Tag Archives: horror genre

31 Days of Spoooktacular: The Remade

Between 2007 and 2010, all three of the major slasher icons were featured in reboots of the old movies. Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers stalked the silver screen again in “fresh” “re-imaginings” of the old movies. Halloween came first, followed shortly by Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street. The idea that this was even a profitable idea probably came from the success of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, which grossed over $107 million dollars worldwide. And that’s in 2003 dollars!

Of the three remakes, Halloween is the only one that can be even remotely be called “good”, and I use that term loosely. It’s still a slasher movie; it’s extremely violent, has a fairly simple plot and the character development of water-logged cardboard. BUT, even though it’s the one remake that most closely followed the plot of its predecessor, it still brought a lot of new material and ideas to the table that helped to enhance, rather than detract, from the story of the character (the childhood of Michael Myers being the most notable addition). It has a lot of nice touches sprinkled throughout and has some of the best kid actors I’ve seen in a movie in a long time. In fact, the acting across the board is good, which is something you learn not to expect in a slasher movie. And, this is important here, it has some truly creepy moments.

Which cannot really be said of Friday the 13th or A Nightmare on Elm Street. They were boring, did nothing to add anything new or original to the characters, except for stuff you really didn’t want added (Jason the pot farmer! Freddy the goofy man-child pedophile gardener!). They could never have been made and the world would never have noticed the difference. And it’s telling that while Halloween managed to do well enough to warrant a (truly terrible) sequel, the same cannot be said of the other two, though it’s only a matter of time. 

The problem with any remake or sequel, and this is more true for the horror genre than others, is that you will never be surprised or shocked. You will never be scared. You’ve seen this monster’s moves and you know what can kill it and you know how things will proceed. They never change a franchise enough to make it interesting, because if they do they risk losing money and fan ire (see Halloween III: Season of the Witch or Friday the 13th: A New Beginning).

They remake and sequel until the money runs out, but long before then, the scares have dried up. It’s detrimental to the genre and just drives away the fans in droves to try new things like Japanese horror and giallo.

Let them die, so we can be scared again.

-D-

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31 Days of Spoooktacular: Reflection

I’m still reeling a bit from the convention yesterday. I’m not a person that really likes big crowds of people and I don’t like big crowds of exuberant people. So yesterday was a bit overwhelming.

But, as I mentioned briefly in my last blog entry yesterday, there is something invigorating about being surrounded by a bunch of people who are doing what you want to be doing, who are enjoying what you enjoy. I write, on occasion, horror, but I surround myself with the things I like and the things I’m familiar with and it doesn’t really do a lot to get me going creatively.

I need to and should, go outside of my comfort zone, trying new fictions, new places, new art forms. The convention, in a lot of ways, was not geared toward someone like me. I don’t wave my freak flag high. I keep it locked in a chest in the basement behind a padlocked door. There were people with fangs and people with spines showing and and people on stilts and people with mohawks (!!!!!).

And all the things! There were posters and toys and little sculptures and pins and paintings and indie films and actors and make-up artists and authors and pythons.

It was overwhelming and wearying and tiring and by the end, I needed a sit down.

But I’m ready to start contributing again, I think. Ready to start putting those stories back out there and wincing as they’re sent back to me, but sending them out again anyway.

It’s about adding to that wonderful cacophony of scary that I saw on Sunday. It’s about going back there one day, not as a gawker or a viewer or a spectator, but as a maker.

-D-

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31 Days of Spoooktacular: Rock and Shock (The Event)

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I keep trying to condense all of this into one picture or thought that encompasses the entire event, but it’s just not possible.

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There are the celebrities. The few we actually talked to were absurdly nice and patient with our mumbling and limp handshakes.

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All around me, I see adulation for a genre that gets very little love outside of a small subset of fans. From modern horror to the old classics: everyone is here to share in their love of being scared.

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It’s the feeling of being with a bunch of people who love what I love, who work to create what I love. It’s bring surrounded by creators and artists and fans. It’s invigorating and energizing and l plan on coming back next year.

-D-

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31 Days of Spoooktacular: Rock and Shock (The Prequel)

I know I’ve already talked about this once already, but I cannot stress enough how excited I am about Rock and Shock. Pinhead and Michael Myers and Jason and Candyman are all going to be in the same room together at the same time. And I will do my best not to call them that to their faces.

It’ll also be interesting to be in a place where I’m not the biggest horror freak. There be hundreds of other people there, all of them either on my level or more so. I will blend in and fit in with the crowd and that will be nice.

Horror, both in movies and in books, has been a driving force in my writing. It’s what helped me decide that I want to be a writer. It helped me decide what I want to write about. It gave me focus for something that needs to be focused in order to be useful.

It’s important to me in a way that other genres, that I also love, are not. It fuels my creative drive and that is a vital, important thing and Rock and Shock is a way to actually meet the people who make that genre possible.

There will be giddy squealing, is what I’m saying.

-D-

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31 Days of Spoooktacular: The Learning Curve (Part 2)

A few months ago I talked about reading older horror authors in order to see what had come before and learning from it. Just reading modern work is like reading the stuff that came before, but diluted, with six degrees of separation. You’ll see a little bit of Matheson and Lovecraft in a Stephen King novel, but it’s not the same thing as reading Matheson or Lovecraft.

The next author I chose was Robert E. Howard. Now, for the few of you who recognize his name, probably know that he created Conan. But you might not know that he was best friends forever with Lovecraft and that they cribbed from each other’s works.

I was not as enthralled with Howard the horror author as I was with Howard the Conqueror. His horror loses some of its punch because of his heroes. He’ll write a scene of depraved horror that will give you chills, vicious, awful stuff that surprised me with its vivid graphic-ness. But, in the middle of this scene, he plunks the square jawed hero, unflappable even in front of the frightful, mind-bendingly terrible. When the hero is in control almost at all times, it robs the scene of its fear. To be fair, not all of his stories featured Conan Lite running around, but his heroes were generally of sterner stuff than the average man and would triumph over their foes more often than not.

To me, horror succeeds better if there’s the potential for loss, if you honestly believe that the main characters are in peril. Stephen King knows this. That’s why he’ll lovingly describe a character’s backstory for ten pages and then off them unceremoniously. You have to believe that failure is possible, that it really might be curtains for the protagonist.

In terms of detail and fear soaked scenes of blood-curdling drama, Robert E. Howard gets an A+. For stories that are truly frightening, a B? That seems harsh. The man made Conan! But, in the long run, I think I learned a lot more from Matheson than from Howard.

-D-

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31 Days of Spoooktacular: The Prequel

I hope you enjoyed yesterday’s descent into madness. I hope I never have to do that again. But it did give you a little taste of what to expect in the coming days.

For the next 31 days, I plan to post more Spoooky Beer Reviews, horror movie reviews, and my occasional over-philosophizing about the horror genre, both in books and in film. I plan to blog from Rock and Shock. I plan to even blog about things that aren’t directly related to Halloween, just to mix it up a little bit.

In the end, I hope that you and I will know each other better  and grow closer together.

And that you’ll buy my book.

-D-

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Learning the History

If there’s one thing that I’m particularly weak on, it’s my horror history. I don’t read a lot of horror to start and I read even less of the older examples of the genre. Sure, I’ll pick up some pulps or read more Lovecraft than can fill the forgotten tomb city of R’lyeh, but for the most part I stick to mysteries and detective novels and anything written by Stephen King.

But I think it’s long past time for me to go back to the old classics and relearn the old ways. I started with Lovecraft, because he is a compelling author, if stylistically repetitive after awhile. The more I read him, the more I like him and the more unnerving his stories are.

And then I went to Bradbury, because  he writes some truly chilling, relentless horror under the guise of Sci-Fi. “The Long Rain” and “Mars is Heaven!” are two of his creepier stories. “The Long Rain,” in particular, makes me want to curl into a ball and just stop reading. It seems never to end, much like the Venusian rain.

And now I’ve moved onto Richard  Matheson. Matheson, unlike the other two, is a writer with whom I’m only vaguely familiar. I’ve read I am Legend and I’ve read one or two of his short stories before, though only a few I’d call horror. But I picked up an audiobook recently of his horror works and he is a writer of singular tenacity. His usual M.O. involves an individual and then the slow, tearing down of that individual; a thorough dissection of them, either through their own idiosyncrasies or through external events beyond their ability to withstand.

It’s painful to sit through some of the stories, because they grind slow, but exceedingly fine and on some levels, they’re capable of making me uncomfortable and uneasy.

And I’m learning from him, learning about things that I can take away and add to my own fiction. It’s those little pieces that I’m looking to take away, to add to my abilities and tools as a writer.

And I think I have an idea.

-D-

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Movie Review: Antichrist (Part 2)

I finished watching Antichrist and, as promised, here’s the second and last part of my review.

After I finished watching it, I needed a hug. It’s an emotionally draining movie; filled with disturbing images and grotesque elements. It depicted vile things and at the end, I wasn’t entirely sure what I had seen. I don’t think I’ll ever watch it again and I doubt I’ll ever be able to recommend it to anyone.

In spite of that and because of that, I’m more than willing to say that this is one of the best horror movies to be made in the last fifteen years. It went to the very limited of my comfort zones and stayed there for the duration of the movie. At no point was I ever relaxed or settling back down. It ratcheted up the tension and kept it here and didn’t allow for a moment of respite.

It’s  moments like this that I long for when I watch horror movies. I want to be uncomfortable. I want to be on edge. I want to be swept up in a tide of relentless energy.

It’s movies like Antichrist that give me hope that the genre will not be completely lost in a sea of senseless sequels and gratuitous violence. There is hope that people can go to the movies and experience true fear. Because if we cannot be scared in a theater, that leaves us precious few options.

-D-

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Movie Review: Antichrist (Part 1)

It is very rare that a movie scares me anymore. I’m not bragging. It just means I’ve seen too many scary movies. I know how it’s going to end. I know which characters are going to die at which points. I know where the monster will appear and what its name is. It’s all about knowing the tropes and the cliches and the very nature of the genre.

And as I’ve stated many times, fear is about not knowing. It’s about being surprised. It’s about not knowing what’s around the corner.

What’s great, truly great, about modern movies is there are no restrictions. Back in ye olden days, the good guys one, the bad guys died. Some secondary characters bit the dust, but you knew Bruce Strongchin and Betty Blondhairs would be ok in the end. As time went on and 70’s horror lost its sense of right and wrong, the hero stopped being safe. Movies started being shocking again. This was especially true in all those thousands of cult and Satan movies.

Movies could show more and more violence, so they showed more and more violence. And we got inured to violence and shock and horror and yawn. Horror has so much freedom now. It can go places and show things and tell stories that it couldn’t have told in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s. So what does it do with this freedom?

Torture porn and the human centipede. Modern horror makers, for the most part, seem to feel the necessity to top themselves in an unwinnable attempt to be the most shocking and forget that the best way to scare is to show less and draw out the tension on a razor’s edge.

All this is leading to Antichrist. I’m not done watching it. I got so excited and so bursting with nervous energy that I had to stop in the middle and start writing about it. It made me uneasy. It made me scared and upset and worried and freaked out and oh, there’s no jump scares and there’s no psycho in the woods; it’s all just upsetting imagery and freaky visuals and a tight script and two actors falling deeper and deeper into madness inducing fear.

This is what the freedom allows. It’s not about being able to show every aspect of a decapitation from every angle in excruciating slow motion. It’s about being able to upset the audience. It’s about making people uncomfortable. That’s what good horror does. It’s uncomfortable and uneasy and it makes you squirm and when it’s done you let out that tension in one shaky release of breath.

I have to get back to my movie.

Part 2 tomorrow.

-D-

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An Analysis of Fear

Over the years, I’ve made Horror my thing. I’ve watched countless horror movies. I’ve read countless horror stories. I’ve viewed the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch. I’ve worked out the formulas for the non-Euclidian shapes of Lovecraftian geometry. I’ve sampled the wares of multiple cultures; the giallo films of Dario Argento, the existentialist nightmares of French cinema, and even some Bollywood rip-offs of American slasher films.

And, in all of my research, in all of my attempts to feel fear through fiction, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is only one way to craft perfect Horror. There is no one platonic ideal for Horror, hovering in the Aether like some malignant spider, hell-bent on the destruction of your pleasant dreams. Instead, Horror is a swarm of nightmares.

Fear is a personal thing. Certain people find certain things scary. What is scary for one person, is funny to another person. The supernatural doesn’t scare me at all, but I have a friend who believes that there are ghosts in the world. Horror must strive to reach only one person at a time.

Fear is primal. Something that is inspired by rudimentary thought processes buried deep in your subconscious. It is affected by the myths and legends of your culture. It is shaped by your upbringing and defined by your personal experience.

Horror, to be truly effective, must be individually tailored. For someone to feel that dread within, for someone to lose control of their conscious reasoning, they must read or watch something that has been specifically crafted for them. You cannot write a single story and try and scare an entire audience.

You’ll give a few people the creeps. And some people may feel the knife’s edge of Fear, but it will be dulled and blunted by the attempt to reach a broader audience.

The next step in Horror is not to try and reach the broadest audience possible. The next step in Horror is to make the experience as personal as possible.

Horror, as a form of fiction, has one goal: to create fear in the audience. Now, more than ever, it possible to achieve this goal. The Internet allows the Audience to approach the Creator and demand to be scared. It allows for the Audience to achieve something that they wouldn’t have been able to achieve before: they are able to get a customized, personalized experience that allows them to feel Fear.

Now, if only there was someone with a stronger work ethic than I to take advantage of it.

Dylan Charles

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