The Decline (or Not) of the American Horror Film

 

Note: The following essay deals with what I will call “straight” horror, i.e., horror films not intended to be tongue-in-cheek and do not contain elements of self-parody or intentional humor (with the possible exception of the reference to Dead Alive). So, none of the Bruce Campbell Evil Dead movies or the various aging slasher franchises will be dealt with. Nor will it deal with television/net-based series.

If you have at all seen the American horror movie The Brain that Would Not Die you probably saw it on Mystery Science Theater 3000 in which “Jan in a pan,” the decapitated head of the girlfriend of the mad scientist in the movie, kept alive through methods he perfected in his twisted perversion of medical science (he was a doctor specializing in transplant medicine and reconstructive surgery the set-up tells us) visits the bots and Mike from the Gizmonic Institute during intermissions. I was not so lucky. At the age of 10, maybe 11, I suffered through the film in all its stomach-turning awfulness, unmitigated by the quips and comments from the MST3K team, and was rescued from its twisted if ineptly executed story only by ads for the local car dealerships and some guy in Indianapolis who really, really wanted to sell you guns. Lots of them. And frankly, I was glad he did because I knew I would need them badly if that thing locked in the secret experimental operating theatre in the basement ever got out.

You see, that “thing” was the key to the horror of the whole film … er … movie. This piece of cinematic waste does not deserve that sometimes-noble appellation. Sure, the movie had key elements of the horror genre in the west, to wit:

  1. The real existence of evil. In this case, embodied in the person of a man of science who to all outward appearances is upright and even altruistic in his motives, in addition to being intellectually brilliant, but who, in reality, is psychotically evil, putting his obsession with pushing the limits of what science can do past the outmost edges of what science morally ought to be allowed to do.
  2. Innocent and/or helpless persons in danger. In this case, the innocents are subjected to hideous experiments in the hands of (1) above as he perverts and warps science beyond all bounds of human ethics. That one of the helpless persons is the mad scientist´s own wife and the other some unwitting beauty just raises the level of pity for the victims and revulsion at the evil of our mad doctor. This evocation of our pity and fear responses is all in good Euripidean/Shakespearean style and would be familiar to the Aristotles, Drydens, Lessings, and Diderots among us as well.
  3. Suspense born of danger experienced vicariously through audience identification with the innocent/helpless persons. In this case, that danger comes from the scientist´s intent to kill a beautiful woman — any beautiful woman will do for him, as long as she´s a looker — and transplant his wife’s bodiless head onto her still-living body. The other woman´s head — and brain and mind — would just be thrown away, presumably. The threat here is really one of complete dehumanization, of turning two women into objects of unwilling medical experimentation to satisfy the demented intellectual and sexual pleasures of the man performing the experiment. The approach to the fulfilment of this monstrously hideous plan is what generates our suspense.
  4. Evocation of moral revulsion, visceral fear and physical disgust at the efforts of (1) to inflict (3) on (2) and the results of those efforts. In particular, these reactions are triggered by the living result of the mad doctor’s previous experiments in his monstrous corruption of medicine, the aforementioned “thing” locked in the experimental operating theater, as well as the very idea that the mad doctor might be able to really carry out his intentions described above.
  5. The evocation of the uncanny or invocation of the malign supernatural. By this, what is usually meant, in horror films, is some supernatural element of inhuman, demonic, or diabolical influence on/control over humans. Here, it is merely the “thing which should not be,” a tortured, mutilated, experimental “patient” of the mad scientist which (it was once a man but does not even qualify as a “who” anymore, that’s part of the horror) has somehow been kept alive as a twisted parody of human form … at least we are led to think that by the dialogue. Said dialogue also implies that there is some mental link between “Jan in a pan” and the “thing” from the lab. Which gets me to my point:

Why is the “thing” and not the head in the pan the object of real horror in this film? First of all, because the bodiless woman is more of an object of pity as she is played, but she also turns into something of a Fury in the Greek-est sense: It is her voice that convinces the “thing” to act, destroying the lab, thereby put an end to freakish misery to which the woman´s demented doctor boyfriend has condemned them, as well as killing the madman and turning all of his notes about his techniques into ash.

The filmmakers had to put the “thing” on the screen for that particular scene, and in doing so they did the one act that turned this film from a potentially mediocre piece of cinematic horror into a real dog with fleas: The director lets us see it and find out just how low the movie´s budget really was and how inept the make-up man. There had been, in the dialogue, some terrific build-up for this unfortunate monster, and everything I imagined it being in my 10-year-old mind was orders of magnitude more terrifying, more deserving of the title “horror” than the laughably latex mask on the face of some poor contract player from central casting. Seriously, episodes of the original Outer Limits (contemporary with this movie) like “The Architects of Fear” had better special effects make-up than The Brain that Would Not … shut up … er … Die.

That decision, repeated hundreds of times and with increasing frequency is precisely where the horror genre has gone wrong in the last 30 or so years: The decision to give free rein to the impulse to show the audience what should not be shown but instead left to each audience member’s individual imagination.

Just to take a couple of well-known examples: The 1931 Frankenstein with Boris Karloff and the 1994 Frankenstein with Robert DeNiro. The former film only hints at the most pity-and-fear inducing event in the monster´s career: his accidental killing of the peasant girl. Nor does the film show much of the making of the monster. Before you say “censors,” the 1931 Frankenstein came out before film censors were hugely concerned about possible gruesome content in films, though this film was still preceded by a warning for the faint of heart and weak of constitution in most theaters where it was shown. More than 80 years later, everyone still recognizes this face:

The 1994 film shows us everything, including some of the worst performances in the careers of its main cast (Kevin Branagh as Victor Frankenstein, DeNiro, Helena Bonham-Carter, et al.), and for the sake of that cast, I hope that I and film freaks like me are the only human beings on the planet who remember this lamentable waste of time and talent. It has been forgotten, and deservedly so, and I think its excesses completely explain its fate.

The same fate has rightly befallen the 1999 remake of The Haunting. The first film version from 1963 did not show us much of anything of the unquiet spirit haunting the titular mansion, but got its jump scares and sense of dread and fear from what is only implied through sound, shadow, and excellent acting. Again, in the competition for evoking those fear, pity, revulsion, and anxiety responses in the audience the older film wins, the younger film loses.

This has been generally true of the whole genre since at least the ’70s. Once directors such Tobe Hooper began actually showing more and more graphic depictions (not necessarily realistic ones) of the violence that is by the genre’s nature part of what makes horror films horrifying, they began a sort of arms race in latex and fake-blood-splatter which Peter Jackson took to its absolutely absurd extreme in Dead Alive.

The fact that special effects make-up technology has advanced in the last 40 years or so does not wholly explain the apparent compulsion to use it to depict the gruesome acts of monsters and men with the hearts of monsters, either. That, I think, lies in the character of the whole “arms race”– what was shocking yesterday and effectively evoked fear, disgust, and pity no longer does next week. A director who decides to depict a naked woman being bisected in the middle of a sex act can only do that once and expect the image to shock his audience.

That example demonstrates a principle that has worked very much against the genre: Special effects that once would have evoked those fear and pity responses became more and more conventional, prompting horror film writers and directors ever-more-grotesque and depraved images to put on the screen, and people become increasingly inured to them. The results have been the whole torture-porn wave that started in the late 1990s, the Hellraiser movies (which are also dreadfully boring), Saw 1 through … what is it now … Saw 8,000? And I don’t know how many variations on Hostel. None of them leave any work for the audience’s imagination and all of them have now run their course, leaving audiences and critics, well, bored with the whole idea of horror.

The few exceptions to this trend have been the horror films that are staying with the culture … for now anyway … and that is an important demonstration of the validity of the thesis that “less is more” in horror. The Blair Witch Project, now 20 years old, famously showed the audience nothing of the titular Connecticut witch but instead let atmosphere, dialogue, and acting carry the story. It supplied all of the elements of horror film, without showing us the evil stalking our protagonists. The film is still talked about as a result.

Likewise, A Quiet Place kept its threat to the family we identify with out of sight for most of the film and brilliantly used sound – and silence—to produce the requisite suspense, anxiety and pity responses until near the end. It has been rightly called the smartest horror film of the century to date.

Get Out also mostly relied on psychological build-up to generate its sense of the ominous and horrific, and did not turn on the gore until the very last act. That, too, could have been toned down without any detriment to the story or the psychological involvement of the audience. It did not depend on those elements to tell its tale, while in lesser horror movies, the elements of gory, gruesome depictions of depraved acts of violence and torture are the whole point.

Personally, I viewed the production and popularity of such films that emphasized the cruelty, and the depravity that produced it, to be a sign of a soul sickness in our culture. I hope we really have seen the end of that particularly appalling trend, which hope is based in part on the success of the Paranormal Activity series and films like those mentioned above.

The trade magazines like The Hollywood Reporter have been talking about the demise of horror for over a decade now, though box office has shown no clear trend — receipts have been up one year, down the next. 2014 was particularly bad, 2017 particularly good with Get Out contributing to both box-office and critical success. 2018 was a strong year thanks in no small part to the new Halloween and the aforementioned A Quiet Place.

Whether and how the genre continues to develop or succeed will, I think, depend on writers and directors continuing to move away from the gore-and-entrails approach and back to the key elements of the genre identified above.

There are 33 comments.

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  1. Amy Schley Moderator
    Amy Schley
    @AmySchley

    Agreed on the “show too much.” “The VVitch” was a surprisingly smart horror movie, set in Puritan New England and using historical records of witches to define what the witch does to the isolated family. But the family tension of whether the protagonist is the witch would have been far more effective if the audience hadn’t been shown an actual witch and so was left wondering itself if the protagonist was responsible for the evil. 

    • #1
  2. Juliana Member
    Juliana
    @Juliana

    One of the scariest things about Alien was that 1. the monster kept changing, and 2. you didn’t get a good look at the mature monster until the end.

    The Haunting is my favorite horror movie. I’ve seen it about 15 times (or so) and even though I know what is going to happen (and most of the lines), it is still frightening. I generally watch it standing up so I can make a quick exit if necessary.

    I purchased a beautifully carved wood framed mirror and my husband and daughter both questioned my thought process. “That looks like it came from Hill House. You’re not really going to hang it on the wall, are you?” That kind of visceral response to something you know is not real (it’s only a movie) is, to my mind, the sign of true art. And no, the mirror is not yet hanging on the wall.

    • #2
  3. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Juliana (View Comment):
    The Haunting is my favorite horror movie. I’ve seen it about 15 times (or so) and even though I know what is going to happen (and most of the lines), it is still frightening. I generally watch it standing up so I can make a quick exit if necessary.

    One of mine too (and I say this as someone not a fan of horror in the first place).  The movie is more taut and better paced than the book too, which gets very odd.  It holds up well too.

    • #3
  4. DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey
    @DrewInWisconsin

    The Blair Witch Project, now 20 years old, famously showed the audience nothing of the titular Connecticut witch but instead let atmosphere, dialogue and acting carry the story. It supplied all of the elements of horror film, without showing us the evil stalking our protagonists. And the film is still talked about, as a result.

    I think The Blair Witch Project had the opposite sort of problem. It showed too little. In fact, it didn’t show anything. And at the very point where you think you’re finally going to see something, it ends. It builds toward a climax but then stops abruptly with no release or resolution. Cinematus Interruptus.

    Clearly the filmmakers didn’t know how to end it, and relied on the “found footage” gimmick as their get-out-of-jail-free card. But the lack of any sort of resolution left me thinking that the viral promotional campaign (clips of people coming out of the theater saying “You have to go see this! So scary!”) was part of a big joke. My theory: everyone who saw it realized they’d been fooled by the marketing, but they didn’t want to be the only ones fooled, so they told all their friends to go see it, insisting that it was a truly frightening film. Those friends saw it, realized they’d been had, but kept the joke going by telling more friends to go see it. It was the moviegoing equivalent of a snipe hunt.

    All that said, I take your point about letting imagination fill in the blanks.* I also remember watching afternoon “monster movies” on UHF channels when I was a kid, and I recall the tension and build-up toward actually seeing the monster. I didn’t want to see the monster. It was going to be scary. I wanted to hide behind the couch! I remember sharing these experiences with friends. “Did you look? Did you see the monster?” That tension and what is provided by the imagination seems to be a requirement for a good horror movie. The revelation can actually be a bit of a let-down if it doesn’t live up to the expectations your imagination built up. Plus, with the tension gone, it really is the make-or-break point for a movie.

     

    ———————

    * Blair Witch was just a big blank. The other thing I found interesting was that, because these blanks are frequently filled in by one’s personal experiences, the idea of the big scary woods just didn’t do anything for me. I grew up wandering through the woods on my uncle’s land, and it looked very much like the scenery from Blair Witch. So I didn’t really feel any of the characters’ tension as they freaked out about being in the woods. Or their discovery of (gasp!) bundles of sticks! AAIIEEE!
    • #4
  5. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Hartmann von Aue: Innocent and/or helpless persons in danger. In this case, the innocents are subjected to hideous experiments in the hands of (1) above as he perverts and warps science beyond all bounds of human ethics. That one of the helpless persons is the mad scientist´s own wife and the other some unwitting beauty just raises the level of pity for the victims and revulsion at the evil of our mad doctor. This evocation of our pity and fear responses is all in good Euripidean/Shakespearean style and would be familiar to the Aristotles, Drydens, Lessings, and Diderots among us as well.

    Some good horror tales change this, where the people in danger are far from innocent, having borne some greater or lesser degree of responsibility for whatever the menace is.  And the more skilled tellings of such tales allow such characters paths to redemption, where they can redeem themselves through self-sacrifice or other heroics, or otherwise make some form of atonement.  This keeps them from being made into flat villains, and allows the audience to see their humanity and thus empathize with their fate.

    • #5
  6. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Hartmann von Aue: Innocent and/or helpless persons in danger. In this case, the innocents are subjected to hideous experiments in the hands of (1) above as he perverts and warps science beyond all bounds of human ethics. That one of the helpless persons is the mad scientist´s own wife and the other some unwitting beauty just raises the level of pity for the victims and revulsion at the evil of our mad doctor. This evocation of our pity and fear responses is all in good Euripidean/Shakespearean style and would be familiar to the Aristotles, Drydens, Lessings, and Diderots among us as well.

    Some good horror tales change this, where the people in danger are far from innocent, having borne some greater or lesser degree of responsibility for whatever the menace is. And the more skilled tellings of such tales allow such characters paths to redemption, where they can redeem themselves through self-sacrifice or other heroics, or otherwise make some form of atonement. This keeps them from being made into flat villains, and allows the audience to see their humanity and thus empathize with their fate.

    Agreed. Or they reverse the roles so  that the innocent person becomes the avenger of some monstrous wrong and brings the terror to the perpetrators of the wrong who then become the figures for whom we are supposed to feel pity. This works best when the wrong was inadvertent or caused through thoughtless or careless acts. 

    • #6
  7. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    D

     

    ———————

    * Blair Witch was just a big blank. The other thing I found interesting was that, because these blanks are frequently filled in by one’s personal experiences, the idea of the big scary woods just didn’t do anything for me. I grew up wandering through the woods on my uncle’s land, and it looked very much like the scenery from Blair Witch. So I didn’t really feel any of the characters’ tension as they freaked out about being in the woods. Or their discovery of (gasp!) bundles of sticks! AAIIEEE!

    That´s a fair complaint. The movie would have been better off if the hype had been dialed back to 4 from the 11 they seem to have soldered the knob at. I thought it was effective to have the last shot show the college kid standing exactly as the boy described  in the story is said to have stood right before he was killed.

    And there´s the heartwarming message that self-centered, foul-mouthed college kids will die if they get lost in a forest at night.  

    • #7
  8. Juliana Member
    Juliana
    @Juliana

    DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey (View Comment):

    All that said, I take your point about letting imagination fill in the blanks.* I also remember watching afternoon “monster movies” on UHF channels when I was a kid, and I recall the tension and build-up toward actually seeing the monster. I didn’t want to see the monster. It was going to be scary. I wanted to hide behind the couch! I remember sharing these experiences with friends. “Did you look? Did you see the monster?” That tension and what is provided by the imagination seems to be a requirement for a good horror movie. The revelation can actually be a bit of a let-down if it doesn’t live up to the expectations your imagination built up. Plus, with the tension gone, it really is the make-or-break point for a movie.

    I remember watching Psycho on tv one late night when I was babysitting. (probably around 7th or 8th grade). I watched the whole movie until they get into the basement and turn around the the chair, at which time I promptly covered my eyes with my hands. It was a couple of years before I watched the movie again and actually saw what was there.

     

    • #8
  9. DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Juliana (View Comment):
    One of the scariest things about Alien was that 1. the monster kept changing, and 2. you didn’t get a good look at the mature monster until the end.

    And even then, you never really get a good look at it.

    I recently re-watched the sequel — Aliens — and it might fall into the “showed too much” category. It lacked the tension I remembered from the original. It was much more of a mere “Action!” movie, full of narrow escapes.

    • #9
  10. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey (View Comment):

    Juliana (View Comment):
    One of the scariest things about Alien was that 1. the monster kept changing, and 2. you didn’t get a good look at the mature monster until the end.

    And even then, you never really get a good look at it.

    I recently re-watched the sequel — Aliens — and it might fall into the “showed too much” category. It lacked the tension I remembered from the original. It was much more of a mere “Action!” movie, full of narrow escapes.

    Yup. They are wholly different types of films. Alien is horror, Aliens is SF/action. Alien 3 (and every iteration after that) falls under “a waste of time and talent”. 

    • #10
  11. DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Juliana (View Comment):
    I remember watching Psycho on tv one late night when I was babysitting. (probably around 7th or 8th grade). I watched the whole movie until they get into the basement and turn around the the chair, at which time I promptly covered my eyes with my hands. It was a couple of years before I watched the movie again and actually saw what was there.

    Psycho is one of those movies that is so embedded into pop culture, such that even people who have never seen it know too much about the plot to really be surprised by the “surprise twist” at the end. (In the same way that everyone knows what Charles Foster Kane’s last word means.)

    So when I finally got around to watching it as an adult, I had to keep reminding myself how it would come across to someone who went into it without all that cultural foreknowledge. I think as a result, the experience was kind of . . . boring.

    • #11
  12. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    The Movies! channel is showing a bunch of William Castle films this month. I don’t know if the genre is in decline or not, but a lot of the old horror films were really, really bad. 

    Tonight we will be watching Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. It has Frankenstein, the Wolfman, Dracula, and little to no chance of nightmares.

    • #12
  13. Juliana Member
    Juliana
    @Juliana

    Vance Richards (View Comment):

    The Movies! channel is showing a bunch of William Castle films this month. I don’t know if the genre is in decline or not, but a lot of the old horror films were really, really bad.

    Tonight we will be watching Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. It has Frankenstein, the Wolfman, Dracula, and little to no chance of nightmares.

    Abbot and Costello movies are not generally something I will take the time to watch – but I do like Meet Frankenstein. It’s spooky fun – something for a kid’s sleepover.

    And yes, a lot of the old horror movies were embarrassingly bad.

    • #13
  14. Amy Schley Moderator
    Amy Schley
    @AmySchley

    DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey (View Comment):

    Juliana (View Comment):
    I remember watching Psycho on tv one late night when I was babysitting. (probably around 7th or 8th grade). I watched the whole movie until they get into the basement and turn around the the chair, at which time I promptly covered my eyes with my hands. It was a couple of years before I watched the movie again and actually saw what was there.

    Psycho is one of those movies that is so embedded into pop culture, such that even people who have never seen it know too much about the plot to really be surprised by the “surprise twist” at the end. (In the same way that everyone knows what Charles Foster Kane’s last word means.)

    So when I finally got around to watching it as an adult, I had to keep reminding myself how it would come across to someone who went into it without all that cultural foreknowledge. I think as a result, the experience was kind of . . . boring.

    Eh, it was still effective for me. I knew the shower scene was coming, but somehow I’d managed to miss that the “turn the chair around to find a corpse” cliche was from Psycho, so the reveal wasn’t spoiled. It remains one of the few movies to give me nightmares. 

    Another great example of horror monster sruined by over exposure are the Weeping Angels in the Doctor Who universe. In their first episode Blink, they cannot move when observed, and that includes by the camera. By the latest episodes, they not only move on screen but have dozens of rules to let them do whatever the plot demands. They were enormously more effective when they simply preyed on the feeling that things had moved when you weren’t looking. 

    • #14
  15. DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Amy Schley (View Comment):
    Eh, it was still effective for me. I knew the shower scene was coming, but somehow I’d managed to miss that the “turn the chair around to find a corpse” cliche was from Psycho, so the reveal wasn’t spoiled. It remains one of the few movies to give me nightmares. 

    Mostly what I meant is the red herring. The film leads you to believe that Norman’s mother is committing murders. Even people who’ve never seen the movie know who the guilty party is. So watching the movie today becomes an exercise in attempting to see the film as if you don’t already know.

    • #15
  16. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey (View Comment):

    Amy Schley (View Comment):
    Eh, it was still effective for me. I knew the shower scene was coming, but somehow I’d managed to miss that the “turn the chair around to find a corpse” cliche was from Psycho, so the reveal wasn’t spoiled. It remains one of the few movies to give me nightmares.

    Mostly what I meant is the red herring. The film leads you to believe that Norman’s mother is committing murders. Even people who’ve never seen the movie know who the guilty party is. So watching the movie today becomes an exercise in attempting to see the film as if you don’t already know.

    Right.

    But even given that we all know in advance what’s about to happen, the film is really not that great as a suspense film.  I think this is considered a “classic” of the genre is that it’s Hitchcock, and at the time the notion of a guy keeping his dead mother around while he cross-dressed as her and killed people had a societal shock value.  So the film is one of those curious artifacts of memory, like Masters of the Universe, where we loved it years ago but now look back and wonder how we missed noting how mediocre it really was.

    • #16
  17. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    Dear Editors: I will look for some more photos to insert if this gets promoted to the main feed. Thanks for the still of Jan in the pan. 

    • #17
  18. DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey
    @DrewInWisconsin

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    So the film is one of those curious artifacts of memory, like Masters of the Universe, where we loved it years ago but now look back and wonder how we missed noting how mediocre it really was.

    Dude. Is that really the comparison you want to make? ; )

    • #18
  19. JamesSalerno Coolidge
    JamesSalerno
    @JamesSalerno

    DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey (View Comment):

    Juliana (View Comment):
    I remember watching Psycho on tv one late night when I was babysitting. (probably around 7th or 8th grade). I watched the whole movie until they get into the basement and turn around the the chair, at which time I promptly covered my eyes with my hands. It was a couple of years before I watched the movie again and actually saw what was there.

    Psycho is one of those movies that is so embedded into pop culture, such that even people who have never seen it know too much about the plot to really be surprised by the “surprise twist” at the end. (In the same way that everyone knows what Charles Foster Kane’s last word means.)

    So when I finally got around to watching it as an adult, I had to keep reminding myself how it would come across to someone who went into it without all that cultural foreknowledge. I think as a result, the experience was kind of . . . boring.

    Tell me about it. I was a die-hard Simpsons fan as a kid and watched all of their Halloween episodes. Try watching any of the old Twilight Zones for the first time after that!

    Come to think of it, Simpsons “ruined” a lot of classic cinema for me!

    • #19
  20. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    In a gothic fiction class, we defined “the uncanny” as something which is simultaneously familiar and strange, attractive and repulsive. It is a hesitant fear born of confusion. 

    It is a feeling closely related to “eery” ghost stories — the best kind of ghost stories. Better an unbearable tension and regrettable fascination than an orgy of blood or an hour of disgusting imagery. 

    Ghostbusters has a great combination of spooky tension, occasional thrills, and lots of laughs. Fornite has the same elements and could be adapted into a great film. 

    • #20
  21. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Preference for plot over gore and action is why I much prefer the 1956 version of The Thing over more recent versions. 

    But there are occasionally remakes that improve the originals. Is there an example of horror done better the 2nd or 13th time? 

    I enjoy Wolf more than The Wolf Man. The Jack Nicholson film cleverly explores the connection between Man and beast. But it’s a shame to lose the old gypsy fortune teller.

    • #21
  22. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    Preference for plot over gore and action is why I much prefer the 1956 version of The Thing over more recent versions.

    But there are occasionally remakes that improve the originals. Is there an example of horror done better the 2nd or 13th time?

    I enjoy Wolf more than The Wolf Man. The Jack Nicholson film cleverly explores the connection between Man and beast. But it’s a shame to lose the old gypsy fortune teller.

    You can’t lose the fortune teller.

    Even a man who is pure in heart
    And says his prayers by night
    May become a wolf when the wolfs bane blooms
    And the autumn moon is bright

    That’s just wrong.

    • #22
  23. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    A thoughtful discussion of the horror film genre helped spare you the horror of bears and outhouses as part of October’s theme: “Trick or Treat!” Thanks to everyone for doing your part to fill the month with treats, even tricks that entertained! 

    November’s theme is “Service.”

    • #23
  24. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    Preference for plot over gore and action is why I much prefer the 1956 version of The Thing over more recent versions.

    But there are occasionally remakes that improve the originals. Is there an example of horror done better the 2nd or 13th time?

    I enjoy Wolf more than The Wolf Man. The Jack Nicholson film cleverly explores the connection between Man and beast. But it’s a shame to lose the old gypsy fortune teller.

    I quite agree with you about  The Thing from Another World and almost about Wolf. The latter is a really good film using the lycanthrope Topos but a different treatment than The Wolf Man. Lon Chaney´s ability to convey pathos really makes that film work. I enjoy them both still but differently. Wolf is also the only one of the 90´s remakes of the old Universal horror classics that holds up at all. Branagh´s Frankenstein and Coppola´s Bram Stoker´s Dracula are both deservedly forgotten… and  notice that Wolf follows the “less is more” principle right up to the last 15 minutes or so.  

    • #24
  25. DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    Preference for plot over gore and action is why I much prefer the 1956 version of The Thing over more recent versions.

    I didn’t care much for The Thing from Another World. The people on the base were weirdly relaxed about the whole situation. Yeah, we’ve got a murderous vegetable locked in the other room. How about a sandwich and a smoke? Anyone for a game of cards?

    • #25
  26. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    So the film is one of those curious artifacts of memory, like Masters of the Universe, where we loved it years ago but now look back and wonder how we missed noting how mediocre it really was.

    Dude. Is that really the comparison you want to make? ; )

    You and I were born well after Psycho came out, but we both grew up on 70s and 80s cartoons.  In a way the comparison is apt because just as Psycho was new territory when it came out, and so remembered more for its emotional impact at that moment than its own merits (remembered more for its meta characteristics than any objective quality), so too our childhood shows remain rather golden in our own memories more because of what they meant to us at that time, instead of on any actual merit.  Sometimes cultural markers are like that, where later generations look back and say “You know, this was really popular once but honestly, it’s not worth it.”

    • #26
  27. DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey
    @DrewInWisconsin

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    So the film is one of those curious artifacts of memory, like Masters of the Universe, where we loved it years ago but now look back and wonder how we missed noting how mediocre it really was.

    Dude. Is that really the comparison you want to make? ; )

    You and I were born well after Psycho came out, but we both grew up on 70s and 80s cartoons. In a way the comparison is apt because just as Psycho was new territory when it came out, and so remembered more for its emotional impact at that moment than its own merits (remembered more for its meta characteristics than any objective quality), so too our childhood shows remain rather golden in our own memories more because of what they meant to us at that time, instead of on any actual merit. Sometimes cultural markers are like that, where later generations look back and say “You know, this was really popular once but honestly, it’s not worth it.”

    I just mean “Masters of the Universe” ?? Even when it came out, calling it “mediocre” would have been high praise indeed!

    (I’m just that much older than you that when He-Man was at the height of its popularity, I was well beyond the age of its intended audience. Masters of the Universe came out in 1987. I was in my third year of college.)

    But I take your meaning regarding movies that we enjoyed when we were younger, but that just don’t hold up well. I recently tried to watch Ghostbusters for the first time in many years, and . . . eh, was kind of bored. And that one’s considered a sort of classic.

    • #27
  28. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey (View Comment):
    (I’m just that much older than you that when He-Man was at the height of its popularity, I was well beyond the age of its intended audience. Masters of the Universe came out in 1987. I was in my third year of college.)

    The cartoon came out in ’83, the toys in ’82.  By the time of the ’87 film I was well past the point of the toys.

    • #28
  29. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey (View Comment):
    But I take your meaning regarding movies that we enjoyed when we were younger, but that just don’t hold up well. I recently tried to watch Ghostbusters for the first time in many years, and . . . eh, was kind of bored. And that one’s considered a sort of classic.

    I rewatched that one too, and for me it still held up, and for my kids (who knew nothing about it), the film still worked on its own merits – I didn’t have to pause it to explain now archaic gags that bring down many other films (comedies are especially vulnerable here).

    • #29
  30. DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey
    @DrewInWisconsin

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey (View Comment):
    But I take your meaning regarding movies that we enjoyed when we were younger, but that just don’t hold up well. I recently tried to watch Ghostbusters for the first time in many years, and . . . eh, was kind of bored. And that one’s considered a sort of classic.

    I rewatched that one too, and for me it still held up, and for my kids (who knew nothing about it), the film still worked on its own merits – I didn’t have to pause it to explain now archaic gags that bring down many other films (comedies are especially vulnerable here).

    Well, I should try to watch it with the kids. That would allow me to see it through their eyes. They’re not too jaded yet. I don’t think.

    • #30

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