Is this what the horror genre has been reduced to? What’s next, a movie about unfriending someone on Facebook?
Back on Splattercast #134 we reviewed Pasolini’s Salo, debatably the most vile production ever burned to celluloid (until A Siberian Film). In this recent interview “The Pope of Filth” John Waters steps up to give his opinion on the merits of depraved movies and the place of shock value. He even provides a recipe to destroy Fred Phelps and his group of subhuman zombies. (Lucky GI, the Kansas dirtfuckers were in town this weekend protesting a young soldier’s funeral.) Perhaps the community could have benefited from watching this video. And I hope you all see Salo at least once for no other reason other than having a measuring stick for what you claim to find offensive. I’m gonna go burn a Flag.
The UK equivalent of Netflix (LoveFilm) has an on-demand service. Some movies you have to pay for, some are free depending on your subscription. They have a deal with Sony whereby you can watch on-demand movies through an internet TV, should you own one. But if not, the only way really is to watch them on your PC.
This troubles me. I have around 1400 movies on my list, and 175 titles are available on-demand, many of which I can view for free. Some discs are on ‘long wait’ so it would make sense for me not to wait around for the disc, and just go ahead. But for me, the experience of watching a crunched down, low quality streaming movie really takes a lot of the enjoyment away. Watching a film sat at my desk with headphones on, I get antsy and can’t sit still. The few movies I have watched through my browser, were ones that I cared so little about, that I might as well have waited for the disc after all. There are a lot of films available in this service that I am eager to see, but I don’t want to waste the experience watching a crummy version, when I could see it on a large screen through an upscaling DVD player. Until LoveFilm makes these available at a high quality, perhaps via PS3, I’m sticking to discs.
But am I missing out? Am I wasting time by holding out for my desired movie-watching experience, when I could be watching House of the Devil or Deadgirl at the click of a button, instead of being a year behind the latest big thing in horror? Won’t everything eventually be on-demand anyway?
I think an overload of movie-watching has changed the way I see films, especially horror. And not just in the sense that I am now thoroughly desensitised to the violence, but that it takes a lot to even hold my interest these days. One thing that is commonly said about horror fans is that we’re patient, and we’ll wade through tons of crap to get to the good stuff, and that makes it all the more satisfying when we get a Hatchet or a Drag me to Hell. But I feel in my old age that the more I watch, the rarer those experiences are.
It’s not quite like the 1990s, where you’d spend months hunting down those rare VHS tapes, but maybe I should keep to my old-fashioned ways, and wait until I have the physical media in my hands to see the movies I really want to. It might make the experience as special as it’s going to get.
2009 was a pretty ho-hum year for the horror genre, in my opinion. A couple really good things stood out in a sea of mediocrity. Not that mediocrity can’t be entertaining (listen to the Splattercast on a weekly basis and you’ll learn that quickly). To be fair, I still haven’t seen everything I want to, so this Top 10 list isn’t really a definitive “best of” so much as it is a list of the films I enjoyed the most of those that I’ve seen. “Definitive” lists of films are best done a few years after the fact, once time, thought, and perspective have set in. It’s quite possible that in a few years I’ll forget some, if not most, of the films on this list and once I’ve actually seen a good 5-10 other well received flicks that I haven’t gotten around to yet, this might not even accurately reflect how I feel about this year’s genre offerings. Nevertheless, people love lists, so here’s mine in all of its glory. Only a few of these movies I’d watch again, but isn’t there an unwritten rule somewhere that you have to have a “top 10”?
There were two competing local film events in Lincoln last night, the indie horror flick Return to Horror House that I posted about earlier, and the “Homegrown Film Festival” at the newly re-opened Bourbon Theater (formerly the State Theater). Both events were free to attend.
I was set to go to the Joyo for Horror House but changed my mind yesterday, for some inexplicable reason. I met up with Mat and we went to the Bourbon for the Homegrown fest downtown.
It was complete and utter bullshit. Fuck film students. Fuck Lincoln’s non-genre indie filmmakers. Those abortions you retched up onto the screen were insulting. You guys all suck and you wasted my night.
I heard back from some friends who went to Return to Horror House at the Joyo across town and they said the theater was nearly full and everyone had a blast watching that film. I want to congratulate the director, Dustin Ferguson, for putting on what sounds like a bitchin’ event with his Horror House screening. I won’t miss the next one.
At least I was able to brutalize Steve’s team in a match of L4D Versus later that night. Hey Steve, you can call these folks if you need someone to talk to after that game.
So I went to see Knowing just a little while ago and during the previews, a trailer for Sorority Row played. Now my hatred of slashers is well documented. I think they are just about the bottom rung on the horror ladder. To me they’re the epitome of unoriginality. There’s just nothing exciting about a guy running around with a knife for an hour and a half, which is pretty much what every slasher is in a nut shell. How many times can someone watch this and still be interested? Well for me, it was one and a half.
Sorority Row seems to be taking things to a whole new level of ‘been there, done that’. That’s not even taking into account that it’s a remake itself. Here’s the plot according to the trailer. People play a prank on someone. Someone dies. Survivors hide the body and keep it a secret. X amount of time later, a hooded figure shows up and starts killing people. Survivors assume dead guy/girl came back to life for revenge. Now just off the top of your head, how many movies can you name with the same premise? 10? 20? 1,000? It seems the only bit of originality they can muster comes from the title. Someone thinks the fact that this takes place in a sorority house makes this original. Nevermind that tons of other slashers have shared this same locale before. What I’m getting at is why isn’t this movie just called I Know What You Did Last Summer 8? Or April Fool’s Day 6?
I think we should take every slasher movie ever made and just call it Slasher: Part Whatever. Sorority Row could just be called Slasher 9875 and then everyone would know that they’re in for the exact same ride they’ve been on 9874 times before.
I know I’m sort of on my own with this stance and it won’t be more than ten minutes before someone comes along and finds all sorts of holes in my opinion. I also know there are tons of people who love each and every slasher that comes along (and shame on your for that). You could make the argument that every monster movie ever is the same movie with a different monster each time. I would at least say that most monsters have *something* about them making them unique. One might have a claw hand, one may be an acidic mass of jelly, others still could be Killer Clowns from Outer Space. But every guy walking around with a knife is exactly the same as every other guy with a knife to me.
Am I right? Am I wrong? Do you have some Earth shattering train of thought that will make me see the light of slasher films? Let me know.
Everybody loves zombies.
That seems to be an axiom for fans of the horror genre. Recent history would seem to bear that out. For most of this decade, zombies have enjoyed their spot in the horror limelight with everything from video games, books, hit movies, low-budget movies, “zombie walks“, comics … you name it, zombies have devoured it. Over on our message board, a discussion has sprung up about how to classify different types of our undead friends and what classifes a zombie as, well, a zombie. Zombies are everywhere
I don’t understand the big deal. Honestly, I don’t.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not some unabashed zombie hater. I love the original Night of the Living Dead, dig the gore fx from the 70’s and 80’s, I’m one of the biggest Resident Evil fans out there (when it comes to the games, not the shitty films), and…well, that’s about it. I’ve mentioned this before, but when I look on my shelf I find it seriously lacking in modern zombie cinema. If someone asks me to name drop a top 50 favorite horror films list, 9 times out of 10, only NotLD will appear. And ironically, the zombies in that film are one of the least interesting aspects of it for me. So when Fake Larry brought up the topic of zombies I got to thinking “Why do people like them so much?”
For me anyway, zombies are one of the least interesting monsters. Dead people brought back to life to eat you? Wow (did you pick up on that sarcasm?). See, to me, zombies have never been cool monsters so much as they have been cool vehicles for FX artists. It seems to me that people today are still trying to outdo Tom Savini, that is, the connection to any “human” element of the monsters is primarily secondary to how good the makeup artist made his or her head explode. Now I’m not arguing that there is anything inherently wrong in enjoying that kind of thing. I love seeing zombie heads explode as much as the next horror fan. I’m just trying to understand the “Zombies are awesome” sentiment that so many people have. Why are they awesome? What is it specifically that makes this particular horror monster so appealing to everybody?
It can’t be because there are tons of awesome zombie movies out there. I find Dawn of the Dead to be incredibly overrated, not that it isn’t a good movie, just that the fanboy slobbering over it is a bit gonzo. Day of the Dead is good. Return of the Living Dead is good. The Italian Z flicks are garbage. Sorry, but Fulci’s film sucks. It has some impressive gore and camp value (a zombie fighting a shark? That’s just stupid. I don’t care how lovable it has become), but again, these films are known primarily for their FX work. A lot of people seem to enjoy the Dawn remake, I think they were just so desperate for a zombie film that they latched on to the first thing with production value. Which also explains the eye-popping popularity of the Resident Evil films which aren’t even as cinematically awesome as the games themselves. Romero’s 2 latest films, Land and Diary, suck. To show you how shallow the quality zombie film pool is, you have to have people argue that the infected, living people in 28 Days/Weeks Later are zombies. I hear the inevitable “Shaun of the Dead!!!” example coming. Setting aside the fact that I didn’t find it funny, the same people who love the self-aware Shaun are the same people who think something like Scream sucks. That doesn’t make much sense to me. You know what the best zombie movie in the past 25 years has been? Serpent and the Rainbow, and that doesn’t even involve any “dead” zombies.
Jeff was mentioning on the latest cast that he never really got into werewolves because the stories were pretty much predictable and he knew exactly what was going to happen in them. Although I don’t agree with that statement, I’m sure it could be argued logically somehow. But then how would one defend zombies? This is a sub-genre whose great innovations have been “Let’s make them learn stuff like living people” and “Let’s make them run fast”. And it took 30 years to get to that point.
I firmly believe that part of what makes a memorable monster is the emotional, human element involved. In just about every other major type of horror monster (ghosts, vampires, werewolves, frankenstein’s monster, the Mummy, etc.) there is something tangible that a viewer can grasp onto and identify with. The Mummy is searching for his lost love. The Monster is trying to come to grips with his new, frightening humanity. Vampires appeal to what people would love to have (ever lasting life) and the addiction that comes with it (having to kill). The archetypal werewolf character must deal with guilt and suicidal thoughts. Ghosts involve anger at being wronged and a search for justice. What do zombies appeal to? Fear that there is no afterlife, maybe? The unconcsious taboo of cannibalism? A return to the reptile mindset where everything is chaos and that we have no control?
It’s important to remember that the zombie genre is more than just George Romero. I think too many people fall back on the traditional arguments of things like consumerism run amok, government incompetence and religious paranoia. Those are Romerian attributes. If these were the fundamental things that drive the popularity of zombies then these monsters would not be as popular as they are worldwide. The films that highlight these issues in an engaging way are certainly to be commended. In fact, I fully believe that maybe the ultimate point of zombie films are to give people an outlet for their anger, suspicion, and mistrust of organized religion, government, and predatory capitalism. Kim Paffenroth certainly argues as such in a book that I recommend. It is certainly arguable that the other horror monsters do no such thing, so maybe zombies fill this niche? But how would that explain the popularity of zombies worldwide? Specifically in countries that aren’t as anti-government, pro-consumerism and religious as the United States is.
I see a zombie film and go “eh, whatever”. To me, there is nothing interesting about zombies in the modern “reanimated corpse that wants to eat you” sense. On the other hand, I find the voodoo inspired stories much more engaging and interesting. When I see zombies getting their heads blown off, I certainly say “That’s cool”, but I’m totally disconnected to it. There is no personal investment in what I’m seeing. A zombie doesn’t have to deal with the consquences of anything, afterall, it’s dead. For example, if I died and came back as a zombie, who cares? If I died and came back as a vampire, that’s some serious shit I’d have to deal with on a nightly basis. If I was a werewolf and ripped my girlfriend to shreds I’d probably have some pretty substantial issues that a therapist just couldn’t fix. When I see zombie films attempt to “humanize” the corpses, my immediate reaction is “What else can they do with these movies?” It doesn’t feel like a natural progression so much as it does an inevitable one, which is one of the biggest reasons Romero’s latest films suck…he forces change when it has stalled.
Ultimately, the power of a zombie film lies not in the monsters, but the living, breathing people trying to escape from them. One thing that zombie films excel at, by and large, is forcing the viewer to identify with those being threatened. The little girl zombie in Romero’s original film is not what hits hard. It’s the mother’s reaction. You feel for the mother while the girl has simply become the vehicle for the mother’s death. I can get that. I can relate to that on some level. The zombies themselves, no.
But therein lies the ultimate problem with the zombie genre. It has become one that folds the pair of aces in favor of the 7/2 offsuit (analogy for Jeremy). Filmmakers today give priority to the zombies. Through years of growing up on Savini homages, they mistakenly believe that the zombie is what audiences identify with, so they put all their energy and focus into the monsters. And because they have shifted so dramatically to the wrong direction, literally thousands of zombie movies that have been released are utter dreck. Why has this occurred? Jeff put it best on a Splattercast episode: Because Romero did everything that could be done. His genius was not in showing blood and gore, but rather hitting all of the notes that needed to be hit on the human level. Frankly, he built the zombie coffin and then nailed it shut. What more can you really do? Well, you can make zombies run faster…
In conclusion I want to make it clear that I’m not dogging on zombies. I’m just indifferent towards them. I don’t find anything particularly special about them and the glut of films that have been released post-Romero (of which you could probably count the top-quality ones on a single hand) are repetitious imitations that are so watered down at this point that they are, no pun intended, soulless. So do I know why zombies are so popular; why people are willing to dress themselves up as living dead and wander around streets in large packs? I think I know why, I just don’t fully understand it. Zombies are cool in the sense that you have variety, cool makeup and FX work, and they provide a never ending supply of exploding heads. But as monsters, I think they rank well short of being anything more than eye-candy.
So…why do you like zombies?
So I decide to go get my textbooks for this upcoming semester. I’m essentially done with school except that I have to take two more semesters of Spanish. I hate spanish. I don’t hate the language, just being forced to learn it at an institution I’m paying to attend. Teach spanish in grade school? I’m totally fine with that. Forcing me to learn spanish when I’m 27 and finished with my major? That just grates on me.
Anyhow, I go to get my books and, predictably, the Spanish book I need is $70. That’s fine. I can handle that. I’ve spent more for books in the past. Then I find out that I need an “online code” in order to do internet classwork. I’m like “an online code? That’s all I need?” and the girl is like “yep!”. So I said “Great! I’ll take one”. She hands me what amounts to a thin piece of cardboard and I head up the the register.
The dude scans that thin piece of cardboard. $60. For an “online code”. It’s literally just a series of numbers that I type into a website. That’s it. And it cost me 60 f*cking dollars. I probably wouldn’t be so bitter about this if I wasn’t done with my major and minor. In fact, I actually have a double minor finished. This is just piss time for me and I know it is going to be hard as hell because I just cannot seem to grasp the Spanish language. Why does college have to force this language requirement bullshit on me? Not only am I paying public education tax dollars that should have this crap instituted in grade school when I don’t know any better not to learn it, but now they force you to spend ridiculous amounts of money at an optional educational institution
No me gusta, Motherf*ckers!
Prevention months and awareness weeks. These are bullshit. Know why? Because anything worth preventing or being aware of should be prevented or brought to the forefront every day, not just 7 to 31 of them during the year.
Case in point, April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Now it’s no secret that I despise children and think the vast majority of them should be cast into some horrible pit of doom, fire, pain, and/or (but preferably) death. But lets just pretend for a moment that it is wrong to push a small child down a flight of stairs, or come home from the bar and slap it around a little bit, or put a lit cigarette out in the palm of its hand when they mess up on their math homework (remember, for the sake of this argument, we’re just pretending all this is wrong). If that’s really wrong, then it should be wrong EVERYDAY. Not just during April. Every year, month, week, day, hour, minute, and second should be child abuse prevention whatever. Not just one month, not just one week.
Also, awareness weeks/months are just fucking retarded. Awareness is when you’re too much of a pussy to attempt to even prevent something. There’s an AIDS awareness week/month every year. What a load of shit. For one thing, everyone is AWARE that AIDS exists. And if for some reason someone doesn’t know, shoot them in the face. They were a moron anyway. Being aware of something is pointless. If anything needs prevention it is AIDS. An AIDS awareness time would only work if it were changed to “People With AIDS Need to Stop Fucking Other Humans Without AIDS, Otherwise a Mob Will Set Your Dick on Fire and/or Fill Your Vag-hole With Boiling Hot Bleach Where Applicable” Awareness Random Time Frame. A PWANtSFOHWAOaMWSYDoFa/oFYVWBHBWA Awareness Century would be awesome. Most of these awareness campaigns are useless anyways or tell people something they already know. I’m pretty sure July is National Kellogg’s Raisin Bran has two full scoops of raisins in every box awareness month in town here. Your July may vary however.
At some point, the really important causes (I’m no longer talking about child abuse) have to graduate from awareness to prevention.
By the way, in March there’s actually a no swearing week in South Pasadena, CA. Fuck no swearing week.