Save Our Scares
5 Apr 2023

Most snobs have fancy backgrounds and a lot of classical training to arrive at their elitist viewpoints. Not me. I earned my snobbery the old fashioned way – yessir. Grew up poor, walked barefoot, butt-naked in the snow, uphill both ways, to the VHS store and back.

There I picked out little lifelines of escape. Those video tapes were my way to a world far away from where I was – and I loved the movies, LOVED them in a way that might have been a little unhealthy, loved them like a Montague loved a Capulet.

And I watched them and loved them for the sheer wonder of the movies.

Nothing pinky-in-the-air. No deep discussions about French New Wave or existential angst in postmodern cinema or any of that hoity toity crap – I loved movies for the honest, blue collar reasons people all over the world love movies. I love the stories. I love the thrills. I love them for what they are, on their own terms. I suspend disbelief and go along for the ride and as an audience member I am perhaps one of the most forgiving persons on planet earth. Go for it, make your movie, with the budget you have and the skills you managed to get – I won’t stand in your way.

Horror – a special place in my cold dead heart. There was something extra special about the videos I wasn’t supposed to watch. Consequences be damned, and the best horror flicks are worth a couple of sleepless nights or nightmares. Hell, Jaws gave me an actual phobia of sharks I haven’t managed to shake to this day (as in I won’t go into a swimming pool alone because I ‘see’ sharks).

Freddy Krueger and myself were on first name bases. Nightmare on Elm Street 2’s homoerotic themes somehow slipped past the Apartheid censors and I even discovered some things about myself while watching the scary stuff.

So understand that what I’m about to say comes from the place of a real fan.

And I am fond of all the subgenres. I love the slashers, the supernatural, the gothic… I can enjoy The Woman In Black as much as I do Hostel or Misery or The Shining or The Curse or Visiting Hours or Child’s Play or Aliens. I respect the rules of Suspense as laid out by Hitchcock but I don’t mind a gorefest indulgence the likes of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. A lot goes, and horror has a lot going for it.

Thing is – everything does not go.

I notice increasingly that horror films devolve. It starts of all spooky and then the villain stops being scary and becomes more like a fantasy monster. Once the horror is revealed and the rules of the bad creature is explained – modern movies stop being horror movies and they become fantasy films. The baddies become marvel villains in bad fear-drag, to be fought and defeated as if they suddenly were just bad guys in outfits.

(I don’t mind superheroes either, btw, although it might be nice if every couple of hundred years someone in Hollywood dared to think of, I don’t know, something original. Wouldn’t want anyone in the writer’s room to break a sweat, God forbid, or anyone in the business to, gulp, take risks, but it might be nice to get a new character or story just every now and then. You can still churn out Spiderman 972 and Batman, but this time darker… Just every ten or so flicks might be nice to pretend that Save The Cat is not the Gospel. Screw it, do it for kicks, see what happens. But I digress.)

Back in horror land – you leave the theatre feeling like you’ve just watched an action-packed tale of a group of teenage beast-slayers having vanquished some mythical creature. A fine feeling worthy of its own merits, but NOT. A. HORROR. FILM.

No sir…

In my day, you were scared to get up to switch on the light when the flick was done.

It was a struggle to walk home from the cinema, late at night, with that sense that the evil could have survived, and crawled out of the screen somehow, and was waiting for you around that particularly dark corner between the supermarket and the church down 14th street.

Those were horror films.

This modern stuff? Most of it is Barbie. Plastic. Celluloid.

One last whine and then I’ll let you get on with resuming to reward bad behaviour and lack of respect for you as an audience member by buying tickets to the nonsense they serve up to you…

The Exorcist was a great movie. Very good flick. It must have scared the hell out of its first audiences. Sure scared me. It was fantastic.

The Exorcism genre – however – is rubbish. It should have been left at The Exorcist (not 2 or 3 either, just the original). Every single possession film since has ripped off not only the premise but the very aesthetic of The Exorcist, and it was already tired by the eighties.

Please stop it.

Also, some things are just too much of a stretch. Given what we know – and with love and respect to every individual and freedom of conscience and no judgement whatsoever for any affiliations you personally may or may not have – we can buy that there are dark forces, and devils, and even that they can manifest in physical form, and directly interact with the living, and even take control of victims. Sure, why not, suspension of disbelief, it’s a horror flick, why not. But the pretence that the Roman Catholic Church has the moral authority to fix the problem seems a bit of a stretch, no? What with the treaties with fascists and anti-Semitism and conversions by the sword and international bank shenanigans and kiddie touching and stuff… if I was a bad spirit with a victim in my clutches, you sending me a priest might make me jealous, not scared. Hashtag just sayin.

Every story has NOT been told. New things CAN be created. Stop settling for people selling you less.

And stop packaging fluffy puffed up action-fantasies like they are horrors.

As you were.