Thursday, April 24, 2008
Not for Everyone
The other night I watched The Mist (at 2 in the morning, which adds to the experience, and on my computer, which detracts slightly) and was pleased. A good horror movie is hard to find, and while this one wasn’t great, it certainly qualifies as good. Despite the eponymous mist, I saw the ending coming from miles away. And had that been better I’d list it as great.
This stands in contrast to Pulse, which I watched several weeks ago. Pulse had been on my “probably should watch some time eventually when I have the time” list, a list incidentally which is about 500 movies deep. It had actors I liked from Black Donnelys and Lost, and most importantly, and the reason I actually got around to watching it, Veronica Mars. Oh Kristen Bell, can you do no wrong? Yes, in fact, she can. Pulse was pretty dumb, with no few actual scares. Which got me thinking, what makes a good horror movie?
Psychopaths do not make good horror movies. I certainly admit to liking Seven, American Psycho and Silence of the Lambs (please don’t take that as an official endorsement. You may very well hate these movies and think me evil if you see them) but I don’t consider them horror movies. A killer is just a guy. Sure, it’s much easier to imagine yourself getting killed by one of these guys than something from The Mist. Psychopaths exist, The Mist doesn’t. But the fact that I know there is a statistical possibility that a sociopath will kill me (and a greater statistical possibility for me since I will most likely deal with crazies on a daily basis) but that doesn’t qualify as horror.
Gore does not make a good horror movie. I admit, it would be very hard to make a horror movie where no one gets hurt. It’s hard to build a sense of dread when there’s no potential for harm. And I don’t mind gore that much, though I have yet to see Saw, Hostel etc and don’t really plan to. But gore in and of itself is not scary.
So what makes a horror movie that I enjoy? Nightmare Creatures.
But Chris, some of those aren’t horror movies! you say. It doesn’t matter. Whether the film is fantasy, sci-fi, thriller or horror, it’s the nature of the beast that matters. Most of these guys have some semblance of a human form. Any 5th grader can tell you that dragons are da’bomb (been a while since you’ve heard that huh?) but they’re not creepy. It’s the distorted human form that gets you. It also helps if the creature is obscured through most of the film. Hence movies like The Mist, The Fog etc. A grotesque creature in the middle of an open environment is scary, but not creepy. You need the uncertainty of when things will get nasty and the mystery of the nature of creature.
On an unrelated note, Veronica Mars certainly makes it onto My Island. Pulse may have been no good, but as long as Kristen keeps up her wisecracking Veronica character, she’s welcome to join my tropical paradise.