Saturday, April 14, 2012

Horror movies that are boring and suggestive

I don't know if this was real or a clever bit of publicity, but there was a letter to the editor in the local paper---this was a few years ago---complaining about a locally produced horror movie that had its premiere at a theater here in town.

The letter writer said that he liked to support local movie productions, but this was deeply offensive, and he described a few of the scenes.

Essentially, he was complaining that a horror movie contained horror.

It does seem to be a problem with some locally produced horror movies I've seen that they try to be respectable. They try to make it suggestive rather than frightening, and they insist that this is actually scarier because it makes the audience imagine the horror for themselves. Like they couldn't have done that at home.

I was watching a horror movie produced in Portland, Oregon. I didn't know where it was made when I ordered it from Netflix. I had never heard of it before. Watching it, it looked like it might have been Portland, and I thought I recognized the Pitock Mansion, a turn of the century home now owned by the Department of Parks and Recreation.

The movie was about some young women going on a trip somewhere. There's a brief gratuitous scene of one taking a shower. They get in the car and go. The car crashes. They're taken to a large Victorian mansion which is isolated in the woods. There are no roads, no telephone, no nothing. But they do have running water and we see in another brief shower scene.

I can't remember what was supposed to be scary. An old woman lives there. Maybe she had a deranged son. I don't remember.

But a bonus features on the DVD included an interview with the director on a local talk show in which he made that claim, that it was actually scarier because it was less scary.

Well, I can understand it. I can understand someone wanting to make a movie, deciding to make a horror movie but not wanting it to be offensive or horrifying. The guy did throw in two completely gratuitous nude scenes, though. The nudity wasn't excessive, but it was entirely unrelated to the plot. I was surprised to learn the movie was banned in Britain for years.

But there was Woody Allen's Shadows and Fog. I just watched it as a Woody Allen movie. I didn't think of it as a horror movie. If that's what he thought he was making, it failed completely.

I didn't consider this possibility until I read John Baxter's excellent biography of Woody Allen. He pointed out that audiences today weren't going to be scared by atmosphere----by shadows and fog.

"Hmm, well," I thought, "yes, I suppose it would have been scarier if it had had anything scary in it."

It's like comedy. It's fairly common for people to mistake comic potential for actual humor. Something being potentially frightening doesn't make it scary.

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