Saturday, February 26, 2011

Why I Don't Generally Watch Horror Movies (and Why You Should Consider It)

I can honestly say that I'm glad I am generally not a fan of the horror genre. Considering the "Saw"/torture-porn/never-ending, creatively violent horror culture we're in today, I'm glad I'm not part of it. This isn't to say that I don't have any knowledge of it. I'm the kind of person who rather appreciates good suspense-thriller with actually good plots and stories, and characters you understand and believe. Movies like "The Sixth Sense" and Hitchcock's "Rear Window" and "Vertigo" understand this. They also raise some really good questions about certain things, such as the distinction between what is real and what is fiction (or fantasy, depending on your perspective). "Scream" is another film that falls under this category.

I decided to view this movie after reading a chapter in a book on worldviews in the movies, and "Scream" happened to be in a chapter on postmodernism. The author, Brian Godawa, explains how self-aware the 1996 movie is, in terms of how its characters know the conventions and cliches that horror movies are known for. For instance, the main character, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campell) is asked why she doesn't watch scary movies. She responds, "What's the point, they're all the same. It's some stupid killer stalking some big-breasted girl-who can't act-who's always running up the stairs when she should be running out the front door. It's insulting." This is just one of many clever moments in the film that generally satirizes the very genre it's representing. Even more clever (and ironic) are moments that take place in a video store (regarding the horror film section) and at a night party where one of the students explains the "rules in order to successfully survive a scary movie," such as 1) "You can never have sex; sex always equals death," 2) 'Don't drink or do drugs . . . The sin factor. It's an extension of number one," and 3) "Never, ever, ever, under any circumstances, say 'I'll be right back,' cause you won't be back."

Indeed, while serving as a social commentary and satire on the horror genre, it also manages to be a very effective and truly terrifying film-that is, until it turns into a climactic bloodbath between three or four characters. (Sorry bout the spoiler.) After all, director Wes Craven was responsible for the so-called teen slasher category, with began with "A Nightmare on Elm Street" in 1984. Which brings me to my next point: Another thing horror movies are about today is how to amp up the amount of violence with every new installment and/or franchise. Just look at the "Saw" movies. I've only seen the first movie but have not (nor do I plan to) see(n) the sequels.

I give screenwriter Kevin Williamson (also the writer for this year's "Scream 4") credit for cleverly satirizing the horror genre and creating self-aware characters that provide commentary and manage to serve as victims themselves. The film raises some interesting questions regarding influence, as well as where to draw the line between reality and fiction. One of my favorite lines is when Sidney says to her suspecting boyfriend, "This is real life. This isn't a movie." He responds, "Sure it is, Sid. It's all a movie. Life's one great big movie. Only you can't pick your genre." But the level and amount of violence puts the film out of bounds for me to recommend.

Like I said, I'm more of an admirer for the occassionally, good suspense-thriller, like Hitchcock's classics "Rear Window," "Vertigo," and "The 39 Steps." These are more clever and lack blood and such, regarding the context.

By the way, the text referenced in this blog is Brian Godawa's "Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films With Wisdom and Discernment." I highly recommend it to film buffs and anyone who shares similar feelings for movies.

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