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American Contemporary Horror as a Sleep-Aid
by James Shafie

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The beginning of modern mediocrity.

The beginning of modern mediocrity.
The horror genre is regarded as the cousin whom no one likes to talk about, since he just married that former hooker and thinks taxidermy is a fantastic hobby. It's the outcast in the clique of genres, and for good reason! It's full of filth, twisted ideas and even worse acting. It revels in its status as an exile, and we fans enjoy being the lepers of the film community. However, there is a sub-genre that wants to fit in with the cool genres and tries to be like them. I call it "Pop-Horror." Unfortunately, American horror is filled with it, and it's very popular.

Wes Craven is usually considered one of the groundbreakers of contemporary horror cinema. With films like THE HILLS HAVE EYES, THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT and THE NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET credited to him, he deserves it. He also made a little movie called SCREAM that adapted the "slasher" style of "Nightmare". This movie has its good points, but it lacks in...well, creepiness. For one reason or another, Craven directed this movie, even though it was without the
A remake worthy of its original.

A remake worthy of its original.
uniqueness of his older projects. Scream was a huge hit and spawned many clones, all using the same basic "killer stalks and murders young people" storyline.

These films are almost always garbage. The scares they give are usually "jump" shots when loud, jarring music plays while something jumps and/or grabs someone. The actors are usually bland and stiff, and the actresses are usually half nude throughout the movie. These are very much like the teen comedies and romances that come out every three minutes. Nothing original, boring and stupid.

The teen slasher flicks have fizzled out, but another style of pop-horror has taken its place. These are the gore filled, pseudo-creepy movies that are everywhere now. Many of these movies are remakes, like THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, most likely because it's easier to just make something that has already been made. They are much like the teen slasher flicks, in the sense they have a lot of young people running around screaming. They still have the same bad acting, the same
No one wants another one of these, right?

No one wants another one of these, right?
unoriginality, the same jump scares, and the same pseudo-creepy cinematography. SAW 2 is a perfect example of this.

There are two recent films that seem to take this style and better it (in my opinion), HOSTEL and the remake of THE HILLS HAVE EYES. Hostel was loaded with a lot of sex and a lot of gore and violence. Movies that are only blood, guts and various bodily fluids are very entertaining when done right, and HOSTEL achieved this. "Hills" had little gore, which is unusual for mainstream horror that is popular right now. Instead, it pushed the limits of what people could tolerate in other ways, such as dealings with children and taboos.

Basically, America needs to work on its horror, because it's more boring than listening to Quentin Tarantino talk about Kung Fu movies. Sadly, like a lot of our media, the genre is filled with unoriginality and blandness. We are making bad movies because we're lazy. And folks, I implore you, this must stop. Or we could have another HOUSE OF THE DEAD sequel, and no one wants that.

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The Lair of the Mad
Every other Tuesday

'The Lair' discusses the many aspects and qualities of the horror genre. From actors, to make-up, to music, James Shafie explores everything the "cult" genre spews up.

Other Columns
Other columns by James Shafie:

Speaking Out

Yearn For Change

Queen of Night

Too Close Enough To Touch

The Time of the Beasts

All Columns

James Shafie
James Shafie is an avid watcher of movies of all sorts, but the horror genre is closest to his heart. He loves to read and is addicted to music, mostly metal and itís thousands of sub-genres. He was once fired by Blockbuster, which we see as a strong character trait.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to James Shafie by clicking here.

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