Friday, 21 June 2013

'It wasn't scary enough'

I, like anyone who grew up in the 70s/80s, and who was in to horror, knows Evil Dead. and by knows,  I mean this film, and at least the first of the two sequels, has a very special place in our hearts. It's essential viewing for anyone who wants to be a horror hound. When I bought a projector a couple of years back, this was the first film I watched on it. Quickly followed (in no particular order) by Suspiria, Mad Max, The Crow, Andromeda Strain, House on Haunted Hill, and so on (I was there for quite some time...) Of course, I then had to watch at least Evil Dead 2, but I still love that first film.

Evil Dead is something to love for its brilliance as well as its creakiness. It was made on a tiny budget. Essentially, by a bunch of kids. And it was made with no rules, no restrictions. They just did everything they could with the little they had to make the best damned film they could. And they did.

Evil Dead shocked. Evil Dead disgusted. Evil Dead was banned. Looking at it now, perhaps it was that  infamous scene where the girl gets strung up by the very woods themselves. But that in itself is such a moment of brilliant horror that without it the film would be missing a few teeth. As for the rest of the film, there are points, and many, where the make-up looks like little more than dyed, mashed up cornflakes, felt tip pen and paint. The acting isn't brilliant, but neither is it terrible, something which to my mind adds to it all. It's not in the vein of Blair Witch, where they (apparently) had no idea what was going on. But the actors themselves do feel as though they really are a little unsure about what to expect next. Another thing - it's pretty much a period piece. The style, the fashion, the way it's shot, the vehicle, the cabin, the colours. It takes me back to those early 80s days and I love that.

So anyway, I was chatting to someone who told me they'd seen the new Evil Dead and hated it. I asked why. Their response was 'It wasn't scary'. I asked what they meant. Their response was simply to state, again, that it wasn't scary, with a few additions like, 'it was silly', 'it wasn't realistic', and 'it made me laugh'.

I wonder now what folk want from a horror movie. For me, the Evil Dead remake was nothing short of utterly superb. I loved it. It was a Hollywood horror, and I had a blast! No way? Yes way! Woohoo! It was one of the best 80 minutes I've ever spent in a theatre. Yes, I was nervous about seeing a remake, but I had to give it a go, just had to. And for me, it didn't disappoint. It really didn't. Drag Me To Hell - now that REALLY disappointed. But this was a joy. I could be picky, I could give you things I didn't like, but then that's the same with all movies. No point though. This was a blast of a horror movie. Possibly one of the best to come out of Hollywood, period. And each and every scene bled pretty much literally with such a love for the source material and horror itself that the grin on my face didn't budge once.

Horror isn't just a one trick pony. It's not simply 101 Ways To Die Horribly. It is also suspense, weirdness, pushing boundaries, taking risks, having fun, going a bit too far, making you wince, belly laughs, screams, dread, disgust...

So was Evil Dead scary or not? I'm not sure that's the point. I don't find - and neither do I seek to - all horror films or books scary. Suspiria doesn't scare me, but I love each and every frame of that movie. House on Haunted Hill is genuinely creepy, but that it's black and white would probably rule it out for those who only see horror as an experience in getting sliced and diced. Hit List is still one I struggle with because on the one hand it was brilliant, and on the other I just didn't enjoy it. Martyrs is one of the best horrors I've ever seen. It is equally one of the most violent, disturbing and bleak films I've ever witnessed. Then there's books. The scariest book I've ever read is probably Susan Hill's The Woman In Black, a wondrous piece of creepy, haunted prose that I adore. Then there's The Hell Bound Heart by Clive Barker, a violent trip to hell written with such an annoying command of the English language that ever time I read it I learn something new. There's a chapter in Neil Shusterman's Unwind, a teen book, that to this day is the most disturbing, upsetting pieces of work I've ever survived. Let The Right One In, by John Ajvide Lindqvist was so beautiful I read it in two days. Stephen King's Full Dark No Stars contained some absolute gems. And pretty much anything by Jack Ketchum is enough to keep me interested.

Horror is not just about being scared. It is not just about blood. It is not just about vampires or werewolves or chainsaws or ghosts or murderers or psychos or insane children or cults or cannibals or any other of a thousand things. It is all of these and none of them. It is, above all, a genre that at its heart can speak to all people, wherever they are, show them what real darkness is, take them down paths they never thought even existed, hold their hand through the strange and the weird, make them think, make them question, and ultimately change them, even if only in a small way, and also allow them to survive.

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