak but the ones that do are infintley better for it.
Horror is a brilliant genre. What other genres have spawned clutches of franchises, a black market in Hallowe'en costumes, or had a scene in one film where a sentient, disembodied head performs oral sex on a nubile young woman? Go on. Go on to your illegal download site of choice and pull up An American Werewolf in London. You know that you want to.
By Louise MacGregor