Monday, November 30, 2009

A Quick Criticism of Horror

 I've seen an argument made about horror flicks around, being that horror flicks are the most gender-equal of all genres of movies. Why? Because both men and women get disemboweled, there are both male and female killers, and, well, yeah, you know, the gory violence gets all around.


Why is this a good thing? Violence and suffering has never been discriminatory over who its victims are, from man-made catastrophes of war, to natural pestilences. Should the horror genre be lauded just because it doles out violence to both sexes, as opposed to the gender inequality present in other genres?


I, for one, have never been able to understand the horror genre. While I am a fan of stylized violence in the form of swordfights, gunfights and epic battle scenes (I cried in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when I watched Peter lead his troops into battle), it is because I am enjoying the cleverness in the participants outwitting each other, strategizing against one another, or the pathos of impossible situations where whole swathes of people die in futile, tragic, stupid war. Even as I disapprove of war, I still can admire soldiers who sacrifice themselves for vainglory.


But I cannot understand the horror genre because it is purely mindless drivel of people, or usually, just one person, killing others. There is no humanity involved - it's just irrational violence being doled out on people. The serial killer is insane because he has no sense of empathy. We call these folks sociopaths for a reason, and we lock them away for a reason.


Daily, people are victims of such sociopaths, who roam our streets and they rape and murder people whom they have no connection to. Daily, they walk among ordinary folks, who don't realize that they have a killer in their midst, and this is all right, because their victims are often marginalized bodies, who society has deemed unimportant. In horror movies, the victims are from a range of people, true, but why is this any more equal, when no one seeks to address real life crimes?


Horror movies are fantasies of people dying, fantasies of fear. Surely this must be a form of privilege, to be able to have fantasies of fear. Contrast this to a person who literally lives in fear.


And really, what is it about horror movies that draws people to see it in cinemas, allowing them to profit that much money from the depiction of heinous crimes? Why are people drawn to watch someone kill another, in pure visceral visuals? Why do people laugh at how one guy shoots another in the face?


I am not a squeamish person. I am easily affected, yes, but not necessarily squeamish. But the horror genre is truly alienating to me, in the sense that I cannot get a grasp of the humanity of the characters, that survival is the only thing worth applauding, and yet these characters are supposed to be human, and thus, someone I must relate to. In horror movies, we are to relate to characters who will die in horrible ways.

It is an art, to make other people anxious and afraid for a couple of hours. Really, we might as well be giving our real-life sociopaths medals for such art then.

3 comments:

  1. i really enjoyed reading this. i was a huge horror fan when i was much younger. i must have been arund 13 and i really shouldn't have been watching those movies but i did anyway. back then, everything i saw in the movies i watched was a fantasy. i was a very sheltered child which meant that once i learnt that there are, you know, real people in this world living in fear, i couldn't watch horror movies anymore. lately anytime i tried, i just kept on thinking along the lines of 'this might have actually happened to someone'.

    and i guess people are drawn to horror movies because they want to feel fear while knowing that it's not going to happen to them. so yes, indeed, it may be a sort of priviledge.

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  2. I refuse to watch certain horror movies (mostly the torture kinds like Hostel and Saw movies as well as spooky paranormal you can't see go bump in the night stuff).

    The way I see it, I'm supposed to be entertained by movies. I don't find any enjoyment in horror movies, it leaves me freaked out and cranky that I'd wasted money and/or spent time with it.

    I much prefer talking animals in movies lol yes, I am an adult woman hahaha

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  3. I like horror. Let me correct that, I like GOOD horror. People dying messily in a variety of ways for no reason and with no moral is not good horror.

    Bride of Frankenstein is good horror. It's a story about loneliness, about obsession, about detachment from reality and love. It has no gore and only a few deaths, mostly caused by panic.


    The Hills Have Eyes was not good horror. It was stupid, violent and gross. Although it tried to say things about home and family and government policies, along with a few statements about the 1950s, the message got lost under all the gore.

    Why horror? Because good horror--not spatter-fests--lets us examine those dark parts of ourselves. It lets them caper and indulge and then, at the end (hopefully), some authority figure destroys them or puts them back into their rightful box and we are safe from ourselves again.

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