Farewell to horror films

May 27, 2014

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I’m over horror movies.

Unless there’s a truly compelling reason — such as that it’s made by an A-list director or features top-tier stars — I no longer feel a need to review – let alone to see – horror films.

OK, so that’s kind of a sweeping statement and there have been exceptions in the past, just as there may be exceptions in the future. I’m just saying that the horror-movie experience, as it currently manifests itself, is not something I crave. Crave? I can barely muster the interest to see one, let alone sit through it and write about it afterward.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while, for a couple of reasons.

For starters, I have no interest in the supernatural and paranormal — mostly because I don’t believe in it. (Of course, that’s the perfect set-up for a horror story.) I’ve never had a paranormal experience, though I’m sure there are people who believe they have.

So, no, I don’t believe in ghosts or spirits or communication with the dead. Which means I’m less susceptible to those kinds of stories.

Vampires? Werewolves? Zombies? Again, sorry — it’s less that I don’t believe in them (I don’t) than that they have become such tired concepts or conceits, full of familiar tropes. I simply can’t summon the energy to care about them.

Even those, however, are preferable to the kind of torture-porn that seems to dominate the genre. Special effects have evolved so far that you can find a way to graphically depict any sadistic act you can imagine, from disembowelment to decapitation, and worse.

It may have something to do with my age. I’ve reached the point where too many horrifying acts are part of the daily headlines and the 24-hour news cycle. Imagining them from a written account is bad enough; being inundated with video coverage about them is worse. So seeing them graphically depicted in a movie is simply unnecessary, at least for me.

But then, I’m no longer the target audience for this stuff. The audience for these films is the youth demographic that sustains so many of the movie industry’s worst impulses.

When you’re young — which I’m defining as under 30 — you crave sensation. It can come from thrill rides or extreme sports (participating or watching) or horror movies. The more exaggerated the sensation, the better — it’s a way of expanding your boundaries, testing yourself against extremes, figuring out your own limits.

After 30, however, there’s an increasing awareness of just how brutal, random and arbitrary life can be. Bad things do happen to good people; there are people out there who do commit these acts and you simply hope you never cross paths with them.

So why would I want to watch a movie where someone does?

Yes, yes – I can hear the arguments already. Horror films allow us to confront our fears and, perhaps, deal with them in a non-threatening way. Or: Horror films serve as metaphors for (A) our lack of control over the world at large or (B) specific real-life horrors like nuclear holocaust, racism, environmental catastrophe, etc. Or they’re a harmless diversion, a catharsis in which the powerless ultimately overcome the powerful.

I get that. But I don’t need horror movies to make me think about those things. And really, only critics parse horror films in that way. Most of the mass audience is simply looking for a cheap thrill.

I’ll admit that I will selectively see the occasional horror film and even enjoy it, simply to satisfy that thrill-seeking impulse. From something as traditional as “The Conjuring” to something as extreme as the remake of “Evil Dead” (or Sam Raimi’s originals, for that matter), I’ve got an appreciation for movies that do this well.

But as has been noted, here and elsewhere, there are too many damn movies. Too many of those seem to be low-budget horror with low-budget imagination.

Like Adam Sandler comedies, I no longer feel the need to make horror films a regular part of my movie-going experience.

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