Archive for March 24th, 2007

The New Horror

Continuing with the movie theme – I want to bounce around some ideas about the value (or lack thereof) of new wave horror films, to go along with a New York Times article that ran today.

The NYT reports that Hollywood is bracing itself for the release of a new study on how horror films are marketed to youth – a topic that caught massive attention post-Columbine, but perhaps even more so since North America went (excuse the language) completely fucking mad last fall, when more than three school shootings occurred – in Colorado, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Montreal. Granted, only half of these were perpetrated by students.

In recent years, Hollywood has seen an influx of high-profile, bloody, grisly, gut-wrenching horror flicks: Saw (I, II, & III), Hostel, The Grudge (I & II), The Hills Have Eyes (which was a remake), etc. And they keep on coming – studios are set to release The Reaping, Dead Silence, and Captivity within months, among other (as the NYT puts it) “movies about killing.”

All of this reflects what is to me a disturbing trend: As people are being brutally murdered, kidnapped and beheaded in the real world – as ethnic, religious and sectarian conflicts rage with unthinkable violence – American movie makers are flushing theaters with increasingly grotesque scenes of carnage and death, depicting plots conceived of nightmarish imaginations.

It’s as if there weren’t enough soul-shattering images in the news, that our culture should supplement itself with more images of blood and gore.

But here’s the real issue – these films are by and large without art or merit. I’m not trying to knock free speech or horror as a genre, but the way the genre is going. Frankestein and Dracula were heart-stoppers in their time (1931), but surely there was artistic value in those films. Many of today’s horror releases are so intensely gory that audience members feel like they might be sick in their popcorn – an aspect marketers frequently play up as some perverse draw to viewers.

I don’t mean to sound like the preachy Catholic mothers of the early 1900s worried about “magic-bullet” effects on our society’s kids, but I think it’s worth questioning why we go see movies like this – why in god’s name we would be attracted to vivid scenes depicting the vicious slaughter of other people? In a time of endemic violence, what is the value in adding more?

Whatever the findings of the new study, I’m not an advocate for government regulation over Hollywood – I think the best regulation in this scenario is the one over the self and one’s children. If nobody saw these movies, the money would dry up, and perhaps filmmakers would get the message that we’re tired of the violence – both in reality and fiction.

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