Sunday, 5 September 2010

On Horror

My choice of film has recently been the subject of criticism. In brief, I've been accused of having an exceedingly narrow mind when it comes to choosing what to watch. Apparently, I will only admit to enjoying films that aren't in the English language [*cough* Bollocks! *cough*] and, according to my brother and N, I need to broaden my cinematic horizons from World Cinema and watch more mainstream films. If you ask me, that's a contradiction in terms and can only make my selection less varied, but I agreed in order to combat this assassination of my character.

The first genre of which I was deemed particularly ignorant was horror, so it was agreed that we would each choose one horror film, and watch them back-to-back. I had one condition: no torture porn. So I sat down yesterday evening with three DVDs (The Omen, Pontypool and Paranormal Activity), too much popcorn and a cushion to hide behind should the demons, zombies and the apostates of Hell get too much for me.

The fact that I haven't watched many horror films in the past is not, contrary to popular belief, because I think them unworthy. The fact is, they too often scare the shit out of me and I'm not very manly in my reactions. Despite being a complete wimp, however, I can't deny that it is fun to do. There's something about the adrenaline rush you get from horror films that isn't equalled by any other genre, and come to think of it, it's a thrill I'd never seek out in real life, either - you won't find me prowling dark alleys or graveyards in the dead of night looking for something to terrify me, thank you very much. It's all a bit odd really. I mean if fear is a natural reaction, designed to make us run as fast we can in the other direction, what are we getting out of putting ourselves through the nail-biting, blood-curdling, sleep-depriving scenes that we watch? Is that not a bit like self-flagellation? Why force yourself to be uncomfortable?

Perhaps it's meant to provide an escape from the monotony of reality - maybe we look to horror films to provide us with a surge of adrenaline that we don't get anywhere else. And, because the action unfolds behind a screen, we get the rush without the danger. I'd go with this - and add to the theory that, as the setting of horror films is usually rural US towns, I feel extra safe. I mean the chances of being allowed onto a plane with a chainsaw are slim, and I don't think demons have passports. I've also heard that horror films are often looked at challenges to overcome - endurance tests. This is, apparently, why horror is particularly popular with teenage boys - sitting through two hours of blood, guts and gore is a way proving their masculinity [perhaps this is where I went wrong - at their age I was probably still watching and re-watching Pretty Woman]. Others watch horror solely for the sense of relief at the end, the calm after the storm has passed.

While I'm not sure of the reason behind the popularity of the horror genre, I will admit to enjoying the films I watched last night. Perhaps the plan is working and soon I'll be horror movie buff, able to sit through all manner of torture scenes without flinching. But that's a long way off. In the meantime, I'm off to watch some more Almodóvar [my director of choice at the moment]. I need to watch something nice, something colourful, something relaxing. I didn't sleep last night you see; it's quite difficult with the light on.


  1. I'm a wimp when it comes to horror films too. I love watching ones that are really bad and therefore unintentionally comedic, but I don't always do so well with things that are realistic and therefore actually scary.

    People bug me about my taste in movies as well. I tend to gravitate towards things that are:
    a) really old
    b) really obscure
    c) subtitled
    d) all of the above

    It's probably not a bad idea to try to be more well-rounded. Good for you for braving the horror genre. Maybe someday I'll work up the nerve to do the same.

  2. I'm with Lauren - I don't really like Horror films either, but I don't even watch the hilariously bad ones.

    I should have added some Canadian movies to my list of things that make me feel very Canadian - since you're into international cinema.

  3. Horror films usually scare the crap out of me too. As much as I can understand you enjoying the adrenaline rush, I absolutely do not enjoy the feeling of being scared. The horror films I can tolerate are the cheesy 80s slasher films. A Nightmare on Elm Street cracks me up every time!

  4. Paranormal Activity made me laugh, honestly.

    A good horror film is a great film, though. Take The Shining, for example, one of the best films of all time and delightfully petrifying every time you watch it.

  5. I'm the same, with horror films.

    I can watch some thrillers, but horror, just no. I am quite happy to stay ignorant, and be able to sleep at night.

    I like your blog!

  6. I used to watch horror films a lot. It's probably because of the adrenaline rush, as you said. Or maybe I'm just weird like that. Haha. How do you find Paranormal Activity? Because, although I find ghost movies a little bit scarier than slasher/monster movies, I thought P.A. was a snooze fest. It was like they were just sleeping the whole time. Or something like that.

    You should see the Japanese version of The Grudge. It was the last movie that made me paranoid(ish). :D

  7. I'm not necessarily a fan of the horror genre, but I don't mind watching it. It doesn't really scare me- and I don't get that adrenaline rush. I sort of sit back and scoff.

    In any case: shall we do a subtitled/obscure/'well-rounded' film recommendation list?

    I'll leave horror off yours.


  8. I can't do horror. I really can't. It's not so much that I get scared (though sometimes I do, more often than not it doesn't faze me), but the concept often gets stuck in my brain and gives me really messed up nightmares.

  9. I prefer psychological thrillers, like Sixth Sense and The Secret Window, things like that, rather than straight-out slasher-horror stuff. It's not that I don't think those films aren't any good - in fact I thought the original Nightmare on Elm Street (minus the ending), for instance, was quite well made - it's just that I'm really too much of a wimp for them.

  10. hahaha... I tell ya T, I just love your blog. "I don't think demons have passports." lol! I'm sitting in my coffee shop right now, reading this while sipping on my chai tea, and you almost made my delightful chai tea come out my nose in front of my customers lol.

    But I hear ya... I'm not too big on horror movies these days. I especially can't take all the gore stuff... but I did love paranormal activity. Yeah some parts were slow... but the ending literally made me jump out of my chair, and my friends that were with me in the theater too. We literally didn't sleep that night lol. But I like that kind of adrenaline! Just not the blood and guts stuff. :)

  11. @ Lauren - Old, obscure and subtitled. I AM IN COMPLETE AGREEMENT. This is the type of film I was being mocked for watching. I should have stood my ground instead of succumbing to peer pressure. PS I forgot to write your name in at first, so it looked like I was calling you old, obscure and subtitled, which of course I was not.

    @ Allison - Pontypool was Canadian! I have to say, it was my favourite of the three. It wasn't that scary, but it was unusual, and all shot on one set. Seriously, hit me up with some Canadian filmage. I have a rental account online, and I'm not afraid to use it.

    @ k-money - Nightmare on Elm Street kept me awake for about a week when I was 13. OK, I was 16. Fucked up. I mean the man's in your dreams.

    @ Adria - The Shining is one of the most uncomfortable cinematic experiences ever, which is what makes it such a superb film, I think. I should have chosen that instead of The Omen. RED RUM!

    @ Jen - THANKS! I share your opinion that ignorance is bliss. I want you all to know that I was forced into this, kicking and screaming.

    @ Gnetch - I expected Paranormal Activity to disturb me, but it didn't. A victim of hype, I think. The Hollywood version of the Grudge did scare me though - I think that probably means the Japanese version would terrify me completely?

    @ Risha - I wish I had your presence of mind. Unfortunately anything a little bit scary and I lose all objectivity and reason. AND I LOVE THE OBSCURE, SUBTITLED, WELL-ROUNDED FILM LIST! Let's do it. Shall I email you?

    @ Tabs - that's always a danger, I suppose. Especially if it's that Freddie Krueger bollocks. I suppose you know what scares you, so your imagination could almost leave you with custom-built horror, perfect for scaring you, which film studios obviously can't.

    @ Erin - I agree, I like films like that too, because they have a plot. Which I think is important. I think it's a shame so much emphasis has been put on slasher/torture porn films, it's so lazy.

    @ StarGazer - I'm glad I made you chuckle, though sorry for wasting some of your tea :( I think I should have watched Paranormal Activity on the big screen. It was just a small TV, plus I'd had people tell me how bad it was so I was on edge all the way through, preparing myself for a shock. I think if I'd seen it at the cinema it would have affected me more.

  12. I had to come back to this post because I watched Paranormal Activity this week. It scared me. A lot. I had to sleep with the light on last night.

    Horror films don't usually bother me. I forget about them afterwards. But this one really got to me.

    I think they're definitely scarier when you don't know what the scary thing is? You know?

    Anyway, have a good weekend!