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Is it Really Horror?
by Spotlight Mike

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Climatic Scene in THE TINGLER

Climatic Scene in THE TINGLER

I've been thinking about THE TINGLER, a 1959 William Castle classic starring Vincent Price as a scientist obsessed with trying to give fear a form. Through his research, with the assistance of the first cinematic use of LSD, he discovers that there is a thing (isn't it always a thing?) that exists in all people that is a physical manifestation of fear. It grows inside you when you experience fear, growing inside you until it crushes you from within. The only way to defeat this thing is to scream with all your might. This was the the William Castle gimmick for this movie, his way of drawing you into the movie. He was caricatured in the 1993 John Goodman vehicle, MATINEE. In the Fifties, he was famous for his outrageous stunts, like issuing "Death Certificates" in case you died of fright, or in the case of THE TINGLER, installing thumpers in selected seats to simulate a tingling sensation - of
An <i>homage</i> to William Castle movies

An homage to William Castle movies
. As a five-year old child who had little exposure to television, let alone color cinema, this traumatized me for an entire decade. I could not even walk into a theater until well into my teens.

Since then, I've been a horror snob, thumbing my nose at most so-called horror movies ever since. I got my first real horror buzz when I saw THE EXORCIST. Being a fine, upstanding practicing Roman Catholic, the fact that the devil, even a fictitious, cinematic one could invade an innocent little child and devastate her life scared the be-Jesus out of me. I went to Church so much, I had my own pew. HALLOWEEN gave me a good time, though not as all-encompassingly scary, it kept me on the edge of my seat and yelling at the screen. My last real fright was THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW, drawing on my deepest fear of being buried alive. To this day, I still cannot watch that movie.

Then came the Hannah-Barbera assembly line movies. Not because they were made cheaply, because most horror movies don't have summer blockbuster budgets, but because they
Scared the CRAP out of me!

Scared the CRAP out of me!
relied on cheap, repetitive storylines. Some that followed a specific formula, others were a narcissistic indulgence of gore, and some, and these are the ones I really despise, are storylines that consists of loud, sudden noises, and screeching violins that will give you a quick start, then it's over before you're able to process what just happened. These can be categorized as scary movies, as chronicled in the SCREAM series (if you pay attention, it's never called a horror movie). These movies are no more than fun house distractions, someone jumping out of the darkness and yelling, Boo!

There are scary movies (CARRIE, CREEPSHOW), there are gory movies (Anything of the Dead - quick aside, George Romero never called his movies zombie movies. He adhered to the traditional description of a zombie and called his creatures undead flesh eaters), there are thrillers (SEVEN, DRESSED TO KILL), which sometimes are mistaken for horror movies. And then there's horror. A movie that starts like a freight train going downhill, slowly at first, then building momentum until it's
If you're not doing this, it's not horror

If you're not doing this, it's not horror
completely out of control and all you can hang do is on for dear life. Horror is not a car crash - boom!, and then it's over. It is a runaway train. Horror starts and never stops. Horror can be have some humor, but only to momentarily break the tension, then start right up with even more intensity. Horror never apologizes, nor is it logical. Horror does not have to be gory. Horror should get you praying, second-guessing yourself, and should make you feel like that five-year-old child again, terrified by the happenings on the screen, and the same time not being able to look away.

Although I enjoy a good Tom Savini gore fest, and will sit through the formulaic scary movie, a true horror movie is indeed a rare gem.

Of course, I could be wrong.

My movie tastes do not dwell on the gourmet horror movie. I prefer my sci-fi and my special effects, and I will sit through (and enjoy) a good animated movie, and even a dumb-ass comedy. This particular monologue is my flavor of the moment. Thanks for letting me vent.

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I Could Be Wrong
Every other Wednesday

Until I find my footing, I'd like to vent on the state of today's movies. I will occasionally praise a movie that piques my fancy. But it's a whole lot more fun railing against a person's work who makes more money on a single project than I would make if I lived 500 years. Oh, I will usually make observations on movies rather than films. The difference? Films are critically acclaimed, while movies are just darned good fun.

Other Columns
Other columns by Spotlight Mike:

Adventures in WonderCon

In Praise of the Movie Producer

The Life of a Film Reviewer



All Columns

Spotlight Mike
Born in the Fifties with an extreme phobia for movies in general, I became obsessed with movies when I broke that phobia with the first movie I actually enjoyed, “The Ten Commandments.” I particularly like the kind of movie where you can put your brain on hold. I get enough reality and drama in my everyday life; I refuse to pay someone to subject me to the same.

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

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