Don't look in there! The state of Scary Movies


Angus Niven doesn”t scare easy, this is a lie. I scare easier than something that scares easy. Even so I struggle to get myself scared at the current “horror” section of my local Blockbuster. Scary films are on the most part lame-zo snorefests. Saw I-IIV are testament to the guff churned out, much like American Pie 3 through 26, Saw shows cinematic formula”s are exploitable. Lots o gore, a couple of pale English school girls and perhaps an unsuspecting cheerleader with unsupported boobies. Look at that I just wrote a horror film.

Renowned pedophile Roman Polanski riled against this formula with Rosemary”s Baby (1968). This was over 4 decades ago, Polanski”s psychotic Mia Farrow terrified but did so intelligently. We have seen many examples of smart thrilling horror since then but also a suffocating barrage of sewage.

I scare easy but what is scary about watching a couple in an empty house? Doors open and close and you rightly shit yourself, but thats when you are home alone not when you are watching a couple of muppets with an scarily incompetent cameraman. The focus on bums leaving seats has lead to me jumping out of mine to change the channel (I don”t have a remote in this scenario). Despite moments of genius, horror is a genre in free fall. Not unlike Keanu Reaves we are expected to accept Horror on the back of a few good films despite an overwhelming majority of nonsense. Why is that? Why aren”t more filmmakers trying harder? Why was there three Matrix and only one Point Break?

I can”t help but wonder what if horror wasn”t deemed a genre? What if filmmakers were forced to draw more out of 90 minutes than a few scares? Horror films, or at least the good ones, provide good scares but a little more.

Take zombies, a horror staple since Mr Romero showed the world how it was done. Of course they are scary, but they are only scary when used properly. As shown in the sensational 28 Days Later (2002) where Zombies are used for some truly thrilling action sequences and more importantly engaging character development. Using the horror and scares to build characters and tell a story of humanity is something we could use more of. If the scares aren”t the focus would this make a difference? I think 28 Days Later proves that taking the focus of seat jumping leads to much more worthwhile cinema. Sadly it is apparent that few filmmakers took this lesson on board

Personally the scariest film I have ever seen is Fatal Attraction (1987). It may not have kept me up at night like It (1966) but good grief Charlie Brown is it scary. Fatal attraction is a slow psychological thriller, from mundane beginnings director Adrian Lyne presents a very realistic and terrifying descent into complete insanity. Glen Close is phenomenal, her monstrously believable depiction of a regular person”s descent is terrifying. It is the lack of mysticism and magic and the embrace of simple horrifying humanity that makes Fatal Attraction so scary for me. Even the hint of the unexplained in Rosemary”s Baby can remove you, Fatal Attraction is nothing but humanity and there is nowhere to turn for comfort.

Yet you probably won”t find Fatal Attraction under horror, why not? It”s a good deal scarier than Saw or Paranormal Activity. It is an engaging and terrifying film, the fact that it wouldn”t be described as “Horror” says more about the state of the genre than enthusiasts are willing to admit.

So this Halloween when you are deciding on what scary film you should watch let your mind wander. Don”t neccesarily accept what the suits in Hollyweird classify as Horror, find something that engages you as much as it terrifies. Find a film that scares you the more you think about it. More importantly remember to stay prepared for some personal character growth, you never know there might be a zombie apocalypse tomorrow.


  • Horror is such a dense genre because it’s the cheapest kind of film to make and, if you’re Joe Hollywood, it’s easy to make bank by green lighting some piss poor horror rehashes in time for Halloween.

    For the most part, you’re asking too much from the genre. As a collective, horror films are inevitably going to be formulaic but you could just as easily write the same article about romantic comedies; except there’s a perverse satisfaction to be had from watching a bad horror film that you don’t get from other genres. Like all things entertainment, the key is to pick and choose what you consume very carefully. Sifting for gold in the horror genre is part of the fun really and there’s an odd trend now to dismiss a horror film or franchise because it became outrageously successful.

    Quite tempted to give you a watching list but I feel like a bit of a knobhead for doing so. Nevertheless, I think you’d enjoy Session 9 and Audition whilst Noroi is a choice cut which, for me, is the scariest film out there.

    • I agree I probably am asking too much of the genre. Also I wouldn’t mind a watching list because I wouldn’t mind finding the gold without the effort. I will check out Noroi for a good spooking.
      Ps. Get excited for “I’d rather not have what she’s having: the state of rom coms” coming to you Valentines day 2013

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: