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Old 09-16-2013, 06:34 PM   #1
baggio
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Film critic turns to hate horror movies

Stephanie Merry of the Washington Post decided on sharing her disdain for the genre.

Confessions of a film critic: She hates horror

http://www.washingtonpost.com/goingo...3a8_story.html


"Horror movies repel me. They make me more nervous than I can stand, and the anxiety over what monster might jump out of the closet or which protagonist might get hacked to pieces doesn’t wear off until long after the credits have rolled. I worried this disinclination might hinder my dreams of becoming a film critic, but so far so good. After all, does a French chef need to master the art of the tamale?

Yet, I can’t help feel I’m concealing a secret shame. Horror movie fans are everywhere. Just look at the box office, where they propel small-budget movies to big-time profits. The bloodthirsty seem to be multiplying and some of them appear less concerned with quality than fear factor, as with 2012’s “The Devil Inside.” Critic Mark Jenkins called it a “pestilence of infectious claptrap” in his review for The Washington Post, yet the film, which cost $1 million to make, brought in more than $100 million worldwide.

So far this year, “Mama,” “Evil Dead,” “The Purge” and “The Conjuring” have landed the top spot at the box office during each movie’s opening weekend. “The Purge,” one of 2013’s biggest surprises, proved filmgoers would much rather see Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey fend off masked murderers than watch Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson fast talk their way into a job at Google. The home-invasion horror flick demolished “The Internship,” bringing in more than $34 million its opening weekend (on a budget of $3 million) compared to the latter’s $17 million. (And “The Internship” cost a reported $58 million to make.)

You couldn’t pay me to see “The Purge,” and I mean that literally; my editor tried to assign me the movie to review, and I’m not proud to admit that I resorted to sad eyes and mild whining to avoid the assignment. But that was an improvement over a 2009 incident when another editor sought a reviewer for “The Human Centipede,” a movie about three hostages who are sewn together to create one long digestive tract, and I responded by dry heaving while fellow critic Michael O’Sullivan said something along the lines of, “Oh, that looks interesting.”

Who are these people?

Why do some people flock to bloodshed, while others avoid it? Horror movies are as polarizing as cilantro (which is delicious, by the way. What’s wrong with you?). Research has shown that genetics account for our food preferences. Is there a similarly scientific explanation for our divisive reaction to scary films?

“The going theory is that these are fears that we have, and that what horror movies allow us to do is to either come to terms with them or to overcome them,” says Keith Oatley, a novelist and psychologist who has researched extensively the effects of fiction on the human psyche.

“You know that children have fears. After they fear strangers, then they tend to fear ghosts and things under the bed and so on. So it’s a kind of elaboration on that idea that what movies do is to externalize these fears in a way that we can take part in them . . . We’ve confronted these demons.”

Questions remain, but researchers are working on finding answers. Neurocinematics, a fairly new field, seeks to understand how different visual experiences affect our brain waves. Notably, a group of psychologists and neuroscientists from Princeton and New York University tested how different scenes were able to seize control over a viewer’s brain; the images came from the film “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and an episode of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.” Results indicated that the first and last segments engaged viewers’ minds most effectively. Of course, it may not be merely the content of the clips that was compelling; direction, editing and a host of other factors could also contribute to a viewer’s enjoyment.

In other words, the jury is out.

Lacking scientific evidence, some folks will likely attribute the popularity of watching decent people get massacred to our debauched culture (Dad, I’m looking at you), but horror movies are nearly as old as cinema. F.W. Murnau incited vampire-related jitters and an interest in Dracula with his silent film “Nosferatu” in 1922, while “Cat People” (1942) might still make Web surfers consider the dark souls behind those cute and cuddly pictures. Hitchcock made horror terrifyingly naturalistic with “Psycho” (1960), while Dario Argento transformed the genre into arthouse fare. The head-spinning terror of “The Exorcist” (1973), meanwhile, made audiences queasy.

Where did it all go wrong?

I wasn’t always wary of horror, and as a child of the 1980s, I watched all the slashers. A favorite was “Nightmare on Elm Street.” I thought it was particularly hilarious when Johnny Depp got sucked into his bed, which then spit him back out as a geyser of blood. That being said, another scene in that movie left me unable to take a bath for years.

As a teenager, I bought a ticket for “Beavis and Butt-Head Do America” and snuck into “Scream” instead, because the cashier was a stickler — I was too young for “Scream’s” R rating. Maybe that was part of the appeal back then, the knowledge that I was doing something I shouldn’t.

I can almost pinpoint the moment everything turned. I watched about five minutes of “Saw,” a movie so popular it spawned several sequels. But instead of feeling some kind of thrill, I was nauseated by the twisted game involving amputated feet. Was this a sign I was evolving into a more empathetic person? Or was I just merely turning into the wimp I was destined to become?

In some ways I blame the rise of torture porn, which many find difficult to watch. (My underage accomplices who joined me for “Scream” had similar experiences, although their transformative films were “Hostel” and 2003’s “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre redux.”) But maybe there’s another explanation for why people age out of horror.

“I think what’s happening in late adolescence is that kids are trying to find out who they are and what they’re about, and so they experiment more widely both in presenting themselves in certain kinds of ways and getting into certain kinds of situations,” Oatley said. “I think movies and other kinds of fiction then are ways of doing this.”

Who’s next?

Some predilections remain unexplained, but one thing is certain: There are more horror films headed our way.

First up is “Insidious: Chapter 2,” the sequel to the 2010 surprise hit, which comes to theaters, appropriately, on Friday the 13th. The movie was co-written by Leigh Whannel and director James Wan, the “Saw” masterminds, and follows a family haunted by terrifying spirits (see review on page 30). The English language adaptation of the 2010 Mexican movie “We Are What We Are,” opening later this month, tells the story of a family whose members follow ancient rituals, including consuming human flesh. And the highly anticipated remake of “Carrie,” starring Chloe Grace Moretz as the outcast with supernatural powers, arrives Oct. 18, just in time for Halloween.

A large group of filmgoers will be drawn like magnets to these movies, and I genuinely hope those brave souls enjoy the petrifying experience. I’ll be hiding under my desk from my editor, who is looking for a reviewer."
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Old 09-16-2013, 07:27 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by baggio View Post
Stephanie Merry of the Washington Post decided on sharing her disdain for the genre.
It doesn't sound to me like she is disdainful of the horror genre, but actually finds them too effective. which is kind of an admission of quality on her part (whether she's fully aware of it or not). it's a pretty respectful article, I thought. I might take some small issue with her lumping the fans of films like The Devil Inside and The Exorcist into the same group, but that's about it. Well, that, and referring to the Carrie remake as being "highly anticipated." Ugh.
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Old 09-16-2013, 07:57 PM   #3
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I certainly want to see the Carrie remake.
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Old 09-16-2013, 08:03 PM   #4
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I might take some small issue with her referring to the Carrie remake as being "highly anticipated." Ugh.
Um... she's right on the money there. Facebook is pitching a major tent over it.
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Old 09-16-2013, 08:12 PM   #5
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Saw was about the point when modern horror movies lost me as well. There are still some good ones made, but they are relatively few in number.
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Old 09-16-2013, 08:26 PM   #6
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I'm with her. I have no interest in torture-porn like SAW or HOSTEL and the amount of money you'd have to pay to watch THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE would be in the thousands. The only new horror I watch is the fun stuff like TRICK R' TREAT and THE CABIN IN THE WOODS.
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Old 09-16-2013, 08:28 PM   #7
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Um... she's right on the money there. Facebook is pitching a major tent over it.
really? it's all passed me by, then. a few weeks ago it popped into my head for some reason, and my first thought was that it had already come and gone...but I guess not.
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Old 09-16-2013, 08:30 PM   #8
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I'm with her. I have no interest in torture-porn like SAW or HOSTEL and the amount of money you'd have to pay to watch THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE would be in the thousands. The only new horror I watch is the fun stuff like TRICK R' TREAT and THE CABIN IN THE WOODS.
the only distinction is that you don't watch it because you aren't interested in it, while she doesn't watch it because she finds it powerfully scary or unsettling (for some reason ).
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Old 09-16-2013, 08:37 PM   #9
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Saw was about the point when modern horror movies lost me as well. There are still some good ones made, but they are relatively few in number.
That's funny. It was actually Scream that turned me off. I didn't like where horror was going. I enjoyed Hostel, Saw and The Ring (American), and was glad that horror had shifted gears. Then the remakes came and aggravated me all over again. Fortunately, I appreciate Cabin in the Woods, Insidious and The Innkeepers. I guess the next wave won't appeal to me. It sounds as though the critic hasn't enjoyed horror since the 80's. There's little doubt that she'll ever appreciate the genre again.
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Old 09-16-2013, 08:52 PM   #10
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Sorry, but she lost me in the first paragraph.

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After all, does a French chef need to master the art of the tamale?
If you can't even come up with a suitable metaphor, I cannot muster the interest to read your thoughts. A French chef is an artist of a particular kind of food. A tamale is an ingredient in another kind of food. What you're saying is you're a film critic who only likes a certain kind of film. Ergo, you're not a film critic. You're someone who wants to review drama/foreign/indie, what have you.
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Old 09-16-2013, 08:59 PM   #11
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That's funny. It was actually Scream that turned me off.
Why? It's easily one of the best films of the decade. Not just horror.

It was a bit lax on style (only a bit) and the music was more orchestral than I typically care for. Those are the only reservations I can imagine anyone would have with it.
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Old 09-16-2013, 09:22 PM   #12
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Why? It's easily one of the best films of the decade. Not just horror.

It was a bit lax on style (only a bit) and the music was more orchestral than I typically care for. Those are the only reservations I can imagine anyone would have with it.
Lol. I remember going to the screening of the first film on a Wednesday night. I had loved the slasher films of the 80's and wasn't ready for the genre to die off. I didn't care for the actors (I still don't). When I see Courtney Cox in Cougar Town (my wife watches it), I start looking for a cyanide pill...it's that bad. Anyway, I'm getting off topic. I had high expectations being a Wes Craven film. After the beginning with Drew Barrymore, it just lost me. I was familiar with the slasher horror cliches already, and it just seemed as though the entire genre was being mocked. I didn't understand it's massive success, and just chalked it up to "It wasn't made for me, I don't get it (like The Hangover)." Therefore I never revisited it or watched any of the sequels. That was however what, 20 years ago? My mindset may be completely different now.
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Old 09-16-2013, 09:28 PM   #13
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Sorry, but she lost me in the first paragraph.



If you can't even come up with a suitable metaphor, I cannot muster the interest to read your thoughts. A French chef is an artist of a particular kind of food. A tamale is an ingredient in another kind of food. What you're saying is you're a film critic who only likes a certain kind of film. Ergo, you're not a film critic. You're someone who wants to review drama/foreign/indie, what have you.
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Well as the video explains, I do not think it is a great film, nor do I think.
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Old 09-16-2013, 09:29 PM   #14
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I'm with her. I have no interest in torture-porn like SAW or HOSTEL and the amount of money you'd have to pay to watch THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE would be in the thousands. The only new horror I watch is the fun stuff like TRICK R' TREAT and THE CABIN IN THE WOODS.
Gotta agree here. There's so many visceral 70's style brutal films that have been made in the past 10 years that I have zero interest in. I don't find that to be horror in the classic sense at all. They're not scary and they're not fun. You're not being "challenged" by them like an arthouse film but rather just repulsed for the sake of shock value. I can fully understand her stance on avoiding that kind of film because I do the exact same thing.

Only actual horror flicks I've got into the past decade or so are movies like Shaun of the Dead, Dawn of the Dead remake, 28 Days Later, Trick R' Treat, and Zombieland. The common theme of those movies is not torture porn, but that they are fun or original horror films. Some folks are played out on the depraved.
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Old 09-16-2013, 09:52 PM   #15
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Lol. I remember going to the screening of the first film on a Wednesday night. I had loved the slasher films of the 80's and wasn't ready for the genre to die off. I didn't care for the actors (I still don't). When I see Courtney Cox in Cougar Town (my wife watches it), I start looking for a cyanide pill...it's that bad. Anyway, I'm getting off topic. I had high expectations being a Wes Craven film. After the beginning with Drew Barrymore, it just lost me. I was familiar with the slasher horror cliches already, and it just seemed as though the entire genre was being mocked. I didn't understand it's massive success, and just chalked it up to "It wasn't made for me, I don't get it (like The Hangover)." Therefore I never revisited it or watched any of the sequels. That was however what, 20 years ago? My mindset may be completely different now.
When I first saw it, it actually punched me a bit. I was shaking when it was over. Which is how I know it works as a horror film. But for years while I was figuring it out, I knew the movie was much more than just a joke or some light ironic twists.

Of course I was excited after Scream to start renting all the slashers I missed. But most of them sucked (the exceptions are few: Friday the 13th and sequels, Just Before Dawn, and Jack Sholder's Alone in the Dark is just a bit more take it than leave it). And I don't think Scream was even trying to paint the genre in a negative light, even on Williamson's end- if you paid attention to Sidney, I think you know she was a sympathetic character (ish) but the movie was not siding with her point of view at all. She was shown as naďve in every way a character could be- she trusted the killer, was hellbent on seeing an innocent guy killed for her mother's murder, went upstairs when being chased 1 minute after saying she'd go out the front door, claimed that movies turn people into killers when you know both Craven and Williamson have both stated that's horseshit. The list basically goes on.

When the movie's over, sure she gets a snappy one-liner but she's also pushed aside (ambulance'd or car'd away by the sheriff) while Gale Weathers swoops in, in true-to-her-character opportunism and glory-hounding, to continue using other people's misery for her own benefit... And that's the end of the film.

I've heard the "it's about mocking the genre" thing quite a few times. Can you remember the last time a reporter was a major character in a horror / slasher film? Hellraiser III is the best I've got. I think the point of the film was to challenge the attitudes of people outside who look in and judge others. Then, if you remember Serial Mom, you have a good idea of where kids get the idea to do that.

Scream is a brilliant film and still, no one seems to know why.

Last edited by DVD-fanatic-9; 09-16-2013 at 10:00 PM.
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