Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Cinemaniacal: The Necessity of Horror?

Welcome to the show folks....

After two and half hours of handing treats out to hordes of goblins, ghouls, and ghosts I sat down to vegetate a little in front of the boob tube. Now if there's one thing Canadian cable channels are good at, it's being absolutely terrible at programming appropriate for the channel's genre, or appropriate for the time of year. The classic example being our "Mystery" channel scheduling a Christmas themed romantic comedy in AUGUST.

So you can imagine my surprise when one of these channels scheduled some Halloween appropriate material for Halloween night. To be specific it was a show about the making of John Carpenter's Halloween, and it made me set a record for the number of times I've said Halloween in a single paragraph.

One of the things that struck me about the story behind the film was how negative was the reaction to Carpenter's little movie at Carpenter's alma mater. The film school students reacted with the wrong kind of horror to the film, and one even openly decried Carpenter for making "that kind of movie."

That attitude, though not as virulent, was still simmering under the surface when I was a film school rat in the 1990s. There was a certain amount of condescension to the genre, thinking of it as a strictly commercial enterprise only to be done for a quick buck that would be beneath burning any serious calories on.

Well, I tend to disagree. You see I think making a low budget horror film should be
mandatory for anyone who wants to make movies.

Now if you think that I want mandatory horror film-making because I'm a horror fan, you'd be wrong. While I do enjoy a good horror movie, or a really bad one, in their own way, I'm not a rabid horror fanatic who obsessively sees every film in the genre. In fact, I managed to completely skip the torture porn fad, and I'm glad I did.

Here are my reasons:

1. You Can Only Fake It So Far, So To Speak: Let's face facts, a director of a domestic drama or a comedy can coast on a good script and a talented cast without burning many creative calories. However, if you're making a horror film, you have to be in complete control of the look, the sound, the editing, and the performances, or else your film will end up looking ridiculous.

Now some films may coast on a certain
amount of novelty, gore, or novel amounts of gore, but those films are usually either quickly forgotten, or thought of only on the level of camp, and not quality. A well crafted and suspenseful horror film can show what a filmmaker can do beyond the surface elements, if you are willing to look.

2. It Promotes Realism, Not On The Screen, But In Real Life: There is nothing worse for a filmmaker than getting a truckload of critical praise and awards for their first feature film. It's bad because it sets up unreal expectations on the part of the filmmaker, and those expectations are unreal because those critics and awards committees have agendas of their own, and many times these agendas have nothing to do with the actual quality of the film in question.

Horror films have and always will be the red-headed stepchild of the smart set who dole out the praise and prizes. They consider it trivial, nonsensical, and beneath their dignity to even consider, if not completely contemptible.

It's best to make your first feature knowing full well that your budget is low, your resources are limited, and that you will never win any mainstream awards, or get blown by any critics for it. It's strictly a vehicle for displaying your talents as a story-teller capable of meeting the specific goal of scaring the pants off your audience.

Also the stress level on horror films is way lower than the other genres, and will put some problem solving experience under a filmmaker's belt before they move on to dealing with the bigger problems associated with bigger films.

3. Risk: Let's face it, horror is cheap to make and easy to sell. It travels well around the world. This means that there is a lot less risk involved than giving a $100 million budget to some guy who only has a couple of music videos and a handful of commercials to their credit. This way a producer can see if a filmmaker can tell a decent story with limited resources and how well they can use their imagination to tell that story over just throwing money at a problem.

That's my opinion, what's yours.

1 comment:

  1. je pressman5/11/10 9:09 pm

    The limited success of the Chelsea Handler show is proof positive that some humans will watch ANYTHING including road-kill decomposing..now that's entertainment!