I don't watch bad movies about Bigfoot because I like bad movies about Bigfoot, I'm just hoping that one of them will be good, but so many of them, it seems, never even aspire to be good from the day pencil hits paper. I think it's the idea that "it's so bad it's good!" is a viable method of moviemaking that has driven so much of the good horror cinema out of the United States lately: Sigaw, Tale of Two Sisters, Los Cronocrímenes, or the Descent, leaving Hollywood to flog us with the next SAW film and indie studios in the U.S. trying to recreate Roger Corman. Both of those formulas (40 Million dollar remake of TCM, or $100,000 zombie gore slasher) do return X+Y $ over X investment and as long as someone can put a quarter into a slot machine and get twenty-six cents out, they're not being trained to try and do better. The third "option" which seems to be find a GOOD horror movie made in another country and remake it here because a) Americans are too stupid to read subtitles or b) Hollywood really IS completely bereft of good ideas, is nearly as lamentable. Though it did give us a decent remake of The Ring.....
Things won't probably get any better until reviewers AND fans trash bad cinema and praise good cinema with their wallets as well as reviews, which might mean skipping the theatre and reading subtitles for a while....
Edited at 2010-06-08 04:32 pm (UTC)
Hollywood has never really had a good sense for horror films. Classy Universal Monster pictures aside, the best treatments of horror in cinema have often come from ferners making pictures through big studios (E.g. Hitchcock) or they came from low budget/indie productions (E.g. Val Lewton's productions, or Night of the Living Dead, or Halloween, or Evil Dead, or ...). Then again, there are plenty of examples of puerile shit found everywhere.
However, I believe some indie spirit would reinvigorate the American horror film scene, though we need filmmakers who are not afraid to think outside this box that Horror = a splash of nudity + a bucket of blood + some kind of crazy camera work + a downbeat ending.
Maybe I'm crazy, though.
I think a lot of fans labor under the misconception that there aren't a lot of horror movies to choose from so they'll take what they can get, yet that only feeds the cycle.
Most fans, I think, still read People and not Fangoria which is the problem -- there is, for sure, a mainstream horror market, but there's not mainstream "horror press", so the decent indie movies and the foreign films get ignored in largely the same way that decent indie and foreign movies of all types get ignored -- it's just that Hollywood is better at making action films and romantic comedies than it is at horror.
If Newsweek or People or whatnot, the places that people got their news, reviewed Sigaw or Brotherhood of the Wolf, then people who might otherwise spend the evening watching SAW IX would know about it but it seems that "mainstream" outlets think anything that's not blockbuster is genre and they'd rather spend a week in a box with a hungry ferret than review genre.
i'm not at all convinced that 'fangoria' is any better than 'people' and, honestly, it might just be worse.
They do tend to be very rah-rah, it least in their features, but I'm not familiar enough with their reviews to know if they're reviewing intelligently or not.
they aren't really, no.
nor are they in the least bit discerning, sadly.
I think this can be extrapolated to fiction (which you may have been too kind to suggest). How else to explain all those bad (often one-word titled) paperback horror novels of the 80s? Or the fantasy craze of the same era? Or the current vamp and zombie and mash-up stuff? Or some of the m/m books and gay novels, to bring it to my backyard.
Yes, you can replace the word film with book throughout this post and it would be just as valid.
You = H8r. You jst(sic) dont (sic) git (sic) it. Man, horror is supposed to be like rock and roll, man! It's like "Whiz, Wham, Stab, Blaaaaaah, Nooooooooo! Nekkid tits, Stab, Nooooo! Sheep guts and Karo Syrup/chocolate sauce spilling by the gallon! Neeeext." That's a script I jest (sic) rote (sic).
I agree there is a serious problem with many, many horror film fans. Somewhere along the line, "fun" somehow got automatically associated with "mindless".
This brings to mind E. M. Forster's Aspects of the Novel, particularly the section where he describes the aspect of Story (which he differentiates from Plot) as appealing to what is primitive within its audience, and extrapolates that this link leads those audiences to grow unreasonable over the stories they like and therefore makes them ready to bully those who like something else.
There is a sometimes subtle/sometimes not bullying aspect to fandoms: "I like what I like because I like it, and if you say you don't then you're just (a loser/stupid/high fallutin'/stuck up/lying/socially inept/fill in the blank)!"
It's especially loud in the horror film fan community, since so many of the films are aimed at the cheap shot--a leftover, I would say, from its low budget/grindhouse incarnation (say, from the Herschel Gordon Lewis era), where transgressive storytelling was equated with titillation born of sex &/or masticated meat and the actors/actresses were paid to look pretty when they died instead of, you know, acting.
Thanks for the thoughtful post, Nick!
Somewhere along the line, "fun" somehow got automatically associated with "mindless".
I think this sums it up perfectly. And yet so few mindless films are actually fun!
Yes - a lot of people think that reasoned, critical analysis - even if it's praising the work in question, let alone if it's criticizing it - is equal to defiling the subject, thereby making it less fun. They think "fun" is escapism and some visceral, instinctive or intuitive response to stimuli. I guess that's what I'd what out of a roller coaster or some other thrill ride that lasts 90 seconds, but for a film that I'll spend hours with, or a book that I'll spend days with, I think it's not only desirable, but necessary that there be an intellectual component to the experience.
I'm all for escapism and fun but, like you, I don't think that's the same as poorly done or dumbed down. I can think of nothing less fun that dumbed down entertainment!
Honestly, Liisa is one of the few critics who is raising the bar. I adore her work and I tend to loathe anything attached to fandom. It wouldn't be as bad if fandom bathed more often too.
I wouldn't complain if they upped their hygiene.
I've been a horror fan my entire life, and I am one of those pretentious people who manage to piss off everyone by claiming that horror can be art, and in both its filmic and literary forms should be held to the same standards as any other form of media. I don't bother posting these opinions on message boards because I have noticed that a lot of horror reviews and/or criticism falls into one or the other of opposing value systems:
Group 1, which searches for narratives which fulfill all the things we expect from good narratives--believable characters, witty dialogue, detailed settings which contribute to the story, mood, etc.--plus the elements of original and creative horror stories: psychological overtones or insights, suspenseful pacing, unexpected events, prose which contributes to atmosphere, etc.
Group 2, which tends to write reviews which are expressed in such pithy statements as "not enough nudity and gore,"or "Enough of the psychological bullshit," and which pretty much takes the stance that group number one is pissing in Group 2's Cheerios by trying to impose such values on group 2's horror genre.
Yes, other genres are fragmented by maintaining that "real insert subgenre here" is this or that, but I haven't seen such direct oppostion on the most basic elements of what a good story is as I have witnessed repeatedly in horror fandom. I've stopped talking about horror in general and pretty much always begin with "In the horror I like..." because I often feel as if I am not even talking about the same genre as what some other fans are talking about.
There's definitely an almost anti-intellectual stance among much of horror fandom, which is why anyone calling for better, or actually striving for better in their own work, tends to get labeled "pretentious" (c.f. Caitlin R. Kiernan).
And that's a real shame on two fronts. When I speak with some horror fans, they speak of little more than the amount of blood or the sophistication of the gore effects, and when I try to steer the conversation towards the content of the story, they shrug. Then, with some non-horror fans, I'm instantly derided as some purveyor of perversion.
There's an unhealthy stigma that's inaccurate towards the whole of people who enjoy horror fiction, but like any annoying greasy wheel, the anti-intellectual crowd is the loudest and most fervent it seems.
They do seem to be the ones you're more likely to run into online or at conventions, and perhaps that's giving me a skewed view of horror fandom. Like I said in the blog entry, I like to think they're just a loud minority.
It's funny: The reactions people have been having to Splice remind me, once again, that the most mainstreamed group of people who claim to "like" horror actually like the tropes, not the thing itself. Somebody literally said "I expected a good shocker where a cool monster would try to kill Adrien Brody [and some Canadian chick whose name I can't bother remembering]"--sorry, that isn't "horror", to me. It's action with horror tropes and a sci fi spicing. Instead, what you get is stuff that makes you think, question your assumptions and feel bad for everybody involved...yep, not a "fun" night out, I guess. Unless you happen to like that sort of thing (and I do).
Then again, I've been trying to explain Why I Would Bother To Write THAT Sort of Shit, Seeing How I'm So Smart and Sensitive Otherwise since the actual 1980s, when I told an adult I respected that I wanted to write horror, and he blurted out: "Like Friday the 13th?" "No, like Hellraiser." "What?!?"
It's a shame that so much of the genre gets painted with the same brush. When most people think of horror they think of slasher films and gore, so when I tell people I write horror that's the first thing that comes into their mind. Not the layered, intelligent work of Peter Straub or the atmospheric chills of classic authors like M.R. James, Henry James and Ambrose Bierce--just the stabby-stabby, screamy-screamy.
My question there is always: "Okay, I can get how you'd make that association with films, since the last time horror hit Time it was in an article about 'goreno'. But how many actual BOOKS that are just stabby-stabby, screamy-screamy do you kick across on a regular basis, exactly?"
Personally, I saw too many of them back when I was reading the micropresses!
Mainstream, though. Because you have to actively seek micropress books out, (as we both know;)) so if that's what you're finding, you must have been looking for it in the first place. Stuff like that doesn't filter down to airport bookshops, or end up on the NYTBR. Stuff like that's not The Passage (or even The Road).
"Everyone has a skull up their ass and takes themselves too seriously."
Haha, this was the money-shot line for me. :P
It really adds a deeper layer of thoughtfulness to the letter, doesn't it?
Hear, hear, Nick.
Not only does this segment of the Horror community seem willing to swallow whatever tripe comes their way, a number of them (based on my experience, at least) seem disinterested in exploring the genre's rich history. They are perpetually poised at the trough, hungrily awaiting the next fix, rather than taking it upon themselves to dig a little in order to disover the masterpieces of the past and the great works that exist on the fringe of what is commonly considered "Horror." It's sad.
All the best,
Thanks, Richard! I'm finding myself heartened by how many people actually agree with me. And no one has called me pretentious yet! (That's not an invitation, by the way!)
2010-06-09 08:31 pm (UTC)
I posted about this here, from the POV of an anime fan:
(Sorry about the anony-post, login's being wonky)
This was me. Friended, btw.
Interesting post! I didn't know anime suffered the same mentality, but I suppose I shouldn't be surprise. It exists in every kind of fandom.