If it is one thing that fandoms like to do is bitch and moan about their particular obsessions, how it doesn’t live up to the experiences and the expectations one had when they were first introduced to whatever their fandom is and one of the most vocal and unapologetic is the horror community.
Their biggest complaint is that horror movies made today simply aren’t scary anymore. I personally love horror movies, as do, I am sure, a lot of you reading this. The first horror movies to scare the hell out of me were Return of the Living Dead and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.
I saw these at a very young age when home video was in its infancy and I still believed what the television had to show me was real. I mean, I still believed that some fairy came in the night and took the teeth that had fallen out of my face and traded it for money, so I was not the most logical of humans when I was 6 years old.
Now I go back and watch those same movies and I laugh along with the joke that they are laying out. It is well known that both of those movies are more comedy than horror with some wonderful gore elements thrown in for us hounds, but that got me to thinking, why don’t I find these movies scary anymore? What ever happened to that sense of foreboding and dread that circled my gut when I see something horrific on the screen and I came to the conclusion that I simply grew up.
That’s not to say that I lost the love for the genre. If anything it has grown since then because I understand the magic behind the scares. Also what scares me has drastically changed since that point of my life.
To me the slasher style killers like Jason and Michel Myers are just fantasy, but people like Sy the Photo Guy from One Hour Photo terrify me. I didn’t take my film to be developed for 2 years after I saw that movie.
Obsession scares me. Several years ago I had my own stalker and working in the news industry where I have watched my co-workers being stalked and have seen the less than stable public who flock to news personalities scare me more than some random knife wielding masked killer. It is the reality to the situation and I can see myself as the person being threatened.
If zombies scare you, I’m sure zombie movies will scare you, however if witches, tooth fairies, aliens and the like don’t scare you, it’s highly unlikely that The Blair Witch Project, Darkness Falls or Signs will do it for you. I don’t go to these movies to be scared, because I know its not going to happen. Gross me out, maybe, creep me out, sure, but not scare me. I’m an adult, not a child. Super natural threats don’t exist, so there is no fear to coincide with seeing such movies.
Also, one has to look at the underlying issue of the fear. If you are afraid of zombies, what about them scares you? You understand that it is someone in extensive makeup and effects, but what about the undead sends that chill up your spine? It is probably a fear of death, being consumed, or changed without your consent.
As an adult you have to look deeper at the fear, because as a kid we are so emotional to begin with that our fight or flight response gets triggered easier when we we are faced with these kind of images.
We as horror fans, ADULT horror fans that is, look at these movies through the wistful eyes of our child hood and pine over the time when these movies had power over us, because we believed what we were seeing. Return of the Living Dead destroyed several years of my life because it said “Based on True Events” at the beginning of the movie which has now been removed from modern releases, at least I have not seen one with that graphic since childhood except for screen shots of the original release. It was because I believed what I could see on TV and that it would not lie to me that I believed that zombies could happen.
Now I know that zombies aren’t real, dead girls won’t crawl out of my TV when I pop in a mysterious VHS and a I won’t be possessed by a demon in an old, scary house so there is no chance for these kind of movies to engage my fear response on a deep level and give me the thrills of my childhood.
That is why, I believe, that movies like the Chucky series, The Freddy movies and others began to emphasize the more comedic aspects to the horror. They are still doing grotesque things to innocents, but the same scares that their core audience (those that saw these movies when they were young) no longer worked, and comedy and horror are intrinsically tied to one another on a very base level in the primordial mind.
I do miss those feelings, that terror that crept up my spine when I watched Freddy Krueger stalk the dreams of teenagers, or watching Dracula bite deep into the neck of a virgin, but like so many things, that flood of terror from watching these movies are sadly lost to ravages of adulthood but I can still look back on that time and appreciate what it did to and for me and I can share that same feeling that I had at that age with my nieces and nephews when, against their parents’ wishes, I pop in a copy of Night of the Living Dead and scare the shit out of them.