Tag Archives: scary movies

31 Days of Spoooktacular: Portrait of a Slasher Movie

The slasher movie is, by far, one of the subgenres of horror that most sticks to a formula. And here is the formula:

Pre-Credits Kill+Character Introduction+Cat Scare*+Minor Character Killed Off+Pointless Drama/Comedic Scene+Secondary Character Killed+Hero(ine) and Killer Meet-Up+Hero(ine) Triumphs+One Last Scare=Slasher Movie

This is, for the most part, how every slasher movie plays out. You have the pre-credit sequence kill, which is either part of the back story or is set in modern day and sets off the chain of events. This is where you’ll see characters defiling graves or having sex when they should have been paying attention or telling stories around a campfire about the killer. If this is a sequel, this is where you’ll most likely see a character from the previous movie get killed off (see Friday the 13th Part 2 or Scream 3).

Then comes the cast introduction. During this point you’ll see a barrage of cliches come at you. Don’t worry! Most will be dead in 90 minutes. This is also the point where you’ll meet an ancillary character. Now, the ancillary character can fulfill numerous roles. They’re the Red Herring: “Who’s that?” “Oh that’s crazy Bob, he lives in the woods where we’ll be camping!” The Red Herring will show up lurking, here and there, through-out the movie and then will end up dead at the three-quarter mark.

There’s the Small Town Sheriff. He will say, in one form or another, “Those damn kids!” before the movie is over. Though he’s going to be an asshole throughout the entire movie, he’ll most likely show up toward the middle or end and seem like he’s going to do something to affect the outcome and give the audience false hope. He’s actually going to be murder fodder and everyone’s hopes are dashed.

There’s the Doomsayer. He (or she) is an old and crusty oldtimer who knows more than everyone else, but will be completely dismissed as being either old, crazy or both. The Doomsayer can also play the part of The Red Herring. It’s a toss-up to whether the Doomsayer will show up beyond the Introduction.

Then there’s the Cat Scare. The Cat Scare is when a character hears a noise, goes to investigate and finds a cat. It is almost ALWAYS a cat. And it’s always a cat that has somehow ended up in a cupboard. I have owned numerous cats, but they rarely ended up in cupboards.

Right after the cat scare, Minor Character death. The Doomsayer is a good choice for this, but sometimes it’s the gas station attendant or the lonely hitchhiker or any person who is not one of the fresh young teens.

Then you have the pointless drama and light-hearted comedy to trick you into thinking that that this movie is more than nubile young people being offed with chainsaws.

This is when the secondary characters start dying, one by one and, depending on how many characters there are, depends on how long this process will take.

After all the non-essential personnel are removed, the hero or, more frequently, the heroine meets up with the monster. If the monster is masked, this is where he’ll be de-masked. If the killer is actually the boyfriend, long lost-brother or the mother of a deformed little boy who drowned in the lake, this is where the shocking twist is revealed.

After the Killer is dispatched, the Hero(ine) and her/his Boyfriend/Girlfriend walk away from the body. Then the body moves, or the little boy comes out of the lake or the second killer steps out of the shadows or the Hero(ine) turns around with a crazy look in her eyes and you know SHE’S the killer now. This is the Final Scare. It can be either followed with a re-assuring shot of the Hero(ine) waking up or a freeze-frame of the Final Scare.

Bam. You don’t ever need to watch a slasher movie ever again. Because you just did. All of them.

-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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It’s on the Air

You can’t sense it, but I can. I step outside and I can smell it, hovering on the fringes, hanging back from the senses; that lingering odor of decay in a basement that promises something hidden under the floor. You don’t notice it.

But it’s coming.

It’s in the way the shadows are cast now; Longer, darker, stretched thinner like tension in a darkened alley when you see a slow movement behind that dumpster. You don’t see it, not like I do.

But it’s coming.

In the back of your mind it tickles; a fingernail running down your spine, the breath of a whisper on your ear in the middle of the night. It’s the hum in the air around a downed power-line. You ignore the feeling.

But it’s still coming.

Be prepared….

It’s almost Halloween.

-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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Horror on a Budget

I talk a lot about horror as an art form. I rail against poorly made horror movies and I talk endlessly about what horror needs to do as a genre in order to regain its ability to actually frighten people.

All of that doesn’t change the fact that I really like shitty horror movies.

I don’t know why. I’ve tried to think of reasons for it; explanations for my love of truly awful movies.

They’re…comforting, intrinsically. You know what they’re going to do and how they’re going to do it. I know their ins and outs and I know what their plot is before they do. They make me laugh, though they don’t mean to. And sometimes, very rarely, they actually have the power to shock me.

It’s because they’re not bound by any rules or standards. Characters appear and disappear for no reason. And terrible, truly terrible things will happen, in all senses of the word, because the filmmakers are completely and utterly unbound by any concept of what should or shouldn’t be in a movie.

And that, in and of itself, is extremely refreshing.

It doesn’t change the fact that these movies are shockingly bad and inexcusably awful, but it at least gives me a way to defend my love for them all.

-D-

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Movie Review: Prometheus

When I was younger, I was absolutely obsessed with the Aliens movies. Well, correction: I was obsessed with Alien and Aliens. The other two movies were of such questionable quality that I’d rather pretend that they never happened.

It was one of the first bits of horror I watched growing up and it had a deep and affecting impact on what I consider scary. The alien in these movies is not something to be reasoned with. It’s not evil. It’s just a very well-designed killing machine; incapable of remorse or mercy. It has no back-story, no motivation, no explanation; it does what it does and the protagonist has no recourse but to simply deal with it. It’s shadowy and elusive and brutal.

So when I heard about Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s prequel to Alien, I was concerned. The Alien creature lost a lot of its mystique because of mindless and pointless repetition. The boogeyman is not scary when it’s dragged into the light, kicking and screaming. In the latter sequels, the Alien is put onto the dissection table and pointlessly and needlessly over-analyzed. There was no more fear; it just became a part of pop culture, something that used to scare us.

And now, Scott was once again returning to the well. Except, instead of revisiting the alien and telling that same damn story all over again with a pointless origin story, he showed another aspect to the story. Instead of a direct prequel, he created a story that took place in the same universe and, while it does shed some light on the story in Alien, it is not directly about those later movies.

And in some ways, this is the best kind of prequel. It’s not like the Star Wars prequels, where Lucas shoehorns in pointless contrivances just to work in familiar characters and uses needless and tedious exposition to elaborate on parts of the back story that no-one cares about. Scott attempts to tell a new story that just happens to take place in the Alien universe. By the time it was over, I had re-examined the events in Alien and re-contextualized them, but in a way that didn’t cheapen or lessen the fear or impact of that movie.

Even better, he avoids explaining everything fully. By the time the movie is done, you’re still left wondering and that, I believe, is for the best. For horror, it’s always better if the audience is guessing at the end, at least just a little bit. There should be an element of doubt and curiosity. It is the unknown that people, in general, fear the most. And by leaving questions unanswered at the end of Prometheus, Scott has left a lot unknown. He fleshes out the universe without taking anything away from the fear and the unknown terrors of the original movie.

And so while Prometheus is not a great movie, it is a great prequel. It has its problems and its “the hell?” moments, but it doesn’t detract from its predecessors.

If you’re a fan of the series, check it out.

-D

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