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A movie is influenced by the society thatcreates it and crafted for the society that will watch it, not in terms of effectivelymirroring our circumstances but in displaying what society values and what society de-values. Virginity, chastity, modesty.
These Puritan, conservative values are praisedby the society that made movies like Halloween and Friday the 13th. In the former, not only is a woman slain immediatelyafter being intimate with her boyfriend, but it happens in the very bed where she did it. In the latter, the entire rampage takes placedue to counselors sneaking off to be with each other while Jason Voorhees drowned.
These movies are undoubtedly influenced bythe real world false dichotomy of categorizing women into two boxes: Either the pure madonna or the insatiabletramp who is both sought after and frowned upon by the same men. This pattern reoccurs in these movies withsuch frequency that scores of books and academic papers have been written about it.
Randy is correct in understanding that lifeor death within horror movies is often a value judgment and related to sin, but he is incorrectin the specifics. Because what he tells the party guests arenot the rules of horror but the rules of slasher movies, a subgenre of horror. Different subgenres have different values,different sins that they highlight. A slasher movie generally features a lonekiller, young, mostly women victims who are taken out one by one, and a survivor – almostalways a woman who did not indulge herself and who guarded her virginity. Slasher movies can deviate from this patterna little and still be slasher movies. Scream, for example,
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features a pair of killersinstead of one, older men are killed with about as much frequency as young women, andthere are multiple survivors living in various degrees of “sin.” Randy survives Scream despite drinking alcohol. Sidney survives despite losing her virginityto Billy.
Slasher movies that purposefully deviate fromestablished patterns often do so in recognition of those patterns nonetheless, subvertingthe expectations of the audience. Scream and other slashers that deviate fromestablished patterns are still recognizably slasher movies. Few slasher movies deviate as much as Scream,but that is only because Scream is meant as a send-up of the subgenre. Although inaccurate, it makes sense that thedialogue in this scene conflates horror movies with the slasher subgenre. In the 1980's and early 90's, slashers werethe dominant and most lucrative subgenre of horror.
So much, in fact, that when the words “horrormovie” were uttered during that period, popular slasher franchises like A Nightmareon Elm Street would come to mind more often than, say, The Fog or Videodrome. Slasher movies were inexpensive to produceand yielded big returns at the box office. Low risk, high reward. Also, if Randy's famous speech would havebeen awkward if he had said “There are certain rules you must abide by in order to survivea horror movie, specifically the slasher subgenre, as horror has a diversity of patterns andinfluences, hey, where are you going?” Nevertheless, the inaccuracy begs for correctionand examination. Subgenres of horror have their own patterns,and each entry into the subgenre reveals what the society that created it values and de-values.
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It is not a coincidence that various horrorsubgenres made in the western world utilize “sin” as its values barometer, even ifthe patterns of different. Gothic horror is defined by its romanticism,forbidden sensuality, and by its setting, taking place before the 20th century and incastles, remote hamlets, or decaying, haunted mansions. Gothic horror movies often place sin centerstage, sometimes due to being adaptations of novels prior to what we might considerthe modern world and sometimes due to the ubiquity of purity and sin being what thewestern world values and de-values. In various adaptations of Frankenstein, VictorFrankenstein plays God, resurrecting the dead,
unnaturally reanimating what was naturallytaken. The novel leaves the method vague, but inthe most famous adaptation, Frankenstein harnesses a storm, which has its own Biblical connections,to give life to his creation. In the name of God. His hubris in transcending his human restrictionsand meddling in God's domain costs him greatly. Adaptations of Dracula, particularly the 1992adaptation, show Dracula's descent into inhumanity correlated with the rejection of God, specificallyGod as depicted within Christianity.
The dichotomy of the pure woman and the promiscuouswoman often comes into play within gothic horror as much as slashers, but rather thanthis dichotomy portrayed as only implicitly having to do with Christian morality, gothichorror set during more “modest” eras can more explicitly reference this. Lucy, who is portrayed as promiscuous, istransformed into a monster that needs to be slain through the power of the cross.
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Mina, who is chaste until her marriage toJonathan, survives Dracula despite her temptations. Gothic horror antagonists are often thosethat Christian morality posits as being in direct competition with God or an affrontto God, such as witches and the Devil himself. So, how does one survive a gothic horror movie,Randy?
Surviving a gothic horror movie is connectedwith abstinence and a devotion to God. Not always, as there are variations withinthe subgenre, but often. Mina survives. Lucy does not. “Sin” as the moral barometer and arbiterof survival exists in gothic horror movies as much as slashers, but in the former, beliefin both God and Christian morality are also components. Faith cannot stop Michael Meyers, but it canand will stop Dracula. This overlaps with the broader supernaturalhorror subgenre.
Supernatural horror is often defined by theantagonist: spirits, demons, devils. Supernatural entities that haunt the protagonist. If the supernatural horror movie is made inthe western world, due to Christianity being the most common religion, the supernaturalelements are often explained through Christianity or defeated through Christianity.
Often, the haunting visited upon our charactersis related to sin or not showing proper respect to God. In Poltergeist, when the father learns thatthe cemetery had been moved, he calls it “sacrilegious.” He later discovers that the headstones weremoved, but the bodies remained under his house.
The antagonist is explained through religion,through sin. In The Exorcist, the demon possessing Reaganis defeated through religion, through the expulsion of sin. Once again, horror movies show what the societythat creates them values and de-values. It values faith, and it de-values a lack offaith. The power of Christ compels you.
The power of Christ compels you. Father Karras' greatest obstacle in The Exorcistis not Pazuzu but his own lost faith, which he struggles to overcome throughout the film. In the end, he believes again and sacrificeshimself to save Reagan. At a glance, Karras dying despite his faithconflicts with who survives, but this is a different kind of survival. A spiritual survival. What greater value is there for a Catholicthan martyrdom? Surviving a supernatural horror film is bestachieved by trusting Christians.
The zombies are many, but the humans can useweapons, can strategize, and can think. It is in their cooperation, their humanitythat allows them to live. When cooperation fails, that is when the humansare most vulnerable to the zombies.
When cooperation succeeds, that is when thehumans are strongest against the zombies. Surviving a zombie movie is unlike some otherhorror subgenres because all that is necessary is humanity.
Sci-fi horror often values human knowledgeover human ignorance. It also values the aforementioned human cooperation. In Alien, Ripley states that the xenomorphmust not be brought on board because it will almost certainly endanger the entire crew. They ignore her warning, and the crew is lost.