Slash and Burn: Horror in the New Millennium

(Movie Article by Aaron Carr) A genre that was once looked upon as a cinematic powerhouse has become nothing more than profit loving garbage. What happened to the horror genre? In its prime, it treated us to a psychological thrill ride driven by its sophisticated understanding of our subconscious fears. Nowadays, and with only rare exceptions, the genre repugnantly focuses on mutilation and torture, or more simply, barefaced sadism. Modern-day horror encompasses misguided scare tactics: its characters bleed, suffer and customarily die painful, yet pointlessly gory deaths. Is this what they call entertainment? Does anyone know where Hitchcock went? If only he were here to judge productions that vomit out material that should be quarantined in a poison control center.

And God brought blood, water, frogs, lice, flies, diseases of livestock, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, death of the first born and, regrettably, 2005’s “Wolf Creek”. The story is simple: a journey of three hikers, Liz Hunter, Kristy Earl and Ben Mitchell, whose situation moves from the innocent beginning of the film to the presence of Australian lunatic in Mick Taylor’s world of laceration. After typing that last sentence, my fingers froze, and my neck became painfully incapacitated.

Then, my eye balls slowly rolled to the back of my head, accompanied by a wave of nausea, as I realized that I may have mistakenly created the impression that “Wolf Creek” is in fact a movie. “Wolf Creek” is anything but a movie… it is a hell sentence that even a convict on death row doesn’t deserve. This film is clearly intended for disturbed males who have many, and I mean many, unresolved mother issues that sadly do not respond to any form of therapy.

The entire movie dedicates itself to the desecration and sexual torture of its two females, with Hunter and Earl the film’s exclusive focal points of torture. Strangely, we are spared watching the anguish of the male character, Mitchell. Why was the film laid out in this manner? Well, because “suffragette” Greg McLean, the film’s director, knew that an audience of disturbed males would prefer it that way. “But Aaron,” you may ask, “Isn’t it based on true events?” Even more of a reason to not make it into entertainment.

Sometimes there are exceptions to movies that entail sexual molestation and still proceed to stay on track. For example, “The Devil’s Rejects”, unlike “Wolf Creek,” only dwells on misogynistic acts for a short period of time, letting the movie continue to succeed in what it is really trying to do — that is, scare. The villain of “Wolf Creek” is supposed to be the main source of fear, but is instead just the main source of offensiveness. It was actually offensive to a point that even if there was an idea the movie was trying to get across, I had no interest in knowing.

“You’re so weak,” Mick says, after telling the girl that he’s going to cut off her genitals. I wish I could tell you how I truly feel about the film but unfortunately I am not supposed to curse.

Next comes a horror film with potential but, unfortunately, it lets extravagant amounts of gore take the place of nail-biting tension. “Hostel” was written and directed by Eli Roth who, let’s say, has a very weird sense of humor that ultimately produced a desire in me to incinerate his film. The credits include the phrase, “Quentin Tarantino presents,” suggesting that Roth is going to try to follow the lead of genius director Tarantino. Well, he failed.

In “Hostel”, two American backpackers, Paxton and Josh, go through Europe in search of “hot babes!” In a nutshell, they get screwed over and mutilated. The end.

When we consider the brilliant directing style of Quentin Tarantino, we see dark comic violence that never takes itself too seriously. For example, in “Kill Bill,” when the characters get their limbs cut off, the exaggerated use of blood isn’t gross but, strangely enough, funny and amusing. Roth attempts the same thing but instead creates a path that is too dark for the light of humor.

Thus, when one of the characters in “Hostel” gets her eye socket ripped out and yellow puss drips down her face as she screams in agony, there’s no chance of a comic affect unless you’re on the same level as the Son of Sam or O.J. Simpson. At a time when we Americans are apprehensive about going to Europe, Roth taps into that fear without showing us anything of consequence. That is, unless you find excessive amounts of gore and tediously superficial characters somehow meaningful.

So, you may ask, why did the movie make around $50 million? Well, I guess some people take pleasure in gore and tediously superficial characters. Hey, the faster they die, the faster you get to sprint out of the theatre, so I’m not complaining.

In the last 15 to 20 years, there has been a dearth of good horror films. However, there is one that even when matched up to its greatly appreciated classic predecessors will still be ranked at the top of the list. That film is “The Blair Witch Project,” a genius masterpiece that has earned divine bragging rights in the horror kingdom.

For those of you who haven’t yet spit on my article and lit it on fire while screaming a fascist chant, thanks for sticking with me. A description of “The Blair Witch Project” is my attempt to reward you for your patience. A movie that cost a mere $350,000 to make, with no known actors, a home video camera and no added violence, while still preserving its mesmerizing effect is in fact the real definition of horror. It holds the Guinness World Record for biggest profit movie of all time, raking in $140,000,000.

“The Blair Witch” is about three film students, Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael Williams, who are creating an investigatory documentary on, of course, the Blair Witch. They make their way into the woods where the urban legend arose. Shortly after, they get lost in an eerie wilderness. However, that’s only half of the movie’s horror. The rest comes from the feelings we get when we observe normal people in a fictional situation that somehow doesn’t seem so fictional at all. The drama between the three characters is as real as it gets. It became evident that it wasn’t just the Blair Witch that was crushing their sanity but, in fact, the clash between the three characters themselves.

If you examine “The Blair Witch Project” at a deeper level, you will find that it is more than just another horror film. “This is America; we killed all of our natural resources,” the female character says. Is “The Blair Witch Project” really about a witch, or is it really a metaphor about nature, or what’s left of it, defending itself? The three film students smoke cigarettes, kick over rocks, make fires and treat the woods like their own garbage dumpster. Selfish Americans!

“The Blair Witch Project” and its psychological predecessor, “The Birds” by Alfred Hitchcock, both give voice to nature who, sorry to say, deserves to revenge itself on the human race. Each film makes an eerie, artistic, and political statement. “The Blair Witch Project” not only brings us face to face with our fear of the dark and the unknown, it also uses that fear to teach us about values.

As I look back at nostalgic Sunday car rides with my parents when I was a little kid, I have many memories of passing by shops and annoyingly asking my parents how much money they thought a certain business was making. My dad would always have the same response: “It doesn’t matter how much money something makes in life, Aaron. What matters is the meaning that that certain thing contributes to the world.”

Now that the era of technology is here, I find that real meaning and values in society are moving towards extinction. This is reflected in the horror film genre. Without the technology needed for special effects, horror was forced to put a magnifying glass on people. Characters were developed and meaningful messages for life were presented. With technology and special effects growing stronger each year, the forecast for horror looks rainy. If only I was alive at the high point of the genre. Then again, that would make me 60 years old, so … never mind.