Hello again, darling reader. I’ve had the flu for several days now, and it has not been pleasant. I feel as though a monkey from a secret lab has bitten me. But enough of my whining: I must feed the net before succumbing to my fever…
With Hallowe’en fast approaching I want to recommend a favourite horror movie of mine. I love horror movies, but I’m pretty picky. Lousy horror movies fill me with murderous rage. I like my horror to be genuinely scary and suspenseful. I know from trying that this is very hard to achieve. You need characters that you can invest in, which means believably written and acted. You need to access genuine fears. You need to build tension without cheap scares.
The value of horror movies for me is catharsis, defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as: purification or purgation of the emotions (as pity and fear) primarily through art. Gotthold Ephraim Lessing translates catharsis as a purification, an experience that brings pity and fear into their proper balance: “In real life,” he explained, “men are sometimes too much addicted to pity or fear, sometimes too little; tragedy brings them back to a virtuous and happy mean.” He was writing about Tragedy, but it applies equally well to Horror for me. I watch horror movies to be taken on a journey into the most primitive depths of fear, to experience that fear in as primal a way as possible within the relative safety of a story, and to come out the other side into the light, calmed, rebalanced, renewed. So, few things annoy me more than the current trend in horror movies for no one to survive except the thing or things that that killed everyone.
Yes. I’ve read history. I know that there are countless instances where the cavalry didn’t arrive in time, and people in desperate situations died horribly. I know. I’ve been to Auschwitz, for pity’s sake. If I want to stare into the real abyss, all I need to do is read a brief account of the 20th century, which was pretty much non-stop genocide. I don’t need to be put through the emotional wringer by a fictional scary movie to have my nose rubbed in the hopelessness of it all. I want stories about the value of perseverance, about survivors.
It may sound crazy, but I worry a bit about kids raised on a diet of utterly nihilistic horror movies. Whereas old European fairy tales taught children that if they were clever and brave they could outwit giants and witches who wanted to eat them, survivor-less horror movies tell you that as soon as you wake up in chains next to your friends, while the psycho sharpens his knives in the next room, you may as well beat your brains out because there’s no hope. Even if you manage to get free, even if you try and fail to save your friends, you’re still going to get a chainsaw through your spine as you accelerate onto that country road just before the credits roll.
Screw that. Call me old fashioned. I want someone to root for, and I want someone to live.
Now, what was I talking about? Oh right. If you haven’t already seen it, please watch the surprisingly excellent movie “May”, written and directed by Lucky McKee, from 2002.
A low budget independent film, it features the great Jeremy Sisto and an almost unbearably honest and compelling performance by Angela Bettis as a truly disturbed outsider. She’s just looking for friendship, and ultimately has to resort to some rather unsavory means to make a friend. Her character scared the bejeezus out of me, but at the same time I couldn’t help but sympathize and empathize with her.
Now that’s something.