Thursday, January 06, 2005

Horror films

Al over at Hear the Hurd posts a list of his top 20 horror films, with quite a bit of commentary. It's an interesting list which does rather pose the question, what is horror? I'll return to that in a moment.

Of the 20 in his main list (he does make a few honourable mentions) I have watched the grand total of 4. They are The Exorcist, Scream, Alien, and Jaws (though for Jaws it is more accurate to say I have seen all the film at one time or another, just never at the same sitting). Now, on one level this does not surprise me because I just don't watch that many films anyway, and horror films tend not to be high on my list anyway. Indeed, 3 of those I have watched are not really what I would call conventional horror. I think it is interesting that two of those (Jaws and the Exocist) top Al's list.

What do I think is "conventional horror" - perhaps "popular horror" would be a better term - well Scream seems to sum it up. A film I would never have watched on my own accord, but did because friends badgered me into going. I have as little desire now to see some of the other films on the list however as I have ever done. I am sure they are good works, but there is something about what I perceive as a mostly 'blood-shock-gore' class of films that just doesn't do anything for me. Of course, my perception could be entirely wrong, but there it is.

Jaws, Exorcist, and Alien don't, for me, fall into that category, though all have elements of blood, shock, and gore. For me though it takes those elements into fresh territories - the sea, religion, space. Perhaps that explains why horror films don't mean that much to me, it is because the images don't mean anything whereas sea-stories, religious stories, and space stories are three of my favourite kind of stories.

I would put Exorcist on a pedastal though, above Jaws and Alien. Jaws is a fine film, and the ending (which have seen plenty of times) is masterful. But it is, in its way, entirely 'natural'. Alien is another fine film, but the alien, though hostile, is again for me 'natural'. In the Exorcist one encounters a portrayal of Evil. Not evil as in the twisted works of man, curses, or whatnot, but Evil, malevolent and pitiless. Of course, I don't have any desire to watch the Exorcist ever again: it is in some respects too powerful a film.

I'm not really sure where this lands me in the question I asked at the beginning: what is horror? I just know what I, if not precisely like (I do not precisely like the Exorcist after all), know to be fearful. Or something. If you can make sense of this, you're doing better than me.

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