Monday, March 1, 2010

Where are all the good horror movies?

The most prolific horror movies today are pure crap. The whole "slasher" genre. As much as I love a good scare, somebody sold my beloved horror world to pure unadulterated sell-out profit mongers. They care nothing for the craft. They keep rewriting the same "murder the good-looking people" plot lines. They are even remaking them; Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elmstreet, Texas Chainsaw. Why are people going to these movies? I love a good horror story but I am appalled by the idea that simply killing a long string of attractive young people in gory ways immediately before, during or after sex is somehow entertainment. It's just disgusting, but worse, and more unforgivably, uninteresting.

People, true horror is not sci-fi, mass-slashing or cataclysm. You have to build horror, it has to creep up on you, not ride in on a bullet train during an earthquake.

How about the classic monsters? One of my fav books of all time is Salem's Lot, possibly the rightful successor to Bram Stoker's Dracula as the quintessential blood sucker tome. However, vampires have been done to death and, as far as TV and movies goes, thanks but no thanks. Frankenstein monster? Over-cooked. The mummy? I say "let's call it a wrap." Werewolves? They used to be my favorite because of the tragic dimension to the curse. But that oil field is drained as well; I'm told the recent remake of The Wolfman is a real howler...

So I'm not fingernailing the chalkboard for any more of those movies. My fear is that many folks are quick to lump zombies in with that overexposed crowd and stop making those movies--and here, I cry foul.

People overlook one fact about the zombie milieu; it is actually two genres in one--monsters and the apocalypse--lending itself to many more permutations. Werewolves, vampires and ax-wielding sexually-frustrated nut cases make for very personal dramas played out, most commonly, in a near claustrophobic stage setting. Zombies are almost by definition pandemic and near-global. The essential zombie movie inescapably deals with heroes and/or anti-heroes scrounging off a lost civilization while dodging horrific caricatures of their previous lives. Think of the possibilities!

There are variations, i.e. fast and slow zombies. A zombie story can be claustrophobic or span a continent, or most likely both. (SPOILER WARNING IN THIS PARAGRAPH) Recently released to DVD, Zombieland reinvents the genre by painting zombies almost as backdrop to a buddy story with a romantic interest. That movie delivers comedy and a few good scares without ever losing any of the main characters to the imminent threat. Refreshing change from most horror entries.

Another variation, the original zombies were not flesh eaters. The result of voodoo practices, zombies were meant to be people whose free will has left them, possibly they are dead. But ultimately they are being punished, or used as slave labor, and the horror comes purely from the threat of becoming a zombie, not being victimized by one. Movies from the '30s through the '50s were populated by that genre.

So lets not close the door on this most fertile territory just yet. You know what they say: "When there is no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the earth..." Well, how about we temporarily rent the freespace in Hades so we can get a few more of these little treasures on celluloid, or disc, or whatever media?

At least until World War Z hits the theaters...

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