“It’s like lying awake in the dark feeling like there’s something in the room with you, even though you know it is not possible,” said Joel Finter of Boston.com in an article discussing what makes horror films legitimately scary. Finter goes on to say that off-screen monsters and antagonists are much more frightening than being confronted with a director’s interpretation on screen. “Stephen King’s IT was a film that hit me on all levels… IT had the off-screen presence, the on-screen clown and the extra-terrestrial which the clown transformed into… as I was younger, I was truly frightened,” said Clive Barker in an interview with IFC.com.
As Halloween rolls around the corner in a few weeks, it’s important to look at what make horror films truly scary to their viewers. Having recently watched The Devil’s Rejects for probably the hundredth time, as Rob Zombie has had recent success in the horror film industry; there are certain questions that stand out in my mind as I’m sure they do in the minds of most viewers.
Theater or Living Room: Horror movies have long been restricted to dark cinemas and the ear-shattering screams of the innocent and young at heart. In agreement that the dark environment and giant screen add a great deal to a hopeful frightening experience, the cinema holds a little place in every horror-lovers heart. However, while the Eerie Horror Fest is just a few short weeks away, don’t let the living room go unnoticed. Some have Blu-ray players and big screen TVs that pump nothing but Sportscenter or Jersey Shore all day, when those entertainment centers could be playing the next brutal installment of your favorite horror series. It’s just as scary home alone as it is with your girl beside you.
Slasher or Monster: While many think that both monster and slasher films are outdated, as monster movies were big in the 50s and slashers had their time in the 90s, many directors are finding ways to reinvent these classic genres. The shaky-cam method comes to mind with such recent releases as Cloverfield and the [REC] films. Although the original was very well done, the upcoming prequel to The Thing looks fantastic with the same building tension and frightening cinematography that the original showcased. In contrast, the slasher film is moving toward a more domestic approach with directors placing killers midst families or apartment buildings. Many of the classic slashers are being reborn from Rob Zombie’s recent Halloween remakes to the much less successful remakes of Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th. However, the idea of the slasher film is also being revised, emphasizing the psychological aspect more with releases such as 2009s The Collector or 2011s Stepfather, neither of which achieved great success yet stand as changes to the typically imagined slasher.
Foreign or Domestic: Another important aspect to explore is whether or not your preference lies with American or foreign horror films. Domestically, our horror film-making could be considered on the decline; as we look to new Halloween seasons, we’re seeing classics revisited more often than original films being put on the scene. Yet, this is what makes the local film festivals and film industries thrive; I’m sure that if Hollywood was releasing timeless frighteners, there’d be less of a local calling for cheap scares. This year, the long-running Hellraiser saga continues with what’s hailed as a new spin on costume design and both Paranormal Activity and The Human Centipede are coming around for sequels. From a foreign standpoint, French extremism is flourishing with the recent Blu-ray releases of some Dario Argento classics like Suspiria and Deep Red. Also, recent splatter masterpieces such as Inside (A L’interieur), Martyrs, and Sheitan, have baffled audiences into desensitizing love affairs with these French filmmakers’ works. Asian horror is also expanding from Miike’s 1999 release of Audition to Jee-Woon’s recent thriller I Saw the Devil. Whether you want flashy American horror or calculated and tense foreign horror, there’s much to be seen.
Suspense or Gore: The last major question to ask when diving into the horror genre is how strong is your stomach? Many of the films I have already suggested should’ve maybe come with some warning labels, yet others are more atrocious and disturbing than most can imagine. If you have an eye for gore and a stomach to match, look no further. 2010’s A Serbian Film was made in tribute to the literary work of Georges Bataille, known for lude and brutal acts often involving excessive gore. Germany also released an equally stomach-turning film entitled Cannibal, based on the true story of a man who found a voluntary victim to be eaten on the internet. The aforementioned Inside (A L’Interieur) is also quite the gore galore, however, the upcoming sequel from French director Bustillo is proposed to be even more unsettling. The suspense route also carries its own greatness with the likes of the Psycho films, or the psychological thrillers like Mindhunters and Identity that keep you on the edge of your seat without much gore, if any. For further reading or horror suggestions, please visit: http://www.boston.com/ae/movies/gallery/top_50_scary_movies/