How scary are horror films today?
Have Horror films lost their mojo? Or are they still as frightful as ever? Let us dive down into the spooky details!
Diehard fans of the spooky genre always face a lingering question right before a horror release: “How scary can the film possibly be?”
Sure, there are previews, teasers and director interviews that are accessible before the official screening of a horror movie, but we must be entirely honest that the juiciest bits are often kept under wraps up till showtime.
People often flock over to theatres with nerves of steel and the unshakeable belief that nothing in the known world would ever stir their minds. The goal of the modern horror film-maker therefore, is to constantly get creative and provide fresh content that open into the realm of the unexpected.
This challenge becomes extremely frustrating and difficult in time as more scenarios are explored and get added to the “predictable list”, making it difficult for the development of original ideas that work.
The golden question is, are there new territories to be covered?
Fortunately, through recent successes such as the likes of “Hereditary” and “Veronica”, it seems like there are infinite ways to scare the human mind into submission, while defiant audiences continue to throw themselves to the test.
Hereditary (2018) poster. (Credits: A24films)
For instance, in Hereditary (2018), jump scares were minimal. Director Ari Arister opted for a style that focused on realism and relatability. The film did not depend upon cliched supernatural creatures like vampires and ghosts, which can come across as being corny and old-fashioned. It was instead, a chilling tale about death, disturbances in a family and grieving, which are worldly themes that most people can relate to.
The winning formula however, was the slow, methodical build-up that kept the fear lingering in the minds of the audiences even after the end of the movie. Not to forget, there were endless plot twists that would assault your senses just as you heartbeat relaxes. The film has been touted as a masterpiece and was debuted at the Sundance Festival.
In recent years, some films such as The Conjuring (2013) have depended on the tacky line “based on a true story” to evoke fear in moviegoers. Although this may scare some people, knowing that the adapted tale has happened, somewhere on Earth, but this is distracting.
These are diversions because people tend to become curious and busy themselves with separating truth from fiction rather than immersing in the experience.
A horror film should not lose substance over detective work.
It was clear from the start that Hereditary was an entirely fictitious piece of work and went on to scare audiences senseless through storyline alone. I was served a platter of panic and I could barely stomach half it…
Many of us wish to escape the predictable routine existence of daily life. So, we decided to add a dose of imagination and perhaps sparks of madness into our lives.
In the early days of cinema, the horror genre involved mythological beasts like Frankenstein’s Monster (Frankenstein, 1931) and werewolves (The Wolfman 1941), there was a strong fairytale influence and stories were overly dramatised.
Why? Because people were emerging from the Great Depression and valued the idea of an enemy that could be identified and defeated. It was a time when education was poor due to post war illiteracy and so, the bolder the characters and plots back then, the more popular they were.
In modern times however, for the complicatedly educated audience, films continue to tackle insecurities but in less obvious ways.
Our “fears” are made visible, approachable and destructible.
Lights out (2016) poster. (Credits: Warner Bros)
In the 2016 movie, Lights Out, based on the viral short film of the same name, there is an emphasis on the fear of darkness or nyctophobia. Darkness hints at the unknown for many. In the film, audiences are treated to the idea of an entity that only appears when lights are off while disappearing when they are turned back on.
It becomes an hour and a half long jump scare fest that promises to make adults sprint for the nearest light switch in their bedrooms at the dead of night.
Maybe we love giving our problems ugly faces and having them defeated on the big screen, you may call it an ego boost.
Adrenaline and other feel good processes
Adrenaline is responsible for your natural “fight or flight” responses. This is the same effect experienced through a bumpy roller coaster ride or when you survive a mugging in the streets.
According to ancient philosophy, humans possess the need to undergo a process called catharsis, which is required to release our internal tensions/frustrations. In horror films, we benefit from catharsis through liberating our innermost fears and becoming vulnerable for the moment.
Pleasure is gained from the relaxation of our nerves.
An infamous scene that accelerated heartbeats may be witnessed in The Conjuring 2 (2016) when the ghastly nun, Valak, suddenly materializes from behind a painting of her very likeness and proceeds to chase the protagonist across a room.
There is something rewarding about the euphoria achieved after a brief episode of fear and this continues to make it worthwhile for most moviegoers. It makes us feel more alive!
Suspense is that invisible grip, which keeps us at the edge of our seats.
In the original Halloween (1978) film, serial killer Michael Myers did not speak. He let his expressionless mask do all the “talking”. The act was supported by an eerie musical score that accompanied the cold-blooded murderer wherever he went, alerting the audience to the incoming evil.
Suspense is largely about mind games and how the film-maker thinks steps ahead of the audiences per scene.
Horror cult icons including Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street and Chucky from Child’s Play, have remained sources of nightmares for decades due to their unique style of suspenseful evildoing.
IT (2017) poster. (Credits: Warner Bros)
In the remake of IT (2017), audiences are constantly kept guessing the next move of the demonic clown, Pennywise (portrayed by Bill Skarsgard) that terrorizes a group of children in a town. We are kept wondering, what next, will the children overcome the evil or will they be tortured and finished off like furry animals?
Children-butchering clowns have never been this shrewd…
Remember when you were little? Those bedtime stories from kind adults with angelic voices?
Horror films are quite like that, we become children once again as the film director guides us through morbid imagery and chilling plots while we stay safe…almost.
In the movie Annabelle (2014), the titular cursed doll remained stationary for the film, but audiences are primed with strategically placed cues that produce delusions; a kind of horror that feeds on uncertainty.
Once you second-guess your senses, the horror film gets you.
Horror rewinds the hands of time to have us back at the mercy of the storyteller once more and people love that.
Horror movies might prove to be a therapeutic outlet for those who wish to overcome anxieties and other conflicting conditions.
These films provide the visuals that enable people to outwardly challenge their phobias. Some examples of movies with phobia-based themes are Child’s Play (the fear of dolls), IT (the fear of clowns) and soon to be released, The Nun (self-explanatory).
There may be a garden variety of reasons why one would watch a horror flick, but it seems like the most realistic scenarios are often the scariest. This has led to the popularity of films based on unorthodox religion and real-life narratives. However, the very basis of fear alone is enough to produce a classic horror film.
If film-makers continue to understand that fear is a primal response in humans to avoid danger and tragedy, horror will be here to stay.
After all, reality is the most inspirationally frightening place of them all!
In my previous article, I covered the subject of pleasure dolls and Nami, an exclusive video from Premise TV, about a state-of-the-art pleasure doll that potentially possessed free-will. Now, it could be the guess of anyone how Nami got around on her own accord. Was it advanced cybertronics? Sneaky role-playing/puppeteering on the part of her Otaku master? Or was she the shell of a malicious spirit.
What if there was a sinister backstory to Nami? That would be something to think about!
Premise Original Series – NAMI. What if sex dolls comes to life?
To watch Nami, do visit Premise TV, which contains a varied gallery of other thought-invoking interactive videos. Premise TV creates content for you based on the content you wish to see. It is the place where the perspectives of audiences are taken to the next level!
Until next time, I hope you are expecting your next dose of horror, because your friends beneath your bed certainly are!
Author: Laurenzo Jude