By INDIRA MOOSAI
We all know the typical horror trope has been done over a million times. We’re all too familiar with the hot girl screaming and running from the big, bad killer. The girl eventually trips and — oh, no! — she’s as good as dead. We think, how many times can they remake the typical, overdone storyline? Then we remember that one film where the door eerily creaked and the suspenseful background music played, making the hairs on our necks rise as we awaited the sight of the dreaded monster. Time to sleep with the lights on!
All humans have fears — this is why the horror genre can never die. The 1979 film, The Exorcist, is a prime example of a classic, fear-instilling film. It takes the techniques of cinematic suspense, shock and music, then presents it through a psychological, terrifying lens. The effect? True horror. The Exorcist presents the fears we have, in this instance demonic possession, without hesitation, and without distracting film elements such as absurd amounts of blood and gore. Certain scenes are unforgettable, such as the “spider-walk scene.” It is unforgettable because of the uncanny sensation we get from seeing a young girl crawl in a backbend down the stairs with the most inhuman look on her face — it is a feeling of uneasiness and terror combined.
There is a difference between fear and revulsion. It can be said that horror movies started taking a turn when the Saw franchise began in 2004. The blood and gore throughout the film set it apart from previous horror films; instead of instilling fear, it instilled disgust through gross, torturous traps. This is not what the horror genre was intended to do. True horror is meant to frighten you — to take the deep-seated fear you have then exploit it so that even after the film, the fear stays with you long after you leave the cinema.
This is not to say fear and revulsion cannot work in harmony. The 1978 film, Halloween, really played to this idea of using fear, while also using blood, but not in a way that it completely overtook the film. We can all recall the famous Halloween music and the terror that comes with it; having that notable, suspenseful music builds dread —- as if the music is a character itself. The film also considered the psychological effect of having a masked serial killer; the viewer thinks, what face is behind this creepy, neutral mask? The setting and realism of the plot makes you think, this could actually happen to me. Because of these carefully implemented horror techniques, the dreadful music and the dead stare of Michael Myers is sure to haunt your dreams.
That being said, it would seem that films have strayed from what horror as a genre was intended to do in the first place, or what made it distinct and remarkable. This doesn’t mean that what made it good can’t come back. We already see films that have succeeded in bringing true horror to the big screen. Take, for example, The Conjuring (2013). This film uses common elements that were also used in Halloween, like the carousel music box. The music itself isn’t particularly scary, but the association with suspense and terror within the film creates the horror.
The Conjuring shows that the elements that make horror a worthy genre are still recognized and put into effect today. There will always be overused tropes or storylines — which is common throughout all genres. For instance, in the romance genre, the typical storyline involves a ‘boy meets girl’ scenario, where through a series of predictable events, they end up falling in love. However, through knowledge of what makes a film worthy of attention and ability to bring this knowledge to the big screen, a phenomenal film can be born.
Horror is a fantastic genre still being explored. Wes Craven, director of Last House on the Left and John Carpenter, director of Halloween are a couple of directors who made an impact to the genre, and we have yet to see who else can bring quality films to horror-lovers. Horror is a genre that will never die. As Craven puts it, “Horror films don’t create fear, they release it.” And fear is one emotion humans can’t get rid of.
Indira Moosai can be reach at firstname.lastname@example.org