Thursday, 14 November 2013

Horror, you changed, man.

The horror genre of film is a shape-shifting whore with a dirty mouth. It exists to change and it exists to repulse. Romance will always be found in a kiss, action will always be found in a clenched fist or a speeding Camaro. Those are tropes that have been clung to like a crutch and still we are satisfied with them whenever we visit the cinema. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that at all, they work, they're instant gratification, that's okay. You know what you're about to get when you walk up those lit-up steps on your way to catch the new Christopher Nolan. You're going to find action, detail, romance, beginning, middle, end. You know what you were looking for and you found it. That's the great thing about horror. It tends to find you first.

What I mean, of course, is that horror can take any shape and form it wants. It can sneak up on you on a television screen or pop out of that DVD your friend recommended you. It doesn't just find you sometimes, it does everything in its power to do its job effectively. It does this by changing.

When I was a child, I was afraid of this large gorse bush that appeared like a blister above the hill of my primary school. I thought there was something in there to be afraid of, I was TOLD that there was something in there to be afraid of, and so I was afraid. I didn't pluck up the courage to face my fear of the gorse bush until I was about eight or nine years old, and by then I'd realized that the fears of children were something we big ones were supposed to laugh at. I found out that there wasn't anything in the gorse bush, no monsters, no bodies, no kidnappers, just a whole lot of prickly gorse and a few empty cans of beer. At six, I was absolutely terrified of the gorse bush. At twenty-two, I'm absolutely terrified of getting stabbed by a gear head. That's what scares me now.

Horror changes in much the same way. It tries to keep up with what we're afraid of. You can, as someone born in 1991 for instance, watch The Exorcist and giggle your post-modern head off. I personally don't think it aged very well, but I know full well that there are ancient diamond-shaped stains on beaten up armchairs because of that movie.

The horror film tries to chase you. It finds out what you're afraid of and it produces it tease you with it like a sock puppet. You know what you're seeing isn't real, but you're utterly disturbed that the movie knew what notes to strike. That's why the genre never gets old, it stays current.

My favourite horror films tend to be on the campier side. There's something about a good costume horror or a painfully ridiculous slasher that makes for good midnight entertainment. I like to see a dude get his head cut right the fuck off his shoulders, but I also like him to at least deserve it in some way. Maybe it's hypocritical, but I can watch hours upon hours of senseless gore, but I know that if those scenes had been directed differently, I'd just end up feeling the upset that can only be caused by a snuff film. Oh yeah, go ahead, fuck that girl up with a hatchet, bitch shouldn't have gone to investigate that noise from the abandoned lumber mill. OH! Now you've got no eyes, that's what you get, that's what happens.

Except horror isn't like that anymore.

It's not the lovable, hammer-wielding rapscallion that we grew up with, it's changed, and I'm not entirely sure if I like it or not. I never thought I could be shocked by anything, I thought that I'd been desensitized to everything. Living like Alex DeLarge, with your eyes forced open in front of a television screen, tends to do that to you. Then I saw Murder Set Pieces.

It's hard to say what part of that film got to me. I'd seen so many movies like it before and hadn't batted any eyelash, but this one was special. I was watching it with one of my friends, who shares a love of all things nasty. Usually when we're watching these films, we're like Statler and Waldorf from the muppets, making jokes and criticizing everything we see on screen, but this time we were silent. It's not that we hadn't seen any of the acts committed in the film before, we were "murder junkies", we just hadn't seen them...like that.

You're looking well.

Murder Set Pieces gets a special mention because it was the very first film that we turned off half-way through. We'd simply had enough. We weren't offended or outraged, just disgusted. Well done, Nick Palumbo, you well and truly soul-fucked us with your long, barbed cat dick.

It's not the only film in this new catalogue of "soul-rape", that's what I'm calling the genre now, there are plenty more and plenty more to come, I imagine. With the New French Extremity movement and a whole host of soul-rape directors crawling out from caverns everywhere, there are more fresh and disturbing movies out there than ever. Again, though, I'm not entirely sure if I like it.

Maybe there's something very wrong with me, maybe it's telling of the times. I can watch someone be horribly mutilated with a lawnmower, but please don't further illustrate for me a story I can read in any newspaper. I don't care if it's supposed to have artistic merit, maybe I'm not as much of a "fringe-dweller" as I thought I was.

I like to be entertained by films. Horror is a great past-time and an escape, it can make you laugh, make you shiver or turn your stomach, that's why we love it. Though with some of the films that have been released over the past ten years and some of the ones being released lately, I'm starting to question what it is about horror that really reels us in. If we can sit through Cannibal Holocaust and The Hills Have Eyes, then why the fuck is Serbian Film or Irreversible shocking us so much?

I don't think we'll ever say goodbye to the camp horror that we all know and love, but I think we're going to have to start making room for the New Extremity movement, or the "soul-rapists", whether we like it or not.

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