The holiday season is here again, and this time of year offers very little for the horror fiend in all of us. The TV guide reads like a laundry list of Made for television Christmas movies, starring dated celebrities that we didn’t give a shit about ten years ago, much less now. For those of us who have noted the fact that our seasonal depression begins simultaneously with the end of AMC Fear Fest, the weeks ahead can be a real bummer. In an effort to combat the symptoms of holiday over exposure, I decided to balance things out with a little horror binge. However this was to be no ordinary Netflix journey. I wanted to watch the contemporary shockers, that gave a fan like myself, who has a more traditional taste, hope for the future of the genre. More importantly, I wanted to explore the reasons behind these optimistic opinions. Consider it my gift to myself this year. At any rate…
Before getting hands on, my rudimentary education of the female anatomy began with slasher movies. With beginnings in mind I started my marathon with V/H/S (2012). This mumblecore anthology features five entries in the form of VHS tapes found in the wrap-around story. V/H/S proved that there is still life in horror. Right out of the gate its frame narrative, ”tape 56”, drives ahead in a manner that causes it to feel genuine and disturbing. This is an extremely tall order when you consider other studios attempts at creating a compelling frame narrative. Take for example “Tales from the Darkside” or “Tales from the Hood”. Two segments recorded within V/H/S give masked maniac fans faith in modern horror. The humorously titled “Tuesday the 17th” finds four, all too familiar, college students on a weekend camping trip. The cast of characters which includes the predictable archetypes such as the jock, the slut, and the nerd will lull you into a false sense of security. Even the most stubborn Crystal Lake campers were saying “fuck the hockey mask” when this killer’s disguise was revealed. “Tuesday” shows itself to be a perfect mash up of the found footage and 80s franchise styles. Keep an eye on director Glenn McQuaid, I see his name in lights in the near future. An Honorable mention goes to the tape “Second Honeymoon” which takes the faceless and emotionless pursuer story to a whole new level. By pairing romantic vacation footage with video of the psycho’s habits, this piece sets itself apart from the rest. It isn’t that lame episode of the Twilight Zone with the pathetic hitchhiker; the gore in the climax of “Second Honeymoon” is uncomfortably realistic when viewed through the couple’s camcorder lens. Upon first viewing the ending surprised at least one unsuspecting horror aficionado. Kudos to you Ti West, job well done.
Let’s say your palate demands a raw exploitative product. If you’re to regain any confidence in modern thrillers you require something of the Texas Chainsaw or Cannibal Holocaust variety. Look no further than Sinister(2012). At face value I didn’t believe this movie was going to deliver. It’s nothing against the man, I think the world of Ethan Hawke, but his name wasn’t exactly synonymous with horror. That is until Sinister. This movie could have done without embodying the source of evil in a demonic figure, but on balance it was a diamond in the rough. The rough being the torture porn that masqueraded as horror leading up to 2012. Peppering an otherwise comfortable suspense yarn with super8 snuff films gave this film an unparalleled hook. These super8 reels alone would just be “faces of death”, but placing them strategically throughout the runtime allowed viewers a classy look at realistic murder. The director Scott Derrickson illustrated that there is a place for “diet” horror in the years to come.
Interestingly enough the final movie on my agenda was also an anthology. Perhaps that says a lot about the future of horror. This modern world has rendered my attention span almost non-existent. Short, quick, and concise stories are just what the doctor ordered. Also from 2007 Trick R Treat is simply a delightful adventure. Almost tailor made to be rewatched every October, Trick R Treat has to be the crown jewel of contemporary horror. Based on the cartoon “Season’s Greetings” our last movie is a horror fundamentalist’s bible. From classic horror staples like werewolves and ghost stories, to a pint sized assailant like you’ve never seen before, this movie fires on all 6 cylinders. These tales manage to create a mythology that feels familiar as if you’ve heard it before over a camp fire, or in a forgotten nursery rhyme. Typical thriller elements are used flawlessly to deceive the audience. The opening story will have you saying “typical home invasion” only to watch your suspect ride harmlessly away in a car. Having preconceived notions only serves to heighten the suspense as the film progresses. My hats off to Michael Dougherty, who has created a film that demands our attention and also demands a sequel.
Unfortunately that’s where my marathon ended, at a measly 3 films. I must now finish my Christmas shopping, it being the reason for the season and all. Tobe Hooper said he came up with the idea for Texas Chainsaw Massacre while Christmas shopping. Dealing with the dense crowds in a department store he spotted a chainsaw and thought about using it to clear a path to the register. I suppose the customers of that particular store should thank their lucky stars that the display model wasn’t fueled. Maybe I’ll stop for gas on the way.