Why are all horror films shit? Yes that is a bit of a broad-stroked question. I do not claim to have watched every horror film made, nor even that I dislike them all. There are in fact plenty of horror films that help me develop whatever muscle it is you tense when you try to prevent your bladder from serving up Bear Gryll’s favourite cocktail. There are the classic low-budgets like The Blair Witch Project, which forced producers to work on torturing the viewer’s imagination rather than slapping him/her across the face from the fourth minute, bellowing: “Look, look how disgusting that was. It even had stitches and body parts missing. Oh man, check out all that blood!”. No horror film today seems able to spare any time for building up tension. Instead they play out as if they were directed by a child desperate to show off their new toy, managing a couple of minutes holding it behind their back, only to throw it in their parent’s crotch and run off giggling.
Recently there was one film which showed promise. October 2012 brought Sinister to our cinemas, a film about Dad of the Year Ellison Oswalt, a true-crime writer desperately searching for his new best seller. Ellison moves his family into what he neglects to inform them is a murder house. Before long he discovers a box of snuff movies in the attic. Upon viewing, a series of paranormal events begin to haunt Ellison. In typical horror movie fashion he decides for the sake of his wife and two children they better stay put and hope the poltergeist becomes housetrained. Maybe it would help out around the place? If it can set-up a creepy old projector it must be able to put it away. The film develops slowly, but effectively. The director Scott Derrickson manages to show restraint and respect, well spacing each horror scene from the previous. It isn’t until the climax that everything is depressingly bungled together, as if the director suddenly felt the need for every unanswered question to be addressed and tied together. This misses the advantage of what can be done in horror films. A few unanswered questions will let the viewer imagine their own personal worst case scenario.
Any discussion about horror would seem flawed without mentioning arguably the most famous horror film in history (and sole reason behind the drop in pea soup sales since 1973), The Exorcist. While this film revolutionised horror, breaking down almost every boundary constricting directors and screenwriters in a cascade of blood, vomit, blasphemic masturbation, and head rotation. It cannot be denied that the film, when separated from those breakthroughs, is abysmal. The film generally relies upon in your face techniques to disgust the viewer, a technique used to the detriment of this genre ever since. What makes a viewer lie awake at night checking the colour of their pyjamas at every creak is something more general: the corruption of what could be an everyday situation. When the audience are faced with watching someone tortured in a circumstance they themselves could be in. That is what wriggles up underneath someone’s skin and refuses to leave.
I don’t think bed-rest worked, probably best move onto Ibuprofen.