Horror fans, it is time for self-affirmation. I feel it is our duty to do something about “the others”. No, not ghosts that still think they’re people, although that can be a problem from time to time. I’m talking about those folks out there who don’t appreciate the things we hold dear. “What things?” you may be asking yourself. Well, things such as dismembered corpses, decapitations, death-by-wood chipper, etc.
There are, believe it or not, people who do not share in our appreciation of all things bloody and infected. While we can’t stomp those people out, or force them to see our vision, we can make known our feelings of resentment. What gives someone the right to enjoy a movie like Beverly Hills Chihuahua and not give equal respect to Cujo? How can someone make the case that a sequel to Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants has merit but sees no value in one of the many Saw entries? Our tastes are being labeled as obscene and we have to figure out why so we can stand up to those who look down on horror as lower entertainment.
When someone shows disgust at our taste in movies they are objecting to the familiarity we have with things that are considered offensive. The more movies we watch, the more desensitized to the violence we become. When people say that horror movies are offensive they’re really telling us that they are shocked that we could ever become familiar with the macabre. How dare we enjoy playing spectator to such acts of brutality. In truth we are assessing the craft of movie making. We enjoy the editing and camera placement that goes into a particularly complex scene, such as the rape in Last House on the Left (2009), which I particularly appreciated.
Here’s where I have to carefully explain to the non-horror fans out there that I did not enjoy seeing the star of Return to Halloweentown being raped, but I did like how the scene itself was shot and put together. I thought there was a good mix of up-close-and-personal shots interspersed with long shots showing all the characters from a distance. The rape continued to go on but the director forcefully removed me from the scene. Moments later I was pushed far closer than was comfortable.
That, my friends, is engaging cinematography. Shocking cinema lets you become involved with what is going on instead of letting you become complacent. The fans of horror are just as interested in seeing how the climactic set-pieces come together as they are the girls in short skirts…or no skirts. (Not to leave out the female fans, Jeepers Creepers 2 departed convention and had a mostly allmale cast shirtless for the entire movie amid the bloodletting. Ooh la-la.
Horror movies are nothing if not equal opportunity exploiters.) I found horror through special effects. I really enjoy seeing what the guys at KNB can come up with and how they execute their effects. I enjoy a great story as much as the next person, but I gotta say that I got pumped when Goetz was laid out on the table saw in Frontier(s), or when Janet Leigh was stabbed in the shower in Psycho (1960). Violence is not something we should strive for in the every day, but it does occur and the expression of it in film is perfectly valid and can be quite artistic. There is no edict that makes one form of expression acceptable and another worthy of a ban. We live in times where political pundits and extreme right-wingers are fighting to censor the films we love. Fortunately, we also live in times of great understanding of the concept of freedom of expression. I am not interested in ever seeing Nights in Rodanthe, but I am not upset at it being shown to the public.
It does not need to be protested even though it’s too goddamn sappy to exist [in my opinion]. At the same time, Mr. and Mrs. Whitebread need to be allowed to see the movies they want and they need to allow me to see what I want as well. I am not interested in force-feeding Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) to an unwary public, so just live and let live already! It all boils down to this: We horror aficionados love something that is apart from the mainstream. Hollywood can make as many bullshit PG-13, pop culturefriendly pieces of horror that they want (some of which might even be OK) but true horror will always remain fringe and be shit on by people who don’t understand that the audience for these cult films aren’t all potential serial killers. We like the extreme stories. We like being prodded by a filmmaker looking to engage an audience. We like wearing black t-shirts with “This Is My Boomstick” printed on them. We dislike being looked at as lesser people because we see in an experience like Grindhouse a sublime and un-paralleled viewing experience.
Most importantly we need to stand up for what we love. It is just as unbelievable that a magazine can be devoted to the collecting porcelain dolls as horror films. It is just as valid to enjoy the cinematography in Citizen Kane as in The Shining. It is just as creative to weave a fantastic slow-burn movie called Audition as it is to film a commendable adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (soon with added Zombies!). Don’t allow yourself to be cowed by people who can’t see past the arterial spray.
Stand up and be proud, as I know you are, that you have been able to see the merit in Inside, the craft of Martyrs and the historical value of Dawn of the Dead (1978). Obscenity, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. As long as you can reconcile the two, you’ll be on top of things. The next time someone asks you, with a conceited sneer, why you’d bother wasting your money on a DVD of The Devil’s Rejects, just remind them that you didn’t ask why they bothered to buy Fool’s Gold.