I was a panelist at MileHiCon in Denver this weekend. It was a blast, though I was insanely nervous about a couple of my panels going in. My comfort level is horror and short stories, but I read [and write] all over the place, so when I was put on a couple panels that didn't directly relate to what I write, I dove in and did some research and a lot of reading (thank you, Pikes Peak Library District, for having so many great books available on your e-shelf!)
I'm not going to talk about the whole weekend now. That will either occur Wednesday or next Monday. But one of my panels was on different flavors of horror, and at the beginning, we were asked what our favorite type of horror was. My answer was two-fold: psychological and horror-comedy. Here's the kicker. Everyone on the panel preferred psychological in some way, shape, or form. No one said, "Gee, I I really dig torture porn." (Yet it sells...) No one said paranormal, either, which I feel is the type of horror we most often cut our teeth on as kids. (Ghost stories with your friends, folks?) Then again, this can cross streams with psychological horror. "The Others," with Nicole Kidman, is an example.
It was also generally agreed upon that people are scarier than monsters. Monsters aren't realistic, but it's acknowledged that people are frightening. Yet favorite books and movies don't always agree with what we consciously feel is the best element. I thought I'd break some favorite movie elements down into bite sized pieces, much like those mini candy bars we give out.
Opening scene from "Ghost Ship." A calm, peaceful evening is interrupted in a shocking and brutal fashion. Mouth = agape.
The elevator scene in "Cabin in the Woods." A single sound ("Ding!") never before foretold such gleeful carnage. I applauded enthusiastically. There may have been joyful giggles involved.
2. Favorite Monologue:
Samuel L. Jackson in "Deep Blue Sea." Monologues should always be cut short by the shocking death of a character you're certain will make it to the end because of who they are.
3. Favorite Halloween-based movie (TIE):
"Halloween" and "Trick r' Treat," of course. One is the original Halloween slasher film; the other is a series of short films revolving around the holiday.
"The Conjuring." Hide and clap. A harmless children's game used to great effect. "Clap, clap."
5. Favorite Cast:
"Aliens" was ahead of its time, with strong (yet flawed) female characters and a good mix of people of color in the cast. Ripley, our beleaguered survivor; Newt, the bright young girl who survived where the adults couldn't; Corporal Hicks, a soldier, a powerful man, yet willing to hear Ripley out and throw his support behind her; Vasquez, kicking ass and taking names; Apone, a solid leader in a bad, unknown situation.
6. Favorite Final Girl:
Ripley from the "Alien" series. She was a well written female character, both strong and willing to ask for help. Her story didn't revolve around getting the guy (though I was all for her and Corporal Hicks hooking up). She was flawed, but smart, and calm under pressure.
7. Favorite Fool:
Marty in "Cabin in the Woods." If he'd been the sole survivor, I would have been happy with that. He was the only one who realized something was wrong. Plus, he was comic relief. Without him, there would be no survivor. The stoner with a heart of gold.
8. Favorite Movie Monster:
The xenomorph. When you attack her, her blood sees that you pay. Bug-like, drooling, and creepy, these creatures can skitter along the ceiling as easily as under the floor. The monster that taught me you always look up when you sense something near.
9. Favorite Moment of Lost Hope:
Drew Barrymore's scene in "Scream." The horror of seeing her fight like hell and get so near her parents, only to be gutted as they listen in on the line. This was her return to the movies, and another example of a character I thought was sure to survive, because of who the actor was. The film that taught me that was no longer a solid truth.
Ginger, of "Gingersnaps." Packed with attitude and snark, pissed off at the excess hair growth, and just wanting to have a little fun, she's impossible to hate as she goes through a whole different kind of puberty.
Hannibal Lecter in "Silence of the Lambs." His mind is sick and twisted, but he fascinates and titillates too much to want him gone.
11. Favorite Movie Quotes:
I have too many to list (believe me, I started), so here's a montage of best movie quotes.
12. Favorite Twist (TIE):
Brad Pitt in "Se7en" finding out he's one of the sinners being punished, and that he's been played the entire time.
"Sixth Sense." Sure, you might have seen it coming, and the little guy tells us right in the beginning that he sees dead people, but there's no way to be sure until we get that confirmation, and suddenly everything makes sense. This was the twist that killed future twists.
13. Favorite Duo:
Val and Earl in "Tremors." Without these two, the movie would just be about giant, killer worms eating people. They are the heart and the comic relief. And also, ultimately, the heroes.
I could have kept listing various favorites, but thirteen seemed like a good stopping point. If none of these catches your fancy, check out "The Exorcist," "Poltergeist," "Hush," "The Shining," "Night of the Living Dead," "Jaws," "Nightmare on Elm Street," "Psycho," "The Fly," "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," "Detention," "A Stranger Calls," "Krampus," or "Re-Animator," depending upon what you're looking for.
Still not good enough? Here's a list of 100 Best Horror Films.
What are some of your favorites? Any favorite categories I should have addressed? Did you disagree on any of them? What type of horror do you prefer?
May you find your Muse.
*Pumpkin from clker.com, Pumpkin2, OCAL