What ever happened to horror movies?

Howdy Folks!

A quick ‘sorta’ Halloween themed post for you here on a Wednesday. It’s almost the end of October, and that means Halloween. It also means some other things but that’s a subject for another post.

With Halloween coming up on Saturday, I’m noticing a lot of supposedly “scary” movies are making their way onto TV. Now, it’s no real secret that to Hollywood horror = gore a while back. These days,  it seems that a scary movie is all about someone’s leg being chopped off (and it being shown as it happens). See any of the 6,823 Saw movies as an example. Or you get some other overly graphic plot line  – I forget the trailer, but there was one showing a bug crawling down someone’s throat in their sleep.

Now, I get it. Those things are enough to make a lot of people wince or go squeamish. Heck, just mentioning spiders to some people is enough to get them going. And there’s my point. What in the world ever happened to classic horror? The stuff that messed with your head?

Let’s take an example… It was, at the time, one of the scariest movies going. These days it’s viewed almost as a comedy by some for a bunch of notable lines, but when it came out… it had people thinking it wasn’t safe to go into the water. That’s right. I’m talking about Jaws. Not the whole film, but consider the first scene.

  • You have the victim off on her own swimming
  • The eerie music starts, then continues to build. You just *know* something bad is going to hapen
  • You never, ever even see the shark coming. You don’t see the shark. At all.

Now, ignoring the fact that the opening scene most closely resembles a real life shark attack (Which is scary in and of itself) the fact that you never see the shark does not diminish the attack. In fact, it helps it. We all knew it was there, but the timing is what sets it up. You can’t really anticipate what’s going to happen because you can’t see the shark!

Want another example? How about Psycho? (The original – that remake NEVER happened!) The infamous shower scene. You see the knife. You see the victim. You see the blood go down the drain. You never see the actual stabbing. And yet it is one of the best known scenes in film.

“But Beer!  Jaws had gore! And you just talked about blood going down a shower drain!”

Yep, I did. I’m not completely opposed to it. Heck, I *expect* there to be blood if someone gets shot. What I don’t want – what I don’t find “scary” is the super slow motion, high definition impact of the back of someone’s head exploding. Gory, yes. Scary, no.

Here’s what I think happens. People watch all those old movies, then think “That isn’t so scary”. No, not after you’ve seen it 500 times. Like I mentioned earlier, Jaws is now viewed almost as a comedy. Why? Well, like I said, some classic lines for starters (“Hooper drives the boat”) but also because people have seen it so many times. You KNOW what’s going to happen now. You know when it’s going to happen, how it’s going to happen. The suspense is gone.

The key to horror is the suspense, not the gore. It’s the “make them jump” factor, not how gross you can make it.

So this Halloween if you want to watch a scary movie,  instead of watching Friday the 13th part 897 for the 500th time do yourself a favor. Check out where you get your movies from (Blockbuster, Netflix, Youtube, Hulu, wherever) and look for something you haven’t seen before. Look for something old.

Alfred Hitchcock is an excellent starting point.
On The Set Of Psycho

Black and white is a good sign. And if you can, look for something with the man who had one of, if not *THE* best evil laughs of all time. The late, great, Vincent Price.  Just don’t blame me if you have to sleep with the lights on after watching.

Happy Halloween!

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