Topic: Modern Day Cheaters of Horror

Lately I have sat in several movie theaters, watching horror movies, and wondering to myself – where have all the good writers gone (Insert Paula Cole music here)? Then I start getting this conspiracy idea, where maybe the special effects people killed them off and replaced them with robots from the planet Lame. It seems to me that movies have begun to rely on something that Stephen King and I refer to as, the cheap scare (Note: Stephen King may not have actually said that. For that matter, he has never met me, nor does he care what I think). This is the scare that comes from A: loud noises erupting in the middle of a silent part and B: extreme violence and/or gore that adds nothing to the storyline. Don’t get me wrong, effects are awesome when used properly… and sparingly, just like that hint of cyanide you put in your spouses coffee each day to keep them from going to the cops.

Story lines seem to keep getting dropped in favor of, well, noise and millions of dollars of make up/effects. But to me, a writer, a horror writer nonetheless, the story should be the strongest part. A strong story trumps noise and effects any day, and generally, makes a movie cheaper. And I don’t hear any studio executives complaining about the movies being too cheap, while they sit in the chairs made from the skins of dodo birds (that’s right, I’m on to you). I remember watching Night of the Living Dead – it’s ‘music’ track and noise effects were so horrible, the fat guy in the back row snoring was scarier. But then you see the little dead girl with the trowel and that hungry look on her face, and suddenly your pants are a bit more brown.... read Stigmas entire article here,

Re: Modern Day Cheaters of Horror

Thanks Meh!

And if you disagree, or agree, or just want to complain about my writing, opinion, etc, post your comments here. I love to hear from readers.

Best yet, if you don't like what I write, tell me how I can improve wink I am your slave... whip me master, whip me! *clears throat* uh.. I mean.. uh...

Re: Modern Day Cheaters of Horror

Really enjoyed the article, Stig, and I agree and disagree. I don't think the good writers have gone, I think the good writing is turned into high octane rollercoasters by producers trying to appeal to the video game generation. I honestly believe the stories are there but they never make it to the screen.

I have been watching a lot of the older horror films, and what I agree with is the ones that I find scary, even today, are the ones where fx are second to story. In many cases they don't even get to the scares until 30 min or more into the film. Could today's audience stay in their seats long enough to enjoy a movie like The Changeling?

Re: Modern Day Cheaters of Horror

It's the rushed schedules and producers wanting instant results, special effects can be knoced up in a day, great storys take weeks, months, even years. But the general movie going audience I think could bear to wait for a slow boiling movie, but due to being force fed "Booo!" scare type of films alongside the bubblegum rubbish, it's not going to happen soon.

Films like Deathwatch did pretty well in England (not sure elsewhere), and that had no real scares, but tension, and a modern Changeling type film, I'd enjoy that. Even though it may have aged a little bit and lost some effect (still can't watch it and go into the bathroom straight after wards though).

One film I really thought did well that I saw recently was Hard Candy, great story and boy was it twisted, albeit it wasnt' a horror...but look at that for some great writing.

But I wont look through rose tinted goggles, bad horror movie writing existed just as much in the past, B-movies were born somewhere right? It's just the ratio of hyped horror movies means people are fed the rushed productions, like the Omen 666 (I liked it, but it was obviouslt casted and made very quickly) and don't know about other more worthy films.

Re: Modern Day Cheaters of Horror

Good post Dean you hit the nail on the head in that first paragraph especially.

Re: Modern Day Cheaters of Horror

Well the one thing I disagree with is that you don't believe that the audiences have desensitzed.. That all we need is a good story.. First of all I have seen The Exorcist and I didn't flinch.. Not my cup of tea but I still respect the film for giving life to the horror genre and making Hollywood take notice..

Look at all the gore and crazy stuff we see on screen today. Not only that but the madness we see on the news everyday. Years back we didn't see that kind of stuff on an everyday basis. Now all you have to do is flip on the TV. A good story is not going to make you throw up or pass out...

I mean if that was the case a good book would make people throw up.. Its all about the visuals and what we see.. Since than we have had access to so much brutality that it has just become a everyday thing.

Re: Modern Day Cheaters of Horror

Yep, I agree, I was never scared by the Excorcist, I think it's mainly nostalgia for films that makes them frightening, the afformentioned CHangeling I remember seeing when I was 7, but if I show it to someone who hasn't seen it now, it doesn't do much apart from raise "they stole the story from the ring!" incorrectly.

I think that shocking images can be used as straight out scares pretty easily, the way a film is pulled off dictates how shocking that it though, Night of the Living Dead as you mentioned in the article, the images of the dead folks eating the remains of the kid and his girlfriend isn't scary, but the little girl with the trowel emerging to kill her own mother, is. I side with you on that senor. But if I saw that today previously not being a Romero-enthusiast I'd probably find it normal.

Like Goon says though, for a genuinely shocking film it would have to be something extreme or well crafted to the n-th degree. The only extremely terrifiying things we can imagine is in our own minds, when those special filmakers can realise images like that in film...then you've got masters of horror there, because (like drugs) horrors mainly effect you in your teens, after that, real life is much more terrifying.

It's just easier to scare those who aren't into horror, hence the Michael Bay remake blunders, or those who like to complain about them and declare them "a danger to the children."

Last edited by Dean Valent (2006-07-25 05:41:48)

Re: Modern Day Cheaters of Horror

I think one of the main problems with horror films these days are all the remakes that are being done.  When I think of bad writing I tend to think of remakes.  They lack originality almost completely and hold a lot of what Stigma likes to call "cheap scares".  For instance, the TCM remake was full of random "pop-out" scenes and random gore spots, while the original really didnt.  And yet, the original was way better even with it being made back in the 80's.  It just goes to show that "cheap scares" arent really that necessary to make a good horror film or have it be scary nonetheless.

Re: Modern Day Cheaters of Horror

A bad script will break a horror movie, and no amount of effects can fix it (House of 1000 Corpses).  Effects are to complement a movie, the story must carry the moment.  Remember radio plays?  Scripts need to be written to a level that draws the audience in, effects need only replace the verbal description of what is taking place.   

PS, "The Changeling" with George C. Scott is one of my favorites

Re: Modern Day Cheaters of Horror

Amen Evil Johnny!

Re: Modern Day Cheaters of Horror

I have to disagree with Goon, but just a little. I've seen some ridiculous movies that bank on blood and guts to get them by and I find them mostly ridiculous simply because I don't buy in to the characters or believe in the story. You get lost in a good story and the horrific images become all that more frightening and disgusting. I've seen people afraid to go to bed at night for no more than a good novel and a better imagination. Just because I throw up doesn't mean I was scared. Horror films should scare you, first and foremost. I've seen gross out comedies that made me want to throw up but I wasn't exactly scared aside from maybe some bad acting. For me gore is cheap and overused by MANY filmmakers. It's like saying, "Not scared? How about 40 gallons of fake blood and some Polish sausage!"

I also don't believe you can hold movies that are over 30 years old to the same standards of filmmaking today. What filmmakers were allowed to show, the technology, their audience, all that was different. The way the filmmaker worked within their limits of their medium and the society is the true test. The Exorcist scared the bejesus out of people and though it may not affect today's audience the same way, you have to consider it as one of the scariest movies of all time because of what it did to its audience in the 70's. Same for Jaws.

I don't think filmmakers need to go back to making movies like they did in the 70's but maybe filmmakers have gotten too lazy and too dependent on over-the-top special effects to save their film and, as Stigma says, lost the story. Say what you want, but Blair Witch broke box office records, scared millions of people and had virtually zero special effects. You can also add they made lots of people throw up without gore. Just shake the camera like hell!