I’m Not Angry
In a never-ending stream of things that seem to piss me off, last issue I was a little mean to a particular movie that a lot of people seemed to really dig. I took some criticism for my over-simplified synopsis of what I called the worst movie of 2012. “You didn’t get it,” I heard. I also heard that The Hunger Games was a great movie, it bore no resemblance to Battle Royale, and if I could kindly shut the hell up, that’d be great.
“Maybe they’re right,” I thought sadly. Maybe in my quest to bring a little bit of joy to people at a university where everyone seems to be in a constant state of fear and anxiety, I may have overstepped some boundaries. Maybe I’ve been…unfair. Then I thought that I think some crazy things, and decided that all of my detractors can bite me.
See, my biggest problem with House at the End of Street isn’t that it was just a bad movie (it was). My problem was that it was a bad movie that had the audacity to pass itself off as a horror movie. “But horror has evolved!” say my detractors, who now bear a striking resemblance to Heath Ledger’s Joker. “And you still don’t get it!”
Maybe not. But maybe I don’t want to get it, either. Horror is a constantly evolving film genre. It needs to be adaptable to its audience—simply put, what scared our grandparents isn’t necessarily liable to scare us.
Horror as a film genre can be traced all the way back to as early as 1920 when John Barrymore starred in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Of course to watch this film now expecting to be scared is an exercise in futility. Being a silent film, all of the actors worked in an exaggerated style so as to make themselves understood without the use of sound.
When the film is taken contextually, that is, watched as if you were seeing it for the first time in 1920, it can be genuinely horrifying. One of the most admired matinee idols of the time transforms dapper to diabolic-looking monster nearly before your eyes. That is the kind of thing that instills a sense of dread in your audience. That’s why Alfred Hitchcock was—and still is—a master of the horror craft. His films can be cheesy and representative of the times in which they were made. But they’re also very cerebral horror films, and some of the subject matter lingers with you long after you’ve shut the film off.
Thus, I take such offense to films like House at the End of the Street which try to ride the coattails of great horror films. I stand by my statement—brittle-sounding stringed instruments and smash edits designed to make the audience jump do not constitute a horror; all this proves is that your audio mixer knows how to turn a scrub wheel up until it won`t turn anymore. In this desensitized culture of 2012, all that seems to scare people, no matter how momentarily, is brittle-sounding stringed instruments and smash editing.
Horror isn`t horror the moment the fear is lost when the credits roll. It isn`t scary now, and it won`t be scary when, in 92 years, another embittered and jaded film reviewer suggests watching HATES in the context of 2012.
So, in short, the next time someone has to argue their position on a shitty movie with a faux-genre staple-gunned to it, they better show up to the firefight with more than flint-lock pistol, because I`m packing an M134, and at 6,000 mental rounds per minute, nothing is safe from my wrath. But I’m not angry…honest.