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  • Monday, January 02, 2006


    The Horror, the horror...

    I'm a fan of horror fiction and film. I don't like everything in the genre but I do like being scared in a fairly controlled way. It's a psychological quirk in my makeup, perhaps my way of dealing with uncontrollable anxieties. Externalizing my free-floating fears, projecting them into the conventions of horror, somehow helps me to deal with them. And it's nice to be able to say "I've got problems but at least I'm not being hunted by a sociopath/mutant/alien." A cold comfort of sorts.

    I haven't actually been reading much horror fiction or fiction of any sort for the last couple of years. As my posts here often mention, I've been reading mostly non-fiction, politics and science. However I still reflexively pick up horror films at the local video/DVD rental place. This is wearing very thin though. We had an excellent local rental shop until recently. They moved out of town because of too much competition and I'm left with rotten chainstores, large warehouses containing some of the worst filmic crap it has been my misfortune to view.

    While I like a good film, I've reached a point where I have little tolerance for extremely derivative plots and characters. And I really despise the horror convention so pervasive I believe it has it's own name, "woman in peril." It's not enough for me that the woman is strong and wins in the end if she spends most of the film being terrorized and chased. (Although a case could be made that this type of role is illustrative and symbolic of what women deal with constantly in a sexist and patriarchal society, I still usually find it too disgusting to appreciate this symbolism.)

    The display boxes for the DVDs and their descriptions are almost useless in picking out films I've never heard of. The producers seem to spend almost as much time and effort on the cover art and description as on the whole film production. I can often make a judgment on whether to watch a film within the first minute of action. That is, once you actually see actors acting and speaking lines. Clever scripting and camera work won't keep me interested if the acting reminds me of the early read-throughs and rehearsals of a high school play. I've done a little acting in my time, nothing much, and I have respect for actors. When there are many good actors around, it frustrates me to see really bad actors getting jobs.

    What's the point I want to make? I started off wanting to make a point about horror's psychological function. Someone (Steven King?) once said the horror genre boils down to rehearsals for our own death. In a society which spends little time integrating or acknowledging the reality of death, it's difficult to know much about it until someone close to us dies. Even then, we are rarely privy any more to the details surrounding the process of dying and the body left behind after death. (Note that I use the word reality above. Films are dramatic representations, not reality.)

    There's nothing too profound here, just some ramblings about pop culture. And death.

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