By Desmond Reddick
04 December 2006 — What you are about to read is my final word on the modern Hollywood horror film. I'm tired. I'm tired and I'm sick. I am sick of needless sequels. I am sick of prequels that take the scary away by explaining things. I am sick of American remakes of Japanese films starring hip young actors. I am sick of remakes altogether. I am sick of PG-13 horror. I am sick and tired of that fucking whiny snapshot sound in all of the trailers. I am sick of video game movies. I am so damn sick of music video directors. I am sick that the "Hard R" is an endangered species. I could write a column about any of these topics but then I'd be bitter.
The above all points to a bankruptcy of ideas and innovation in an industry that once stood as a shining beacon in a drab and mundane world. Movies are supposed to blow us away. They're supposed to make us believe we are living lives that don't exist. They are supposed to depict things only our imaginations have created before. Movies are supposed to make our lives better.
Movies have become vapid, mindless, pandering, and horror is a genre where this is exemplified better than any other (except for maybe the romantic comedy). Horror is supposed to make you look at what you fear or, even better, fear what you aren't shown. Your emotions are supposed to be manipulated by imagery, chilling performances and storytelling through cinematography. Hollywood horror tells you what you should fear.
Hollywood horror is neither inclusive nor exclusive in the way they go about their portrayal of evil. What I mean is this: the threat in Hollywood horror is generally quite terrifying, in a slick, almost hyper-realistic way, but then they turn it all back and let you know that the monster was just a product of a bad home that was accidentally exposed to toxic waste and now hates the world. The bad guy isn't even a bad guy anymore, he's just misunderstood. We don't fear the boogeyman anymore, we pity him.
Take The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and its remake for example: the former being a family drama where the family is a bunch of psychotic — and possibly cannibalistic — nutcases and the latter being the story of a damaged young fella with female problems. The original family manages to make my skin crawl every time with talk of head cheese and laughing maniacally at the screams of their poor dinner guest. Leatherface is a twisted person who never speaks and it would come to no surprise that he hears voices, voices that tell him to wear a dead skin mask and don a chainsaw while crossdressing. The remake has him wearing the mask to cover up a deformity and just seems to draw sympathy. I'll take the original over the remake any day.
As far as the Japanese remakes go, I don't see that much wrong with them. I wouldn't necessarily go see them because the originals are superior products, and I'm not bothered by subtitles (like a good portion of moviegoers). In those cases, it may be a good idea. The original Dark Water is a dark and moody haunted apartment building movie that chilled me when I saw it. Not even Jennifer Connelly could make me watch the remake. I don't have a problem with it in principle; I only have a problem with it when it becomes a standard. Why bother hiring somebody with new ideas when we can get a couple of hacks to recycle something that was made in another land?
Music video directors? Really? Hollywood doesn't only think you're too fragile for a scary movie, they think you have the attention span of a goldfish. And you do... because of Hollywood and music video directors. People like Marcus Nispel and Gregory Dark pander to the lowest common denominator — and that's the whole idea. There is no attempt at an intelligent film. There is no psychological scare. There are only good looking twenty-somethings playing scared teenagers. The only scary thing is that these directors have Bone Thugs-n-Harmony and Britney Spears on their resumes.
PG-13 horror movies exist because of two reasons: Hollywood thinks you're fragile and, more importantly, the teenager market is worth a lot of money. Say what you will about Saw and Wolf Creek, at least they had their balls intact when they went to the theatre. Movies are being drastically cut and altered in ways that completely change the final product so that children can get in. This is the reason I don't go to the theatre. You are virtually guaranteed a director's cut DVD release within a few months anyway, so why bother with the watered-down theatrical version. The Hard R, a phenomenon from an era where the MPAA battled directors who hung on to as much of their films as they could, is a dying breed. I applaud directors like Alexandre Aja and Eli Roth for keeping that spirit alive. There's nothing I like more than seeing a film rated R for "terror."
The lack of funds available to indy directors is a freedom they are afforded. The finished film is closer to the director's vision and that is almost always a good thing. The higher the budget, the more people who have their hands in its production. I see films with eight scriptwriters and I run. Films are scripted straight from pitch now. "I like that idea, get somebody on that!" The "business before entertainment" mindset is ruining cinema — just like it is the music industry. Executives are soulless, spineless scum who obviously don't understand what a good movie is. They watch a film and see dollar signs. You know the old adage: too many Hollywood executives spoil the film. I'd like to round up the lot of them and put them on a Russian submarine.