Amanda By Night's Retro Ectero Page

Retro Ectero is a place to wax poetic about all the wonderful silly things of a past long gone by.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

How to Watch a Horror Movie

OK, I try to pre-plan these blog thingies. But since I'm feeling mad at the world, I would just like to give my peeps out there a heads up as to how to watch a friggin' scary movie.

Rule Number One:

Chances are, whatever film you've chosen doesn't even come close to anything known in the real world. I KNOW Jason does not exist, thank you! I know that most people can't be implaled on a random sharp object just like that! I know these things. I know you know these things, but WHY do people feel the need to say something to the effect of:

"Uh yeah, right. Why is she going into the old dilapidated house?"

Answer: There wouldn't be a movie is she didn't!

When watching any film, there will always be a suspension of disbelief. We are watching a story unfolding before our eyes. We find ourselves caught up in the fictional lives which have solely been created to either entertain, teach us something, make us feel emotions we want to vent or express but sometimes can't, or at the very least, to create an artistic statement. No matter how human the character comes across, it's ain't real. In a horror movie, especially the ones that fall into the subgenre of slasher, the characters or events will never approach anything remotely in the realm of reality, so if something so minor as a woman wondering into a scary house is going to stop you... don't watch the movie.

This rant is not really geared towards anyone in particular, but I just get so frustrated with people trying to explain why my beloved films are bad. I know they're not Oscar winning flicks. But if I wanted that, I'd grab my copy of Howard's End. Nope, I love escapist movies. When I get home from work, I like to not have to think. I like to watch silly (and sometimes) scary movies. I will forgive a lot of mistakes as long as the film is earnest or at least mildly amusing.

Slasher films for me are like Calgon. TAKE ME AWAY!


Anonymous cattleworks said...

Oh, dear...
I wonder what specifically precipitated that...

Yeah, horror movies are a strange animal. We who love horror (or fantasy or sci-fi, for that matter) have this strange paradox of arbitrarily accepting some contrived behaviors/scenarios/pseudo-science/etc. as is because it's the genre of what we're watching, and then arbitrarily changing the standard in the same movie for some other similarly (apparently) preposterous reason, perhaps in the same movie.
Its a thin line of suspension of belief and personal preference, I guess.
A lot of movies I like I can see other people HATING (Nude for Satan; Jesus Christ, Vampire Hunter-- just to name two).

I can offer you nothing to comfort you, accept that, I feel your pain.
(Or in the words of the teenage JFK from the rudely cancelled cartoon series CLONE HIGH: Theyah, theyah... (hmmm, trying to spell his accent loses something in the translation here...)

4:00 PM  
Anonymous cattleworks said...

Gee... re-reading that comment, my attempt at humor can also be interpreted as awfully patronizing, which was NOT my intent. Sorry.

On a completely other note:
This came up on Neil Gaiman's Journal, and it seemed like something you would enjoy, if you haven't already!

That's the link to his post, and the item I'm talking about is at the end.
If you want to skip the post, however, and just see the item:

Hey, hope you had a cool Halloween!

4:26 AM  
Anonymous Goose said...

I too enjoy what other do not. Bad movies are good to me. I like loosing myself in the less than believable plots of horror movies. I mean really how many people do think would really have to die at Camp Crystal Lake befor the entire lake was dried up for good? I like knowing that the unbelievable ending will always be what I wait for with child like anticipation.
This is why I enjoy watching these types of movies only with others who have the same views I do. ( not to mention that I know that I am always right, so everyone should agree with me :)

6:52 AM  
Anonymous Casey C said...

I hear this argument so many times. "How can you watch this crap? It's so stupid!" Yah well, I like to shut the brain off and just watch a movie sometimes.

So hear hear, the campier the better!

5:03 PM  
Blogger Amanda By Night said...

Ah, I feel redeemed. Thank you all and let's enjoy the random slashing when we can, eh?

7:09 PM  
Anonymous Dan Padavona said...

You are right on as usual Amanda. A certain amount of suspension of belief is required.

However some of my favorites (and I know some of yours) do not require much suspension of belief at all. In fact, it is their believability which makes them all the more frightening.

I'm referring of course to the classic opening scene from When A Stranger Calls Back, and also to the original When A Stranger Calls. Those moments are terrifying because it is easy to empathize with Julie and Jill, respectively. Fred Walton creates believable situations, ones which there are no easy answer to. Julie cannot open the door, she is alone, and the phone is out. Does she tell the truth and let the unknown man know she cannot contact anyone for help? Does she lie knowing he will find out? What happens when he returns?

Believable terror, as rarely as it is ever attempted on film, never fails to create true horror for the viewer.

My second favorite type of horror is that in which the horror is more an idea than a character. Michael Myers in the original Halloween fits this description. What exactly is he? A psychopath? Why won't he die? Why is doing all of this? Is he a force of nature? The Boogeyman?

To a lesser degree, Billy of the original Black Christmas is an idea. We never see him. It is a pretty simple idea, but damn effective. Billy is a lunatic. Not the kind who dons a hockey mask and attacks nude babes going for skinny dips. But rather a stark, raving mad, bark at the moon, loon. He is so far gone, it is terrifying. What made him that way? Who is Agnes and what did he do to her? The lingering questions are more terrifying than any answer could possibly be...something the writers for the remake clearly do not understand. Even to this day Clark still understands it.

3:22 AM  
Blogger mandingo said...

I hate to sully this highly entertaining (not sarcasm, honest)dialogue with matters philosopical, but I am going to do it anyway.

I guess you have all heard Wes Craven's pseudo- psychological justifications for what he does, and I am inclined to believe he- as we- finds something cathartic in horror, as opposed to John Carpenter's motivation, which by his own admission is money.

As you are all edging toward a casual justification for your 'guilty pleasures'- which in a world with precious few pleasures, you are not obliged to do- I think it is interesting you explore the reasons for your passion for 'trashy horror'. Don't forget, even the trashiest of horror films are attempting to do something most mainstream movies do not- to jolt us out of our complacency, and turn our thoughts to matters metaphysical- why are we here, what happens when we die, what are nightmares for, what place has 'fear' in our makeup, etc.

Try to remember that as horror fanatics, you are at odds with the critics- those who bleat 'how can you watch that crap'- on a conscious level because you feel at home in being jolted from your complacency, and on a subconscious level, your mind is stretching to satisfy some basic questions about life and death.

I don't know you any of you, and have no right to psychoanalyse you, but reading between the lines I sense you love horror films for the reasons I do; because they explore- often without meaning to- some fascinating philosophical questions. I don't differentiate between the 'good' and the 'bad', as these words have no meaning for me. I appreciate trash, as much as I appreciate boutique efforts like 'Jacobs Ladder' and 'Stir of Echoes', because they satisfy my desire to transcend this mortal coil, and seek out that which lies beyond.

And they are fucking good fun to boot.

Keep the faith- I know you will. You, like me, have probably been doing this most of your life, and will continue to seek out new worlds beyond this temporal plane-via the fine art of film.

Forgive they who judge, for they know not what they do...

8:13 PM  

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