Like I said, we're shaking things up on this blog. That means more essay-type stuff while I'm working towards the unquestionable impending awesomeness that shall be the Reader's movie podcast. Now, before I get all wordy up in here, hella props to Dan J who dropped me a line with a few suggestions for that aforementioned dose of audio awesome we're working on. You don't know the squee-inducing joy of receiving a comment about this stuff that isn't from someone I share DNA or history with. Thanks, Dan!
But we're not here to talk about Dan. We're here to talk about your friend whose hard-on for horror movies occasionally worries you.
I promise you that if you are a movie enthusiast, one of your buddies loves shitty horror films way, way too much for your liking. There came a moment in your friendship when he emphatically described his enjoyment of a flick featuring dismemberment and torture that gave you pause, that made your "oh, hell-no" eyes disagree with your mouth's affirmation that "yeah, it was cool." Now, in some cases this is some debauched flick with no redeemable value that takes itself way too seriously (cough, Eli Roth, cough) and in some cases this is a relatively innocuous monster or slasher flick that's only half-hearted in its moral depravity. While it is far more troubling to deal with the dude who all these years later talks about seeking out the Faces of Death series and what a let down they were, it is at least marginally disconcerting that you have linked yourself to a person willing to spend top dollar to see Darkness Falls IN THE THEATER. Now, it's not my position that these fellas are bound to play murderball with kittens as ammo or are simply biding their time until they've finished "Serial Killing for Dummies." Many of them are fine, fine people. Some will pee on your corpse, but many of them are perfectly harmless humans. They just like crap, and I have the damnedest time relating to them.
I tend to get pinned by "Guy who has seen every Platinum Dunes remake" just about every time I find myself in a social gathering, which is blessedly not very often. Inevitably, small talk kicks over the rock beneath which my movie critic status is hidden, and we are suddenly forced into the "What did you think of (Insert Movie Here)" Game, wherein I am destined to either deny the very principles I use to guide me as a reviewer or verbally urinate on someone's favorite recent movie. I can generally handle the pretentious batch that call movies "films" and aren't content unless they somehow weave in their appreciation for Gaspar Noe and their personal affinity for foreign classics even Criterion won't pimp. I can play the "name obscure arthouse director and movie" shuffle with a smile on my face. I just have nothing for the crown princes of darkness who want my opinion of whatever exorcist ripoff is passing through multiplexes like a kidney stone.
I like horror movies. I really do. I just only like good ones. It's pretty safe to say that the batting average of horror is so wretched, it would be in the 9th spot in our genre lineup. Yeah, that's right, horror movies have the same success rate as a pitcher's batting average. They are so unoriginal it's mind-boggling. They make romantic comedies look positively spontaneous at times. And the ones that are original often try to simply push the boundaries of the gore and shock, which are the areas that are least inspiring and interesting. There are a whole bunch of folks (see the two paragraphs before this one) who will argue about the artistic and imaginative value of pushing the boundaries of taste. I respect that position. They're just wrong. I shouldn't say they're always wrong, but they're wrong a lot. See, if you push the boundaries of taste, it should be with purpose. I haven't seen A Serbian Film, arguably the most depraved thing I've ever encountered and I've only read the wikipedia write up of the plot, but I can at least tolerate it's gob-smacking perversion because it is linked to a metaphor regarding the plight of that country's people. Most often, horror movies that are vulgar are doing so because they delight that one friend of ours, because media attention still follows envelope pushing without merit, and because that's what they consider original.
All this was what came to mind when I remembered Scream 4 is coming out this weekend. Yay? The problem is that this is a film that falls in no-man's land; horror purists will hate it because nobody flosses with anyone's small intestine while raping a dog and mainstream audiences will find it too dated and targeted towards a horror crowd. The original was brilliant. Inspired and clever, it was not just the meta-awareness of it, it was that it did both things well. It was scary with the slasher elements and fun with the fun elements. It was meta while being a part of the genre, which is what the bulk of those who want to be meta never understand. It's not enough to comment on the genre you're a part of, you have to also commit yourself to being a big part of the genre (see Dead, Shaun of the ). It's not that too much time has passed for the Scream franchise, it's that the horror movie genre has sputtered in the last 15 years or so, leaving very little new to comment on. Sure, there's going to be a bunch of remake jokes and technology references, but those don't just apply to horror. See, unless you're horror-movie-guy, the last two decades have given you a few docu-style glimmers of hope in the genre and that's it.
I can think of but one reason to see Scream 4 if you're not the friend in your group that everyone is secretly concerned has a basement that is high on the police's "places to see" list.
On this, at least, me and guy-who-always-asks-me-about-shitty-horror-movies can agree.
Follow me on Twitter for far shorter insight like this.