Since today was my day off from my job-that-pays-me-money, I decided to do some research for my job-that-is-more-fun-but-way-less-lucrative. I watched four horror movies, most of them slightly-above-average. However, when I got to Insidious, I began to get angry.
There’s a difference between bad horror movies and horror done badly. Bad horror movies acknowledge that they’re never going to be art and go, instead, for cheap thrills and black cat jump scares (“What’s that noise?” “Oh my Jesus! The cat jumped at me.”). That’s fine. They’re like roller coasters or junk food.
But horror done badly is maddening. Good horror is about tension and release. The creator ratchets the tension, notch by notch until you can’t stand it anymore. You’re on the edge of your seat, wondering what’s going to happen next. Then BAM, the creator delivers a blow and you ump in your seat and you’re good and proper scared and the tension is released. A good horror movie starts slow and then doesn’t stop or let up. It should be relentless.
So when I see a horror movie, like Insidious, ratchet up that tension with excellent visuals and then blow it on a cheap laugh on two-bit comedy relief, I get angry. It already didn’t have a lot going for it. The script was terrible. The plot was derivative. It was Poltergeist, but badly made. But it had creepy, effective visuals. And that can save a horror movie, if the director knows what to do with that tension.
And it’s NOT blow it on two gag characters! You had it, in your hands and you threw it away for a LAUGH.
I’d rather watch a dozen cheap slasher flicks than one atmospheric, decently-made film that backs down from being truly scary.
One thought on “Tension”
I think the same can be said for great screwball comedies or action/thrillers–the situation gets worse and worse, one thing piled on top of another–like *Arsenic and Old Lace.*