Defining Horror

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that IT dropped last weekend and has absolutely been killing the box office (pun probably intended). There has been a multitude of praises showered upon the movie (most of which I agree with––my review is forthcoming; I want to see it again before reviewing!), but, of course, there have also been some critiques. The most interesting “critique” and, perhaps, the most frustrating, is the notion that IT isn’t a horror movie.

You can probably tell by my use of scare quotes that I highly disagree with this. I’m a bit biased, because I did love this film, and I wish nothing but wild success for the kids of this movie and Bill Skarsgard––who nails Pennywise. But, again, my formal review is forthcoming.

I concede to the fact that the movie does spend a long time building the relationships between the Losers Club. But, they had to do this, otherwise why would the audience care or root for these twelve-year old kids? The strengths of this story hinges entirely on the Losers Club. They are the most important piece. Without this strength, the story just isn’t successful.

That all said, IT is about a monstrous “clown” (Pennywise is actually the embodiment of fear itself and chooses its form based on the victim’s fear, but he’s mainly a clown in this movie) that hunts and slaughters children. The movie opens (spoilers?) with Georgie, a six-year old boy, getting his arm bitten off, bleeding into the street, screaming wildly for help before Pennywise drags him into the sewer. The movie doesn’t shy away from showing this young boy in pain, dying. This opening scene could be the definition of horrific alone.

But, where IT shines is not in its supernatural monstrosity––both the movie and the novel–-but in its concern and reflection on the true monsters of the text: humans. In Derry, children shout and scream for help, to no avail. They find themselves ignored by the adults around them. Or, in the case of Beverly, assaulted by them. Pennywise, in part, is so successful at drawing in children because the adults don’t do anything about it. They put up ‘missing’ signs and then just forget until the cycle repeats itself. The Losers Club learns, at a young age, that they can’t rely on the adults around them. They have to find and kill Pennywise themselves. Throughout the movie, various kids repeat the phrase “but it’s supposed to be summer break; we should be having fun.” But, they’re not. They’re terrified, and alone, and the ignorance or maltreatment from the adults is reinforced each time the audience is reminded that these kids aren’t able to act as kids should. There’s been a loss of innocence.

Now, I would agree with the statement that IT isn’t a terrifying movie. I wasn’t really scared. I was creeped out, because there are plenty of disturbing images, but I never felt truly frightened. That’s an entirely personal reaction though. As I like to joke, I’m dead inside, so naturally I didn’t get scared. (I’ve earned many a metaphorical gold star from Last Podcast on the Left). Some folks were terrified, though. I don’t think you can label a movie as “not horror” just because you, personally, don’t find it horrific.

Again, this movie is about a killer clown. How can you not consider it horror? Granted, this is being said at the same time that some folks are deciding that we’re living in a “post horror” era. Another statement that I don’t buy––just because a movie doesn’t have gratuitous blood or a chainsaw wielding maniac who likes to wear people’s faces, doesn’t mean it isn’t horror. There are other horrific things in this world, like the fact that it’s 2017 and people are still being shot for the color of their skin.

This has been a long enough rant, but I figure I should probably post some of the qualities that I look for when I’m watching a horror movie, seeing as how the title of this post is “Defining horror.”

  1. Some sort of supernatural (or sci-fi) entity. The devil, evil fairies, ghosts, killer clowns.
  2. Invasion (a la The Strangers, The Purge, etc)
  3. Gratuitous violence and/or nudity
  4. A haunted object
  5. A pushing past some sort of boundary, usually to the extreme (biting off a child’s arm and dragging him into a sewer, perhaps?)
  6. Abandoned houses, asylums, etc
  7. Blasphemy–-though this closely aligns with #5

There’s probably more, but that’s what I can think of right now.

What do you think? I’d love to know. I’m hoping to see IT again within the next week, so I can get my review out. I will say this: go see it in the movie theatres. It’s a fantastic film, and it’s so funny. I highly, highly recommend it.

Until next time, stay scary.

–E.

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Trailer Tuesday: Inside

I only recently found out that a remake of  À l’intérieur was coming our way; after the complete and total failure of the American Martyrs, I have little hope that this will be a good remake.  I wish that directors and producers would leave brutal French new wave horror movies alone. I just can’t see a remake of any of the films actually  being successful. Does that stop me from watching the terrible remakes? Of course not, because there’s always the chance that the remake is good. Or, at the very least, does something interesting and unique separate from the original. This remake appears to be an American remake, but the directors and screenplay writers are all Spanish, and the movie has only been released in Spain thus far, so there’s that. I think if the director of Rec had been behind this movie, as was originally predicted in 2015, we may have had a chance of getting a good movie. This looks pretty generic, though, and like it won’t have half the brutality of the original film.

 

Like I said, there’s no expected release date for America yet. I’ll update with more info when that drops.

Until next time, stay scary.

–E.

Trailer Tuesday: Escape Room

It was bound to happen eventually: there’s a horror movie being released about a group of friends getting caught in an Escape Room. Certain elements from the trailer seem awfully familiar to Saw (or literally any other horror movie that involves people trapped in a room fighting to get back out). If I watch this, it’s definitely going to be when it’s on Netflix. It looks pretty predictable and unoriginal.

It looks like the movie is going straight to DVD and VOD, so we’ll see how long it takes before you can stream it for free, if it’s a movie that’s up your alley.

Until next time, stay scary.

–E.

Trailer Tuesday: The Monster Project

I first heard about The Monster Project while recently binging Modern Horrors’ podcast (which you should definitely listen to if you haven’t already–-they’re so entertaining). Their episodes are split into three parts, and Mathieu’s movie popped up in their “News” section of this episode. Now, this movie looks pretty ridiculous. The premise is that a documentary crew hires a bunch of people who claim to be monsters, and then find out they really are (dun dun dun!). The effects don’t look that amazing, either, but it’s possible they’ve done some extra editing since the trailer dropped. In short: This movie doesn’t look like it’ll be movie of the year, but it does look entertaining. The campy premise just speaks to.

I kind of wish The Monster Project had an October release, but alas it comes out 18 August.

Stay tuned for my review of Wish Upon, which will be coming out this week!

Until next time, stay scary.

–E.

Trailer Tuesday: What the Waters Left Behind (2017)

I knew nothing about this movie, so I made some observations while watching. They were:

  1. What the fuck is with the thumbnail?
  2. Johnny Cash! Yes!
  3. Digging the tone of this so far.
  4. Oh shit––the music got real intense, real fast.
  5. That’s a lot of blood.
  6. Animal imagery––I’ve got a lot to say about animals in horror movies. I should write that blog post.
  7. That’s a lot more blood.
  8. They put THAT in the trailer?
  9. Holy fucking shit that looks amazing.

I cannot wait to see this film.

I haven’t found any news as to when this will get released––hopefully soon!

Until next time, stay scary.

––E.

Trailer Tuesday: Leatherface (2017)

I wasn’t all that excited about Leatherface until I found out that the directors from Inside (or, À l’intérieur) were involved. That movie is one the most disturbing, most violent films that I’ve seen and loved––so I have high hopes that they will bring that special joie de vivre to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise. The trailer looks amazing. The moments they show don’t seem to give too much away, and the music used is perfect. Plus, we’ve got Lili Taylor in it, and I love her. I’m especially excited that it’s going to be a straight to VOD/DirectTV movie, because it means that they won’t have to cut any of the gore or disturbing moments to fit a particular rating. I know some folks think this means that the movie is going to suck, but I believe the exact opposite for this one. I think it’s going to be great.

I cannot wait to see this film, and I’m so glad it’s dropping in October. Happy Halloween to us all.

Until next time, stay scary.

––E.

Book Talk: ‘Salem’s Lot

Stats 5413

Author: Stephen King
Original date released: 17 October 1975
Publisher: Doubleday
ISBN: 978-0-385-00751-1
Pages: 595
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Synopsis

Thousands of miles away from the small township of ‘Salem’s Lot, two terrified people, a man and a boy, still share the secrets of those clapboard houses and tree-lined streets. They must return to ‘Salem’s Lot for a final confrontation with the unspeakable evil that lives on in the town.

(via Goodreads)

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I’ve had the reissue, illustrated edition of ‘Salem’s Lot sitting on my bookshelf for many years. I originally ordered it from one of those book club memberships where you’d get like three books free for just shipping, and then you’d get the catalog in the mail every season with new additions for a discount. I snatched up this copy, because it has about 100 pages of extra material at the end––a couple short stories based around ‘Salem’s Lot and “deleted scenes” from the main text. Like a lot of readers, I was waiting for “the right time to read it,” which turned out to be probably ten years after purchasing it. Whoops.

‘Salem’s Lot is the perfect summer read, which may sound unbelievable, but stay with me. Lot features certain elements that King does best: it’s a sprawling epic of a novel with a dozen recurring narrative voices in a small town where shit goes down. It’s the sort of novel you want when you’re sitting on your porch, drinking some iced tea, listening to the groan of cicadas. It’s atmospheric and haunting. The characters make stupid decisions, but they make stupid decisions that you’re somehow invested in. And, it’s quite a large book, and the summertime is the perfect time for large, devouring reads. I’d say the same thing about It––a King novel that I read last summer. Perhaps this will be a new tradition of mine: one huge King novel a summer.

Now, this is a horror blog, so you might be wondering if I found the novel scary or not. I do think there are creepy moments, particularly the scene with the school bus. That scene has stuck with me since finishing the novel, and might be that one moment I think back to fondly while discussing the book. It’s terrifying, and I loved it. At first, I was a bit unsure how the novel would juggle the haunted house trope along with the vampire trope, but King handled it well. Quite deliberately, the house felt like something out of a Shirley Jackson novel: it’s a sprawling, decaying spector to the quiet destruction of Jerusalem’s Lot.

And, if you’re a fan of vampires, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed by King’s take on the monster. The vampire, Kurt Barlow, is so sassy and witty; he stole the scenes he was in, and just like I root for Dracula, I wasn’t angry he was killing off a bunch of people in the town. He has a scene with the town pastor that is of particular delight to me, and one of the strongest, most compelling scenes in the novel. It centers around faith and belief and makes you question whether or not the town and its inhabitants want to be saved.

The one critique I have lies with the other characters in the novel. They don’t have a lot of personality (a lot of King’s characters tend to sound and act the same, I’ve found), and they don’t really develop throughout the book––but that sort of works in the novel. The one character I thought was pretty great was Mark Petrie. He’s a geeky twelve-year-old who loves universal monsters, and he’s arguably the smartest character in the novel. I would love a book that’s about him hunting vampires and nerdily talking about monsters as a grown up.

All in all, King’s writing and storytelling shines in ‘Salem’s Lot. It’s accessible and not too long or too weird if you’re new to Stephen King’s writing. I highly recommend!

Until next time, stay scary.

––E.