Here there be tygers
-Stephen King, Skeleton Crew
The horror movie genre has to be the queerest genre of movies the world has to offer–outside, of course, actual gay shit. Why would anymore in their right mind enjoy being terrified? We live in a world chock full of poverty, sloth, and uncertainty. Isn’t simply existing enough of a jolt and scare for the average person?
Truthfully, people do enjoy being scared. The horror genre allows us to indulge violent fantasies, confront the darkest aspects of the human existence and explore the outer limits of our consciousness. Our sometimes giddy desire to be terrified belies our secret desire to remove the artificial mask of civilization and indulge our basest instincts—whether they are based in fantasy or reality.
With that being said, let me proffer a number of horror flicks that I think are under-appreciated (either due to their age, nation of origin or limited distribution) and why they are relevant.
Pet Sematary is an adaption of a Stephen King novel with the same name.
When Stephen King wrote the novel, he actually shelved it for a period of time, as he thought it was too horrific to be published. Obviously, he did eventually publish the book.
The theatrical adaption is excellent. While the acting isn’t top-shelf it is still quite good, as is the faithful adaption of the novel that drives the movie.
The movie is about a young family that moves to a house in the countryside in Maine. They happen to live near an old Indian burial ground that is rumored to be haunted with a curse that causes any being—animal or human—that is buried there to be reborn as a degenerate, haunted version of the buried.
The movie is terrifying because it plays directly on twin human impulses: the fear of death and the consequent desire to circumvent death. When provided the opportunity, would we attempt to stave off the reality of death and rebirth by attempting to play God? This movie explores this dark avenue with horrifying results.
Shutter is originally a Thai film that was released in 2004 and was remade in a 2008 American release.
The movie revolves around an American couple in Japan (with the male protagonist pursuing a career as a photographer) who seemingly run over a body on a rural road, only to find that the body they thought they ran over isn’t there. Over the course of the movie, the two confront strange visions in their dreams, weird lights in their photos and disturbing secret held by the male protagonist.
The film is eerily creepy and more of a thriller than pure horror. However, it is well-told, well-paced and well-acted. The twist at the end is rather unpredictable, as is the twisted secret of the protagonist.
This movie is remarkable because it shows that men can do awful, terrible things to women and not feel one ounce of hatred towards womankind. A highly unfortunate byproduct of western self-absorption is the reflexive impulse to blame the problems in the world on hatred.
In this instance, a feminist could accuse the protagonist of being a misogynist, as only misogyny causes men to hurt or abuse women. Not only is misogyny mostly an illusion perception, but it a uniquely western impulse to think that bad things happen to them purely because others hate them. Humans are a much more tangled mess of desires and emotions than can be laid at the feet of hatred.
Little Deaths is a compilation of three movie shorts: each of which fit into the loose over-arching narrative of sex and violence..
The last short is simply called, “Bitch.” It involves a young man in a relationship with a young woman. This is an unsatisfying relationship, with him as the bottom and her as the top. She regularly takes him to a room adjacent to her bedroom to peg him—reminding him of his place in the relationship. He eventually breaks and decides to reclaim his power in this relationship. In the climax of the movie, her takes her life in an incredibly gruesome and horrific fashion.
As I have opined before on ROK, this movie is illuminating because it shows what can happen to a beta male without any self-awareness or desire for true personal betterment. The protagonist’s desire to kill his girlfriend isn’t just illegal and highly immoral, but also caused by his inability grow up and move on from a horrible relationship. Never take for granted a man’s ability to swallow his pride, take his lumps and move on from his bad decisions—without cracking like the main character did here in Little Deaths.
Curtains is a Canadian horror movie that initially came out in 1983.
The movie centers around a number of women who are auditioning for the leading role in a director’s new movie. They find themselves at an isolated hotel-of-sorts, bound by miles of snow. They find themselves cut down one-by-one, which causes them to suspect and accuse each other of being the murderer.
This movie is significant simply because Canada doesn’t produce many quality horror films and this certainly qualifies as a cult classic. There isn’t anything notably spectacular about the movie, but it is an enjoying and satisfying viewing.
Horror is quite possibly one of the most difficult genres of storytelling to pull off. However, when it is done well, it is done extremely well. Whether supernatural or drawing on the worst, base impulses of mankind, well-done horror is a truly a remarkable sight to behold.