Monday, October 31, 2011

Boo! Yourself

Here on All Hallow's Eve/Samhain Eve/Halloween, it seems appropriate to talk about my favorite scary, gory, slasher films. As a film buff, I'm bound to have some real gems, right? Right?
Two problems: I've never really been a big fan of gore or of being scared.
Now, I like roller coasters and giant water slides and thrills of that kind. I love that kind of adrenaline rush. There's just something about having something jump out at me from the dark that I just don't like. It's almost like a negative adrenaline rush. My knee-jerk reaction is fight or flight, and - unfortunately for those who have tried to spook me - it's usually fight.
Like this guy:
This is why I don't go to haunted houses. It's just safer for everyone.

While a thrilling ride on a roller coaster leaves me with a bit of a "high," the feeling I have after a "Boo!" type of scare leaves me with a nagging, uncomfortable feeling in my stomach for hours afterwards. I just don't enjoy it. However, I recognize that other people do, and I've even utilized this fact in some of my own artistic ventures. About a dozen years ago, I directed a live theatrical version of Dracula that literally had people jumping out of their seats. (Fortunately, they climbed back into them to enjoy the rest of the show as well.)
As for gore, I don't necessarily have a weak stomach, I just don't think it's as "cool" as some people do. It's kind of like a joke in which I don't get the punch line. It doesn't bother me, really, but I don't really enjoy a movie in which gore is the central focus.
That's not to say that I don't like many films that fall into the "horror" genre. I love the ethereal feel of the old Universal Horror films: Bela Lugosi's Count Dracula, Boris Karloff's man-made monster, Lon Chaney Jr.'s cursed Wolf Man. I'll probably watch a couple of those tonight, in fact. I might even watch the Spanish-language version of Dracula, shot at night on the Universal sets after the American actors and crew had gone home for the night.

Then, of course, there are the Hammer horror films that revived (no pun intended) the old Universal monsters (many of them with Christopher Lee's face). These films pushed the envelope just a bit further in terms of on-screen brutality and sensuality, though some of the later efforts were perhaps a bit too heavy-handed in their execution (again, no pun intended.) I think that the initial films were among the best.

I can appreciate the skill of directors like Wes Craven in their ability to make audiences scream in surprise or cringe in horror, but I'm just not his audience. I thought the first Scream movie was very well-done, but I just haven't bothered with any of the sequels. It's not my thing.
I find that I tend to enjoy horror films when mixed with other genres. I found Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland more palatable for their humor. Movies like Constantine and Dylan Dog: Dead of Night (both based on comic books, by the way) mix horror and hard-boiled detective stories.

Priest, the Russian film Night Watch, and the recent Attack the Block are really more like action films with a horror twist.

So, unfortunately, I'm just going to have to let you down this time around since I really can't think of any good horror films to recommend for your Halloween viewing. Sorry.
(See what I did there?)

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