Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Horror!

Watching the penultimate episode of Rome last night, it struck me that it’s the only new drama I’m actually watching on television right now. Even more odd given that when the first season was screened it took me a long time to really get into the show.

It may seem very silly at times, but Rome certainly enlivens the stories I remember from the one Latin class a week that was dedicated to Roman History. Although the lashings of sex and violence must have been something the Latin Master purposefully omitted.

As for everything else in the schedules, Jekyll I gave up on when it returned on Saturday. The set may have stayed on but after a few minutes I dropped the volume and stopped paying attention until it was time for The Thick Of It.

Even House, which I regularly turn to only holds my attention when the titular character is having one of his bastard moments. Shark is just as disappointing because James Wood has dialled down on the utter bastard-o-meter and comes across as almost cuddly on some occasions. And that’s just not right.

The past few nights, after a weekend when my sleep pattern went completely out of whack, I’ve been revisiting various DVDs that I hadn’t watched for a while. Monday night, I’m still not sure why exactly, I felt in the mood for a horror film. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find much on the shelves here.

Alien, John Carpenter’s The Thing, An American Werewolf in London, 28 Days Later, Near Dark, Fallen, Shaun of the Dead. That was it. If I had shuffled through the pile of films that came free with The Times or The Sunday Times, I’d have found The Wicker Man and Don’t Look Now. But I didn’t.

Actually, because of the depth of the bookcase being twice that of a DVD case, on most shelves there is a second row of discs behind the spines I can see. Most of the films were at the back and I forgot I had them. So from what I could see there was only Alien, The Thing and Fallen to choose from. And The Mummy and Van Helsing*.

It surprised me I didn’t have any more horror films. Most all of the ones on the shelves cross genres. Fallen, which went into the DVD player is more a supernatural thriller than straight horror. What about pure undiluted horror?

Thinking about it, I can’t think of one available on DVD. It’s not that I’m a big scaredy-cat wuss and don’t watch horror films. I don’t watch them because a whole lot of the time the stories don’t do it for me. The characters are usually idiots and the stories maybe not that well thought through.

Scream, for instance, was interesting up until all the kids were introduced. At that point, along with the nudge-nudge, wink-wink post-modernism it became so irritating I wanted them herded together and done in, all in one fell swoop. Almost all the other slasher/torture flicks seem to be made by people who really have issues they need to sort out as quickly as possible.

I watched The Blair Witch Project once. Boy they were morons. Listen, if you get lost in the woods and there’s a river, follow the river downstream. You’ll find your way back to civilisation. I know you’re supposed to suspend disbelief, but it would need a gravity-free environment for that one.

I know horror films find an audience and they can be done on the cheap, so if you want to make a low budget movie, this is the genre bouncing up and down at the back saying, “Me, sir! Pick me sir, please!” But I don’t think a lot of them have enough thought put in to get past the cheap thrills and gore fest.

What available horror film proves me wrong?

* Some of the DVDs here were bought for “research purposes”. Van Helsing was certainly one of those. Same for 28 Days Later, which was in a Woolworths sale up the road and cheaper than an M+S sandwich. After watching it once, I really missed that sandwich.


At 4:58 am, Blogger wcdixon said...

Nicking a list from another blog (which tried to stay strictly horror but eventually allowed several other genres in)...

1. Psycho
2. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
3. Halloween
4. Scream
5. The Shining
6. The Exorcist
7. Suspiria
8. The Ring (Japanese version)
9. The Omen (original)
10. Night of the Living Dead
11. Nightmare on Elm Street
12. Evil Dead
13. Alien/Aliens
14. Jaws
15. The Thing
16. Dawn of the Dead (2004)
17. Poltergeist
18. Manhunter
19. Silence of the Lambs
20. American Werewolf In London
21. Carrie
22. Salem's Lot
23. Hellraiser
24. Saw
25. The Amityville Horror (1980)
26. Friday the 13th
27. Hostel
28. House of A Thousand Corpses and The Devil's Rejects
29. Re-Aminator
30. High Tension

My contributions were Saw, Amityville Horror, Jaws, Alien, Hostel, and The Shining...for what its worth. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me didn't make the list.

It's a tricky genre to define. I used the 'scared the sh*t out of me' benchmark.

At 1:19 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...


DVDs of Aliens, Jaws and Manhunter (both theatrical version and director’s cut) I’ve got. Interesting, because I wouldn’t have categorised them as horror. But I can see why they’re there.

Using “scared the sh*t out of me” is an excellent benchmark. Of the twenty from the list I’ve seen that would put The Shining on top. Which is one reason it’s not up on the shelves here along with the other Kubricks.

But even with that guide, I still need a story that engages. Of course, this is like saying that I want a comedy that has more than jokes.

Maybe the likes of Aliens, Jaws and Manhunter and the right horror films for me. I remember seeing The Exorcist when it was re-released over here in the early 1980s. The only Look Away Now! moment came when the kid goes into hospital for tests and they stick her with the needle. Even though there certainly were creep-out moments, all the spewing and everything else I found kind of laughable.

And I think when the slasher or stalker or oogie-boogie monster is revealed in a lot of these films, when that’s all there is, it’s probably not enough for me.

At 8:52 pm, Blogger Ian said...

I'm avoiding "Rome" until the DVDs come out. The hatchet job the Beeb did on Series 1 mean I won't trust them with drama they've spent all our tax payer money on again (the first two episodes which aired in the States were stitched together as one, leaving the director furious and complaining to the press that what was shown made no sense and had excised all the plot to leave room for the sex)

At 9:14 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

It was because of the botch job with those first episodes that turned me off watching it. I think it's only about the final four episodes of the first series that I watched.

Seems to be a really dumb thing for the BBC to do, especially since they put money into it.

Strange that, you wouldn't think the Beeb would do really stupid things.... ah!


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