Cutting edge as always, I realised that Halloween happened a while back and I barely noticed. Partly that’s because I’m not American and it still isn’t that big elsewhere, despite supermarkets trying to push it hard. The other reason is that I, personally, don’t care for horror films.
I’ve thought about that and I think I understand why.
Your typical horror film pits a group of hapless individuals against some implacable monster. These helpless fools have to defeat whatever is preying on them themselves, as help is either too far away, doesn’t believe them or has already been eaten. Of course, a few of the group will fall victim along the way, but the 1-3 plucky survivors will manage to stop whatever the threat is….for now.
One of the reasons I have trouble with horror films is the idiocy of the heroes once they start realising the scope of what’s facing them, and often how long it takes to reach that point. Sure, you can make the excuse that they’re scared out of their wits, but I’m talking about really obvious dumb moves like finding a car and not immediately getting a long way away from the guy with knives for hands who seems immune to bullets. It’s nice you want to go back for your friends first, but what are you going to actually do, huh?
I’m kind of okay with that when the monster is a big animal like a snake, croc, shark or school of fish because it’s easier to treat it as the heroic tale of a cool predator taking revenge on dumb humans, only to be tragically thwarted in the final minutes. It’s especially easy because the animal rampage is always directly shown to be the fault of humans in the first place – horror films are nothing if not formulaic
The few films that exist that buck these trends- where the protagonists actually are smart people making the best choices for the situation- really stand out in comparison and stick with me long after seeing them. These films tend to be a lot more cerebral and psychological; The Thing is probably the best example of this style of horror I can think of; the monster is deadly sure, but the main thrust of the film is the dread of not knowing who you can trust.
Really, with all those exceptions I do enjoy it’s not that I don’t like horror films, it’s that I don’t like slasher films, the ones with the big-name scary killers like Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger. And I know exactly why.
You’re a supernatural killer, you can’t be hurt by guns or knives, you can appear around any corner no matter where you were 30 seconds ago (despite never being shown moving faster than a slow jog) and you can stalk people in their dreams! On top of that, you’re up against unarmed moron teenagers who keep deciding that “let’s split up” is a solid move! You’ve already got the Sheriff convinced that nothing’s going on except a dumb prank, so really, cleaning up the rest of them shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes, tops. Why have they lasted nearly 2 hours and why are they actually managing to beat you?
And THAT is the main reason I don’t like slasher films: I feel like the villains aren’t giving it 100%.