Monday, October 24, 2011

Is Simpler Better When it Comes to Horror?

With Paranormal Activity 3 having premiered with the highest grossing horror film opening weekend ever, maybe it's time to look at what horror fans really like. Gore took over in place of thrillers and ghost stories for awhile, but has gore finally lost its sheen? Has Saw 325 put the final nail in the gore porn coffin?

I haven't seen Paranormal Activity 3, and it will probably be awhile (video, ahem) until I do, but I know the type of film it represents. It's the softer spoken kind of horror that builds the tension for awhile then sends chills up your spine without spraying intestines all over the screen to accomplish this. It's the kind of scary that may seem inconsequential at first, but creeps up on you as you shut out the lights and head up to bed, straining for you in the darkness as your feet pick up speed and your spine tries to outrun the rest of your body. You laugh at yourself once you reach the safety of your bedroom, but then it's time to turn off the lights. That's when the terror creeps under your bedroom door and slithers underneath your bed or into the gaping maw of your darkened closet, waiting for your head to touch that pillow. This kind of horror, where you don't really see a monster, works to make your sleep a little harder to come by. The evil the victims face is implied, exhibited more discreetly.

Take a moment to look at one of the gory horror films. Choose one, be it Hostel, Turistas, Saw 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 17, 29, 36..., Wrong Turn, etc. The fright is in the depravity of the perpetrator and in the horrific torture insinuated on the victims. Considering that this is something that could really happen, that these are typically human monsters rather than spectral ones, is part of the fright. It puts the scary in going to a stranger's house, going out in public, going on a trip to another country, staying in a hostel, or basically leaving your house in any way, shape or form. But where these movies fail to scare watchers is in their own homes. When these were the films horror fans were clamoring for, they still had a safe place to go. Bed was a safe haven, not a place ripe for ghostly attacks.

No longer!

This particular monster watches you in your own home. It waits for you to come in the front door and slide the lock home. It hears you let out that little breath of relief because you know you're safe again, all locked into your own space. This monster doesn't have to be visible to you until it wants to be. It can stand over you as you slumber in your bed, as exposed and unprepared as possible. It is the monster that knows where you are at your most vulnerable and can seize the advantage whenever it wishes. You could be cooking dinner, rocking your little one to sleep, taking a bath, watching TV, necking with your boyfriend or heading down into the basement to grab something from the pantry down there, and it gets to choose the moment it will attack you. Made it safely up those backless stairs without getting an ankle grabbed? That's okay, you still have to go to bed.

This kind of evil has no physical boundaries. You can't stab it or shoot it to get away. You can't kick it in the testicles and gain a few seconds. You can't blind it or maim it. It's untouchable. And it's in your own home. Your safety net.

Now what?

Do you think the face of horror is changing again? Do fans want something different? Or will gore porn still have a home?

Happy Halloween Week!

May you find your Muse.


  1. I've never been into gore porn. It's not scary. At best, it might put you off your food for a bit, and I enjoy food way too much to risk that.

    I love good, solid horror. Something that snakes its way into you, starting with a sense of uneasy security, then slowly chipping away at all the things that tell you you're safe. The movies Poltergeist, Mirrors or the original The Haunting, all do this, using only what visual effects are necessary to drag you into their world.

  2. I'm not a fan of horror, particularly horror done well--I feel creeped out for weeks! The Shining did that to me. Still gives me the willies.

  3. Paul, exactly! You put it well. I was also never into the gore porn. Gross is not scary. I love Poltergeist! I will have to check out Mirrors.

    MG, Oh yes, I enjoyed The Shining. That's one of those ones people either love or hate.

  4. All types will always have a place. Saw and Hostel and that ilk didn't invent that genre, that was just that genre coming around again.
    I'm not into horrow, but, still, I'm way more attracted to psychological stuff rather than seeing someone ripped apart.

  5. Andrew, I agree that all types will always have a place. It seems like they go in and out of vogue for a time period, though, and maybe the gore porn holiday is done for a little bit. They'll still release them, but I'm hoping there's more psychological horror to come, maybe a bit more of a focus on that. After years of being fairly meh about alien-involved horror, I think I may enjoy more of those types of films if they can get their acts together and put more of those out, as well. Those seem to have a good foothold in times like these.

  6. Although I love horror movies, the gore doesn't phase me as much as the slow tension building horror. I'd be all for a change back to the horror/thriller kind. That's what I loved about the original Halloween movie. It had a bit of gore too, but it was all about the chase, the unknown. Then they tried to explain it all away in the Halloween remake, and it was stupid. So I hope things are changing. :)

  7. I think there will always be fans of all kinds of horror... my favorite is the subtle horror - the monster you don't see... so much more freakier...

  8. The gory stuff just makes me wanna vomit. Seriously. I'm much more of a creepy/paranormal/thriller girl. That said, I'd much rather watch films like Paranormal Activity, 1408, The Ring (eeep!), and even those more subtle this-could-really-happen movies like Silence of the Lambs and Seven. Really, who doesn't get creeped out when Anthony Hopkins says, "Hello, Clarice"?

    However, I do believe there are those who will always love the gore and guts and icky intestine spilling flicks. Eww. So, will they stay on the market? I think so.

  9. Depraved people are scarier than monsters. I don't enjoy gore-- but I like a good spooky story with lots of suspense and scream moments. (=

  10. I like horror movies like The Others, Messengers, Sixth Sense, etc... Now I laugh at the gorey movies but I do like zombies and vampires. Werewolves, too.

  11. Cherie, I definitely agree. The slow buildup and tension are fantastic. Sure, there's going to be gore in much of it, but the gore isn't the main scare.

    Tania, so true, the one you don't see. Implied horror leaves our own minds open to whatever they might think up.

    Alyssia, I agree that both kinds will always be on the market. Sometimes it seems like it goes more one way or the other for a period, and I'm delighted with the current direction. I was a bit disgusted with where it was for awhile. Love the movies you mentioned!

    Jo, stories that can be real life are definitely the scariest. I've often said that reading true life crime or thrillers is much scarier than true horror books.

    Shelly, I like those movies, too. I do enjoy the classic monsters, but when out for a scare they need to be the real original ones, not ones that are dolled up. Not to say I don't enjoy the UF versions at all, but I don't read/view those for scares.