Sunday, May 23, 2010
Building the Ultimate Horror Movie
Sometimes, it feels like either budgets run out, directors get cranky, or special effects guys are working with archaic programs, but the best of intentions in horror movies can turn into a horror on the big screen.
So, what would the ultimate horror movie be like? Perhaps we could “Frankenstein” one together by taking the bits and pieces of horror movies that have been made and turn them into the beast that we seek.
Mentally disturbed killer: “Psycho” pretty much set the standard on something in a reclusive, moody, slightly disturbed and uneasy feel that made us come to the conclusion that even the most innocent seeming milquetoast man can be an insane threat, a regular ticking time bomb. Some other moviemakers have taken it upon themselves to make blatantly disturbed killers like Michael and Jason, but honestly they look threatening already. There’s no question that dude with the mask is the bad guy, duh! So, in our dream horror movie, the mentally disturbed element is masked as something innocent or nonthreatening, unsuspecting, even trusting…
Creepy estate: “The Haunting” (1963) was a perfectly dark, twisted, dusty, ornate, and creepy location. What was so unsettling about it was the features that could make it grandmother’s home; fancy china, little statuettes, large gilded mirrors, but with no signs of life (at least not mortal life). However, when “The Haunting” was remade in 1999 and the moviemaker apparently thought somehow the original classic was not only worth remaking, but why the hell not make a huge circus-like home with kitschy features and bells and whistles? It was not scary or moody. It was entertaining and Willy Wonka-like. What’s so scary about grandma’s house? Finding a prosthetic leg in the attic, an extra set of old dentures in a desk drawer, not finding giant statues of lions and cherubs and a spinning room….
Wounded hero: “The Changeling” gave us a male character that had lost his wife and daughter and escaped to start a lonely reclusive life elsewhere, but unable to get rid of his father-like tendencies when it comes to a boy ghost in need of resolution. Moviemakers have taken the wounded character and just plopped him on the floor with no life to him at all such as in “1408.” You have a man who has lost all faith in afterlife and lost his child and marriage, but in the battle with ghosts it had little to do with those emotional issues and more to do with his sanity. A wonderfully provoking idea of using a man who was jaded about the afterlife faced with the afterlife was performed with the precision of a surgeon using a chainsaw…
Soundtrack/background music: “Phantasm” was perhaps not a cinema blockbuster, but the film has a huge cult following for it’s weirdness but that wouldn’t have won it so many fans if it didn’t have a very creepy sounding soundtrack. It had this kind of cadence that played the tension and the threat with such simplicity that the sounds haunt you after seeing the movie. If scary incidents had background music, this was the score. “Friday the 13th” no matter how much you say the “chh chh chh, hah, hah, hah” sounds were scary—it worked once, maybe twice, but by the end of the freaking movie it was basically screaming “something is about to happen—you dumb moviegoer!”
Violence/Gore: “Night of the Living Dead” is a good pick here. It doesn’t happen so often you get numb, but sometimes it’s just suggestive, like the zombies wandering around with limbs and guts in their hands, chomping away, but not gratuitous. “Dawn of the Dead” (remake) Threw gore right into your face so often and so profusely, it became rather numbing. It actually was distracting from the chase and pursuit going on and sidetracked us into ridiculous scenes like the zombie baby birth. Now, some folks are fine with that level of gore, but if the story is really good, suspense should make you more uneasy than constant in-your-face blood and guts. It’s the not-knowing-when-it’s-going-to-happen that’s more frightening than it’s-always-happening…
So far, we have the killer from “Psycho,” the location from “The Haunting” (1963), the hero from “The Changeling,” the musical score from “Phantasm,” and the violence and gore from “Night of the Living Dead.” Sounds good to me—now, Hollywood revive your dying patient and perform a miracle by Frankensteining these bits together!
at 9:00 AM