Six Things That --Still-- Drive Me Psycho!
During my stay at my previous gig I published the following editorial. It was deemed too controversial by the powers that be and as a result was taken down. Recently I came across it again, and despite the passing of time, it's still every bit as relevant as it was back then. I've updated it a bit and decided to give it a proper home. Sit back, kids, and let's revisit some troubled waters. Enjoy!
I've always been a night owl. Even when I was a little kid, when my parents put me to bed, I'd pretend to go to sleep. In actuality I'd lay there wide awake listening for them to start snoring so I could make a break for the living room and pop on the TV. It was 1975, and I was about three years old at the time. We had this HUGE console black and white TV in our living room. You know, the kind that when it broke you could just put another TV on top of it? Anyway, there I was all set for another evening of late night viewing. I flicked on the box and to my horror saw a news broadcast about the dead returning to life. The reporter said we needed to get to rescue stations immediately! "Holy shit!", I thought. "I need to go wake the folks!"
I ran into their bedroom and turned on the lights. "We gotta go! The dead are coming!" I screamed. They looked at me like I was nuts and started telling me I was dreaming. "Nope! I'm not dreaming! I'll show you!" I yelled, grabbed my mom's hand and dragged her into the living room with my pop bleary eyed but also in tow. All three of us were standing there as I pointed to the TV. Of course what I was watching was not a newscast. It was Night of the Living Dead. Wow, were they pissed. I caught my first spanking that night. As I lay in bed, ass throbbing, I realized that I was scared out of my damned mind, yet 100% safe. It's that feeling, that thrill ride I've been chasing my whole life.
Once a fan, always a fan. I'm one of the lucky people who have had a chance to view the horror industry from the inside out. After devoting much of my life to it, I'd hazard to say that I think I know my shit. However, there are a few things about our beloved genre that I don't like very much. Stuff that drives me up the wall.
Just like Klaus Kinski proved in Crawlspace, everyone needs a good vent. Hang on a second while I grab my soapbox and begin bitching to you about . . .
I love this genre with every fiber of my being. However over the past several years I've developed quite the hatred for a few trends. As the late Kurt Cobain once said, "I'd rather be dead than cool," and dead is exactly what the following fright fads need to be. I'm not talking zombie type dead either, I'm talking Gonesville, never-to-be-seen again land, the old final heave-ho!
First up in my tirade are some industry folk that are in a state of complete denial. For them I offer these words of wisdom:
How many times has this happened to you? You've just read an interview or just watched a DVD extra in which the director or a cast member of the film you're interested in spouts off about their movie not being a horror film. "Oh, it was a psychological thriller with supernatural overtones". What the hell does that even mean? This pisses me off to no end. What are these people thinking? If your movie entails something along the lines of a bug-man that can foretell disasters, a killer stalking a nubile young teen, or a case of demonic possession, then guess what, happy-ass, the odds are really good that you've made a horror film. Please! Give us a break. We're the ones that are going to the theatre to see your flick. We're putting money in your pockets. What name actor you landed or who is on your crew is of no consequence to us. All we want is a good film. Stop slapping our faces and embrace the genre that you're working in. You're fooling no one.
And then there are the folks that are happy to make horror films. They just believe that they need one little thing in order for their project to be successful: fresh-faced stars. Ahem . . .
In the Eighties I went to the movies to see films like Friday the 13th (now being remade by the ever-so-gritty Platinum Dunes), My Bloody Valentine (now being remade in 3D!), Mother's Day, Halloween (don't get me started on the remake), and A Nightmare on Elm Street. I love these flicks! But I didn't drop my hard-earned greenbacks down on the ticket counter because of who was starring in them. Back then the killers were the leads. Everyone else was meat for the beast. As soon as the victims became the main attractions, slasher films started losing steam in a hurry. We've all been to high school; call me crazy, but I don't remember the entire student body looking as if they were fresh off a photo shoot. Can we not have just a shred of reality? Does everything have to be so glossy and pristine? Just recently I had to sit through the abysmal remake of The Fog yet again. In one of the DVD extras the producer of the film said something that just floored me. He looked dead into the camera and uttered one of the most ludicrous things I have ever heard: "It's important to have a really young cast so that today's youth can relate to the characters". Um, why? Shouldn't their main concern be to deliver a good film that everyone can relate to instead of just one target group? Can't scary stuff happen to adults too? Here's a hint: No matter how much you cry wolf, no one will care about what urban legend you screamed about when a stranger called your valentine last summer on prom night.
As a direct result of trying to appeal to a younger audience, filmmakers have created a legacy that will last for decades to come. A new word!
Ya know, I don't really mind PG-13-rated horror movies. Some films are so good that they do not need profanity, gore, or nudity. Take The Exorcism of Emily Rose for instance. Here's a film about possession of all things, and we all know from watching The Exorcist what potty mouths demons can be. Yet Emily -ahem- rose to the occasion without needing any R-rated help. Why? Because its makers were more concerned with making a quality film and less with having to appeal to a specific audience. The story was good enough to not have to resort to the ever-so-cliché demonic usage of profanity. Movies like The Cave and the original AVP each have scenes in which a main character stares at the screen and attempts to say "motherfucker." Of course this doesn't fly in a kid-friendly environment, so just as they begin to utter the "f," we cut away to another scene, leaving us with the word "motherf." I'm sure eventually motherf will take its rightful place alongside words such as "a-hole," but I must ponder . . . why even bother? Talk about taking the viewers out of the action. Why don't you just sit next to us holding up a fluorescent sign with the term "PG-13" blinking to the steady beat of Miami Sound Machine's Conga? Sweet! That'll learn us! We almost forgot we were being treated to the type of action found in an R. L. Stine book, but now that you've said the magic word motherf, we're back safely on track!
But that's not to say that R-rated films don't commit a few cinematic sins of their own here and there . . .
Is that a nipple? No wait, there's an arm in the way. Are they naked? I can't tell because there's a well placed bedpost covering their genitalia. Most sex scenes in R-rated movies are about as sexually stimulating as watching Benny Hill. I'm not saying we need hardcore porn, but wow am I sick and tired of watching semi-naked celebrities dry hump each other's legs, unless of course they are killed in the act a la any Friday the 13th film. Don't have any intentions of delivering a money shot of some kind? Then stop wasting our time. Might I suggest focusing on the task at hand? You know -- horror. If people really want to see nudity, all they have to do is power up their computers and Google image search just about anything and anybody. You can type in the most innocuous word in the world, and I can almost guarantee that your search will yield at least one photo of either a topless chick or some guy whacking off. We shelled out money to watch our favorite big bads go on a rampage, not to see half of somebody's boob. Stop grinding our mayhem to a halt please. Thanks.
Now let's focus a bit on one particularly overused plot device: The GOTCHA! ending. We've all seen them. We've all yawned. Attention filmmakers:
M. Night Shyamalan. You bastard. As a result of your success with the film The Sixth Sense, it seems as if everyone wants to add a twist type exclamation point at the end of their feature. Writers and directors everywhere have been scrambling for years to come up with a cool way to fool the audience. Here, let me help them out. Know what the worst twist of all is? The realization that we, the fans, have been duped by the time the end credits of your crap-fest rolls. The joke is on us. You're not being clever, just annoying. With the exception of a few gems like Frailty and Saw, these twists usually end up leaving the audience hanging as flaccid as Angela's newly exposed penis in Sleepaway Camp. Here's a new twist for ya: to hell with your next movie! I'm staying home to watch Carpenter's The Thing. Personally I'd rather have an unresolved ending than one that is without sense, logic, or meaning.
Speaking of staying home . . .
See the way the red letters vibrate on the green background of the above image? Hurts the eyes doesn't it? Kind of annoying, eh? Good. I hope so. Some of you need to be annoyed on any level possible. Why, you ask?
Working on a horror website, I have a lot of interaction with fans on message boards. 90% of the people posting on them all complain about the same two things: "We're sick of PG-13 horror!" and of course "Hollywood needs to stop with the remakes and start making original movies!" Yadda yadda yadda.
Is that so? Do you really feel that way? Here's an idea then: The next time an original R-rated horror film comes out in theatres, GO SEE IT. Movies like The Ruins, Slither, Land of the Dead, and Doomsday under-performed at the box office in comparison to things like the Prom Night remake and Stay Alive. Know what I did for the above mentioned R rated flicks? Every single time that I went to theatre from the time of their releases until they were yanked from the big screen, no matter what I was at the theatre to see, I bought tickets for them and just snuck into my original movie of choice. I'd do it again in a heartbeat. I'm not saying people should go see a movie based solely on its rating, but come on, George A. Romero's long awaited fourth zombie opus is playing at theatres nationwide, and no one goes to see it? Even just out of curiosity? And then we wonder why we keep getting crap spoonfed to us.
There you have it. My rant is over. At least for now. I don't feel any better having got that off my chest. My only hope is that somewhere someone, even just one person, will read this, and it will make a difference. Maybe that someone will even make their own film. Hopefully they won't find themselves wondering . . .
Feel free to vent in our Dread Central forums!