Right around this time of year I start to loose all of my free time. I’m directing a musical in South Jersey, I have my church singing job, and between all of that and regular work I just don’t have a lot of time for things. I do however try to make time to watch movies. After a lot of deliberation my pick for the horror movie of the year is in.There are a lot of horror movies out there and I don’t pretend like I watch all of them. Some of them I skip because I know from the director/trailer I won’t like them. Others it’s the company that makes them (Sorry, but I absolutely HATE all Troma movies they are just awful), so I will be the first to admit that this pick doesn’t come from 100s of hours watching movies. However I have watched a significant amount of horror, and I feel like I have a very good grasp of what makes a good horror movie.
This year’s winner: Insidious
Out of all of the horror movies I have watched this year I found Insidious to be my favorite. It is a delightful blend of tension and whimsical fantasy that results in a very good film. It finds a good balance between having some scary moments, some overarching horror themes and a little blend of drama.
The film centers around the ideas of ghosts and astral projection. The first half of the film really goes heavy with the ghost theme with lots of seemingly unconnected beings tormenting the main characters. Then there is a bit of a transition and the film takes more of a fantasy feel on with people leaving their bodies, traveling to purgatory ( called the “further”) which results in a climactic ending.
I’m not going to sit here and say that the ending isn’t a bit predictable and some of my friends who have watched it didn’t like the 2nd half of the film at all, but personally I liked the movie because it does something very few movies do anymore: Tells a story! How many times do you walk into a horror movie and it’s scare scare scare OMG PLOT TWIST. There’s no story it’s a rationale for the scary things happening. I felt like this movie, with some admitted predictability, just told a good rendition a classic scary story. About things that exist outside of our perception, and in some cases they can cross over. Today’s horror movies really fail when it comes to story telling and this was one rare exception.
Just to explain how I approach horror movies
The number one thing people always say about horror movies is “eww it sucked because it wasn’t scary.” To me, evaluating a horror movie based on whether or not it scares me is just a really stupid way to approach it. Of course no movie is really going to be scary, especially considering how desensitized we are to violence and horror today. Going into a movie expecting to be scared is just a big setup for disappointment. Not to mention most movies that go for the intense scare fail miserably at keeping you engaged. Adding lots of blurry-cam and loud sounds is just a cheap way to make people feel nervous.
I also think that people who measure horror movies by the amount of gore are a little sad. Fake blood does not a movie make. Take Saw for example. First movie – excellent. What followed was a 6 or 7 ( I can’t remember how many they’ve made and I’m too uncaring to look it up) absolute garbage fests where the directors and writers just tried to one up each other in how gross they can make a movie. Sorry to say but after the first movie Saw became nothing more than a sophomoric middle school attempt at making people say “Ewww”
To me what makes a good horror movie is tension and release. That feeling of unease when watching it. Thinking about how I would react when I’m in that situation. Even some sense of believability can go a long way into setting the stage for a great horror film.