An Eyeful of Terror

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September 12, 2012 by raconteurmagazine

by James Bovington

I think I might binge on horror movies soon.   I’m in the mood to be terrified.

Trouble is, I can’t think of a single decent modern horror film. Gallons of blood don’t frighten me, or anyone over the age of twelve. We’ll watch a man get his eye removed by a less-than-qualified surgeon, in all the grisly close up detail we could want, and we won’t be afraid. Nauseous, maybe, but not afraid.

There doesn’t seem to be a market for actual fear in Western cinema anymore, which is odd since a little dose of terror every now and then is good for the mind. Keeps it sharp.

The last genuinely scary horror film I watched was Japanese and was called Noroi. It’s chilling, tense and bloody frightening all at once. I suggest you watch it. Sure the bottom drops out at the end and it gets a bit silly, but it’s a small price to pay.

There’s also Ju-on, or The Grudge, should you wish to translate, or Ringu, both of which have been remade (and watered down) by Hollywood, but the originals are very scary indeed. There’s a cultural thing in Japan about the ghosts of young girls. It’s becoming more in vogue here, too, but those two movies are the epitome of the art.

Whereas here we have to put up with the forty-billionth sequel to Saw or Hostel or something equally boring. Once you’ve seen one person horribly dismembered in great detail you’ve seen them all. We might all be different on the surface, but dig deep enough and everyone looks the same. Even Texas Chainsaw Massacre has been rendered a snooze-fest by remaking it to show every horrible severing. The original showed nothing at all, that’s why it was genius.

Take Psycho. ‘That’ shower scene in that movie is one of the most iconic in the history of cinema, due mainly to it being one of the most chilling. You don’t, however, see knife strike flesh at any point. The soundtrack, editing and camera work make it awfully realistic, but what we actually SEE is someone wave a knife around and then a woman falls down and chocolate sauce runs down the plughole. The ‘original’ cut was rejected because of that scene; the people in charge demanded it be toned down. Hitchcock then sat on it for a month or so and sent them the same cut again, which was now apparently fine. It’s an interesting study in how the mind makes horror work.

I long for something that can portray even half the tension of The Birds, or the sheer helplessness of North by Northwest.

I want a horror film that actually scares me, instead of making me a bit queasy.

Worse than that, even, are the ones that turn out to be a laugh riot. Like the Final Destination movies, which admittedly gave up and started being overtly comedies by the third. The first was intended as horror, though.

Or they’re about something played out like zombies. I’m so bloody bored of zombies. They move slowly and they’re thick? Right, then how are they any different to the other species we’ve wiped out? Now that everybody everywhere is pretty certain they could easily survive the zombie ‘apocalypse’ it’s just dull.

I think what I’m driving at here is that mainstream horror films, the kind that actually get released in cinemas, are bloody awful right now. They are aimed at idiots who think that feeling they get when they see several tons of entrails shown gushing from the stomachs of another human being is fear.

I want to be afraid, not disgusted.

Stop showing me the inside of your spleen and frighten me.

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