Friday, June 08, 2007

The Lack of Suspense Is Killing Me

It almost always starts off with some chick running through the woods at night.

This is not a problem, as most people like chicks. I know I do. Nine times out of ten, the young woman is a brunette (heaven forbid they knock off a blonde first) and lightly built, so as not to give herself a couple of black eyes before she gets killed. Naturally, we get only the briefest glimpse of the monster or cranky Avon saleslady who'll be terrorizing us (or not) for the rest of the film or TV show.

We fall for this crap over, and over, and for the life of me, I can't figure out why. I don't think the introduction, as such, scares anyone anymore. Even my cat can't be bothered to stop licking its butt long enough to get caught up in it, scary music stings and all. "Get to the monster already!" people have cried for years. Only then would we deign to be scared, and only if the monster was good. This, too, has gone the way of all rotting flesh, and for a couple of major reasons: One, the bloody (sic) sequels. The "Halloween", "Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Friday the Thirteenth" series add up to around fifty movies. How frightening can Freddie be anymore? Two, thanks to computer graphics, they can now create anything that the mind can conceive, and we've been using them up at a rapid pace. The above films introduced unbridled gore and blood; now, we have explicitly detailed monsters and mayhem. This reached its artistic peak in the original "Jurassic Park", when the T-Rex smashed a restroom and chomped a lawyer right off of the can and ate him. Oh, how we cheered! Unfortunately, after that, the shark had been jumped.

No, there's simply a limit to what the special effects can sell. I hate to be picky, but have you pimply-eyed boys (I know what I said) in that dark room with your computers considered contacting a writer (hint hint) and inserting, say, an actual story? Scary movies aren't scary anymore, so they've resorted to other things to sell tickets:

-Sex. Duh.
-Wit and humor. Snappy dialogue. Defiant humor. Suggesting that the monster use some mouthwash, for God's sake.
-Getting us to sympathize with the monster instead of the people, most of whom deserve what they get, because they're lawyers or something.

OK, this will hold up for a while, until we hit the day when a movie comes out that has a scene where the monster breaks into a bedroom at a very inopportune moment, where a couple of lawyers are getting it on, the woman looks up and says "I don't do threesomes" and they get eaten.

You people have filthy minds, I was not going there.

I wonder if, at some point when nobody is making any money off these beastly horror movies, someone recall the existence of something called "the suspense movie". Hitchcock. That sort of thing. It's what you don't know and can't see that's most terrifying. Modern horror flicks simply give us too much information for them to have any mystery about them. It isn't that it hasn't been tried in recent years. Brilliant Internet marketing aside, and whatever you may have thought of it, "The Blair Witch Project" was not a monster flick at all; it was a suspense film. We never got to see what was after them (Those of us who know about such things knew that it was a wibawa). Thus, the blood-and-gore (not Al) addicted college crowd who were in the audience when I saw it actually booed it at the end. Clearly, they were expecting some slashing and a lot of fake blood (which is cheap and easy to make). Not this time, kids; the filmmakers clearly meant to leave you with as many questions as the characters had when they got offed.

How bad have things gotten? As an example, the SciFi channel has this evening descended to the depths of showing something called "Ice Spiders". Quod erat demonstrandum.

Until things improve, the nice brunette running through the woods is going to have to get shredded, fried or disintegrated by herself. If she had any sense, she wouldn't be running through the woods in the dark in the first place. I'm going to be watching the History Channel instead, where things might not make much more sense, but at they have the novelty of having actually happened. However, even that will wear off after a while. Why?

Because history repeats itself.

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