There are some that regard that gore is what makes horror. Without gore there would be no horror. I understand why they’d think that way, as most of the recent horror movies since the 70’s or so are far more gore centric that the monster horror movies of old. Rather than having horror vie subtle nuances and showing less for more, slasher movies have progressively showed more and more blood and guts as the time has gone by.
Horror, as dictionary puts it, is an overwhelming and painful feeling caused by something frightfully shocking, terrifying, or revolting. Gore indeed in most cases can cause the forementioned emotions. However, I have little doubt that we all can agree on the fact that what we find horrifying is completely subjective. What one might find horrifying is just another daily thing for another person. There’s a reason why you won’t ever see frogs in this blog. I find them very normal and I have no qualms in handling one, but a person I have high regards of can’t handle frogs that well. This person is literally horrified by said animals.
I get a painful feeling from needles, but I am not horrified by them. Similarly I have no qualms of seeing guts and blood, by I have no desire to see them either. To me gore has always been a weak way out to create cheap feeling of horror. Certainly it hits the primitive fears all humans have and makes our instincts kick in. It should be an effective method, but as most movie goers have already become numb to the effect, it ends up being pathetic to the point it draws out laughter rather than fear. Indeed, there are slew of movies, especially exploitation movies, that overuse gore to that point knowingly.
Same with darkness. Movies and games have been using darkness effectively for decades now, tapping the primal fear of unkown, but just as with gore, darkness has been overblown to the point that we can’t see what we’re supposed to be horrified of. Perhaps the best examples of this change is the Doom game series. The first two Doom games and their additional packs use darkness very sparingly and contain a lot of lit areas and only few completely black areas. Original Doom is frightening as the player has limited resources all around, and the sounds the demons make is rather startling. They’re there, but you don’t know where. Doom 3 was supposed to be a perfect evolution of this form, but the stages are literally too dark to be seen at all. The feeling of fear soon dissipates as the feeling of frustration takes over. The atmosphere in Doom 3 is ruined by the simple reason the game is too black. The same can be said of horror movies. While “less is more” is very effective in horror, JAWS did it right. They only showed the shark completely at the very end and in very dramatic way. Same with Alien and Predator. However, these movies are quite well lit in all actuality and you can see the setting very well, and in the end the monsters lurking in the shadows. Horror movies have had similar change as Doom series had that they’ve become so dark that you can barely see anything, and if they add light it’ll be that flickering light that causes headaches rather than tension.
When things get ordinary, they lose their power to scare people. There is a reason why films like Dracula, Frankenstein, King Kong and Godzilla do not horrify us anymore. They’ve been around us enough time so that they’re ordinary. The shock value they once had has dissipated and thus gore and its shock value.
However, take a look at the Godzilla picture I provided above for a few minutes.
While it seems like something that could be in pretty much anywhere, the longer you watch the image and consider it something will startle you a bit. The shapes are familiar, there are things that should not be there and things are just plain wrong. It’s subtle, but ‘that Godzilla just ain’t right.’ To those who are horrified by death would never want to know that this particular Godzilla image depicts Heisei Godzilla in its final moments when its heart is going into nuclear meltdown; its dying and its going to take the world with it. The death is not a pleasent one, as during the mealtdown all of Godzilla’s flesh will literally boil and burn off while the radioactive fire will consume the insides, ultimately bursting out and killing the creature.
Nuclear accidents are not fiction. Japan still has Fukushima’s situation to deal with and it’s reality. Nuclear threat is something only selected people in the world live through. It’s a real life horror that we, as people who have never witnessed or experienced it, can’t understand by the least.
Godzilla represents this horror, even if Toho themselves have forgot it. In any of the Godzilla movies there is very little gore. The horror comes from elsewhere and has very specific audience. While monster movies became their own genre as time went by, most people still regard that at least the original film is a horror film. Whether or not I am to ever experience nuclear disaster, I know I will be horrified; I know what kind of aftereffects H-bombs and meltdowns have had, and I would never want to see them in real life not experience them. Still, they’re always there, no matter how I want to think otherwise. Godzilla, even if its a man in a rubber suit, is a face given to those horrors.
Perhaps this is one reason I don’t care for modern horror. They have no values other than shock value gore. They’re laughable and bad. They’re not laughably bad like Space Thunder Kids or the Entrails of a Virgin, they’re just bad. The horror they give out tries to strike out, but they’re weak in this regard and the only thing they give to the audience is cheap scares and loss of money. Movie series that try to hit a psychological point like Cube are more repulsive than horrifying, but never a painful one. If repulsion is a mark of horror, then every road kill I see is a mark of horror. This is not the case.
I’d like to divide slasher movies apart from horror movies, but thats’ completely bullshit and I know it. Horror, as a genre, has a large amount of sub-genres like any other genre.
In what modern horror movies success in is atmosphere. However, more ofthen than not this atmosphere is ruined by the cheap scares and general blackness of the films’ parts. The pressing atmosphere in most of modern horror films fo get their audience, but whether or not the pressure disspites really depends on the watcher. However, in general scale movies have gone downhill, and this applies to horror movies as well. Films directors are less subtle than previously as film technology has advanced. There where lighting was used to make threatening shades and hidden lives, CGI shadows are used and transformed objects. However, as said, when things become daily…
Where am I going with this? Horror is, and always will be, about subtle remarks to those things that we find horrifying, but only so that we barely notice them. If I may be cynical for a moment here, I’d argue that modern movie audience (and game audience) in general is unable to notice these subtle nudges and wants direct and straightforward in-your-face splatter that they call “horror.”Now excuse me, I’m off to enjoy my film.
Hint; this was irony.