Friday, October 9, 2009

How hard is it?

If you clicked on this looking for something dirty, get your mind out of the gutter. The question refers to the making of horror films, or more specifically good ones.

I'm a big fan of the genre and have been since I was a kid. Perhaps I'll address my favorite horror flicks in another blog; I'm trying to keep this one short. I'll watch just about any thriller that comes out, even those with terrible reviews (which is nearly all of them). But that doesn't mean I think they're good. In fact, usually when I'm done I wish for that 90 minutes of my life back.

How hard is it to make a quality horror film? Judging by the past 10 years, it's virtually impossible. Of course, studios aren't looking to make good films, they're looking to make money. They know they can churn out Saw 11 (that's not even much of an exaggeration) for $3 million and make $16 million on bored teenagers in the first weekend alone. It's a cynical, formulaic genre, but when it works, I fall in love with it all over again.

Here's my very rushed list of horror movies I've enjoyed since 2000. Most of them are at least moderately flawed, but I still liked them. I'd love to hear fellow followers of the genre chime in on their favorites of the decade if I've missed anything.

- Final Destination
Yeah, it's basically The Omen without the anti-Christ plotline, but the plane explosion in the beginning is awesome, some of the deaths are unexpected, and it has a pretty high-caliber cast. Fun (but not scary) from beginning to end.

- Saw
The first one only. I saw II and III, and they got progressively less clever and more disgusting. That giant pig blender thing was ridiculous in III. The original installment was a clever psychological thriller with some nice twists. Not terribly scary, though.

- 28 Days Later/28 Weeks Later
Liked the first one better on repeated viewings. Bought the second one on dvd after I loved it in the theatre and haven't watched it. I don't know why not. At any rate, I must not have loved it as much as I thought I did. Or I just play too much Rock Band. These are my favorites out of the crowded zombie sub-genre. I just don't find zombies all that terrifying. Oh, and I don't classify Shaun of the Dead as a horror film, for the record, but it's great.

- The Descent
Stephen King was high on this, so I bought it, liked it...and haven't watched it again, even though that was three years ago. I used to be able to watch horror movies over and over again. I think being married to someone who hates them with a passion has something to do with my lack of repeated viewings. Anyway, this was good, and I should watch it again.

- The Strangers
There are things I LOVE about this movie, but it falls into horror movie cliches too often. Still, if I see that it's on cable, I'm usually hooked for 30 minutes or so. There are some legitimately frightening moments, which is rare for modern horror movies. And yes, I realize the irony of that sentence. But I really liked how the killers didn't really have a motive and you never really knew who they were. Creepy.

- Funny Games
Perhaps it doesn't belong on this list because it's more of a satire of our obsession with blood and gore than a horror film itself. But it's by far the most unnerving film I've seen in the past decade. Impossible to get out of your head. It's also been on cable recently, and I've been enthralled with how well-made it is when I catch parts of it again. Amazing flick.

- The Ring
The only true horror film on this list that's basically perfect. I wouldn't change a thing about any of it (except that I would try to wipe its godawful sequel from my mind forever). It's terrifying as hell; I was actually talking to myself when I saw it opening night in the theatre. Everyone in the place was cringing in fear when Samara crawled out of that well. Having a top-notch director and actress really aids its pedigree.


Lance Christian Johnson said...

I'm not as big of a fan of the genre, but I absolutely loved Drag Me to Hell. I'm getting the Blu-ray of it next week. It's fun, but there's more going on.

Personally, knowing you the way I know you, I don't know how you don't pick apart The Ring. Don't get me wrong - I liked it, but the ending was just silly and completely illogical. It wasn't so bad as to spoil the film for me, but it felt like a really forced-on plot twist.

She kills you if you see the video unless you make a copy of it and pass it on. Does she want people to see it or not? Shoot, that makes less sense than Christianity.

Anyway, it is excellent in pretty much every other way, so I can overlook that.

Dominic said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dominic said...

I deleted my last comment after referencing the wrong director of "Funny Games", but I still wanted to make clear my disdain for "Funny Games". Although I understand the satirical nature of the film, it is just awful. Never, even in a satire should the actors speak to the camera (unless is something with the cast of Monty Python). "Funny Games" makes me want to watch Ed Wood's "Plan 9 From Outer Space" again. In fact, "Funny Games" has replaced the worst horror film ever made, just inching out "The Devil's Rejects". I have held a personal vendetta against Rob Zombie since that wretched movie, but now bad memories are flooding back with just the mention of "Funny Games".

The sad state of Horror in the US has reiterated my refusal to watch any American made film in the theater. Although "Funny Games" is an Austrian flick, Haneke holds a special place in my heart for the few people I want to inflict serious pain for wasting my time on their terrible movie. Michael Haneke, I want the two hours of my life back!