Have I reached my maximum spoop capacity with horror movies?
Come with me now on a journey back to 2009. Barack Obama had been inaugurated as president, shit was going down in Sudan and Darfur, and the airy love-ballad “Tik Tok” by Ke$ha (₭€$₴؋ on the international market) was all over the airwaves. As autumn loomed in the distance, TV audiences were graced with a trailer for an upcoming horror flick. However, instead of laying out every detail of the plot and spoiling every twist like trailers today, this trailer mainly focused on movie audiences. It showed them jumping and screaming. It showed their moments of vulnerable terror as the reeled in fright at the events happening on the screen. It was an exciting trailer and one that made horror fans, like myself, absolutely salivate.
That movie, of course, was Paranormal Activity.
Now, this is not a post telling you that I don’t find Paranormal Activity to be a scary film. Quite the opposite, actually. That movie was damn terrifying when it came out. This movie and it’s following sequels (to a point) were some of my favorite theater experiences, with the theater absolutely going ballistic when the scares happened. These movies performed well enough and got enough recognition that they revitalized the found footage genre almost single-handedly, for better (Troll Hunter) or worse (Mr. Jones). While the genre has definitely deteriorated over time, it can’t be denied that the early 2010’s saw a huge influx of high quality found footage entries after the success of the first few Paranormal films. Hell, Paranormal Activity 3 still has, in my opinion, one of the absolute best horror movie moments in the sequence with the sheet and the oscillating camera. They’re not for everyone, sure, but Paranormal’s place in Horror’s pantheon is clear.
As the years have gone by, I have seen lots and lots of horror movies. Some great, some astoundingly grotesque, and some painfully boring. What I’m running into, however, is just this yearning for something that terrifies me as much as some of the things I’ve watched that have given me my favorite spooks. The Paranormal films are definitely part of the pie, but I can also give oants-browning cred to early Slender Man narratives. I was at the ground floor of the Slender mythos, following Marble Hornets, Everymanhybrid and TribeTwelve at their onset, and shivering along with every new entry. Again, these things aren’t for everyone, but the amount of dread and slow build horror these online series were able to deliver was impressive and stuck with me. It’s the kind of thing that sticks with you afterward. With Paranormal, you’re left wondering if every thump and bump is a demon sinking its claws into your life, but Slender Man left you wondering if something was looming deep in the inky black outside your window, staring at you. Watching you. Waiting.
It was absolutely fantastic.
But that was years ago. I have seen some fantastic horror fare, but just generally haven’t had something stick with me so frighteningly, though many have left a lingering effect. The Haunting of Hill House makes me yearn for more secret ghosts and the twisted, dramatic storytelling has yet to be matched in the past year or so since it’s release. Channel Zero is a masterwork in horror absurdism, and just leaves me wanting for more horror based around the bizarre and disturbing instead of the outwardly supernatural and decayed. Hell, even Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared (something EVERYONE should watch) just leaves me wanting more of THAT EXACT THING (serious voice: Don’t Hug Me is amazing and you should watch it). While I’ve seen a lot that I LIKE recently, I find the more that I experience amazing movies and online fare, the more I’m left just yearning. It’s like once the bar gets set, it’s hard for me to fully immerse in things that fall below, even if just barely. The recent It movies are a great example. I LOVE those movies. The creators did exactly what I wanted with modern horror and avoided so many of the pitfalls I’ve complained about in the past. They went bizarre and cartoonish and it was incredibly jarring at times. Just amazingly gorgeous horror movies, and I will watch them probably every single year, if not more. But it still didn’t linger with me, it didn’t leave me wanting much more than what I’ve already wanted: for directors of horror movies to be more creative in their spoop design.
Now, I’m not trying to sound like a pretentious asshole here. “Nothing scares me, I am brave guy,” you might hear me say, but that isn’t what I’m getting at. I still get spooped. An occasional jumpscare hits home, which I usually find depends on the sound design for me more than the visual (over two decades as a drummer, still frightened by loud noises). One thing I’ve noticed is the scariest is when you hear something running but can’t see what it is. It Chapter 2 had a great seen of this with the creepy old lady. Dark kitchen and silence. Suddenly, “thump thump Thump Thump THUMP THUMP” and then fucked up, saggy boob Gollum comes charging out. It’s the mystery, the unknown. And really, isn’t that the core of human fear? What we don’t know? What we possibly can’t stop? It’s the inability to plan, your fight or flight stuck on buffer as signals just fly throughout your nervous system.
I guess that’s the cool takeaway from my now callused spook gland: I can now see what truly primal scares are. I mean hell, the whole reason I don’t like deep ocean is because of the mystery of it. Also giant unstoppable death beasts that hide in the murky darkness.
In the end, I still love horror and I will still continue to love horror until the day i die and hopefully become a wicked cool ghost so I can continue to love horror. If anything, my jaded sense of fright just leaves me more excited with each horror movie. I’m like the prince from Cinderella going door to door with a glass slipper hoping each next stop will present me with the bomb-ass hottie from the night before who, despite being the most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen, I can only identify by her shoe size. It’s like that, but instead of using tax-payer dollars to gallivant with a crystal Jimmy Chu, I’m going door to door shouting “I WANT TO PEE MYSELF MAKE ME PEE MY PANTS!” The restraining orders just keep coming, but one day I will find my horrible princess! I will!
Welcome to Spooktober, folks. Get out there and eat up some horror.