Movie Column: Don’t look under the bed, don’t split up, don’t spend your money

Posted on Jan 25 2013 - 6:53am by Lacey Russell

Do you ever feel like we are seeing the same thing over and over again when it comes to horror movies?

As a lover of horror movies, I can’t help but wonder why 90 precent of the films that have come to theaters in the past decade are remakes or sequels.

“Psycho,” “Halloween,” “Friday the 13th,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “The Amityville Horror,” “The Omen,” “The Fog,” “The Shining,” “Frankenstein,” “The Grudge,” “The Last House on the Left,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “House of Wax” – any of these sound familiar? That is because all these films endured a crappy remake, and now even “Evil Dead” is being remade.

Should we be remaking these films? We keep recycling watered-down versions of classic horror films, and what does this say about our society’s creativity? Critical theorists would say that rather than trying to provoke audience interest, filmmakers only produce media that is expected; they make what sells, and we “buy” it. We, as consumers, perpetuate this lack of creativity without realizing it.

We even spend money on horror movies simply to make fun of them, whether they live up to the original or not.

Many horror films have multiple remakes and sequels, reproducing the same thoughts repeatedly with little variation in plot, tone or sets. These films have become fairly predictable and perpetuate stereotypical ideology.

Examples are the overly dramatic, less-than-intelligent female and the white male who is unwavering in his leadership and strength. While we may think we have a choice about which movie to watch, all these movies are, in the end, the same.

Horror flick fans seem to prefer the original over the remake, and rightly so. I believe that many classic horror movies that have been remade have not kept the integrity of the original movie.

I respect Rob Zombie as an artist, but the new “Halloween” remake was almost blasphemous. In John Carpenter’s original “Halloween,” the mystery of Michael Myers is what captured audiences: It was a straightforward story about a huge guy who could not be killed. In Rob Zombie’s remake, he tries to explore Myers’ past and childhood and tries to almost justify Myers’ serial murders by adding a troubled home and hateful bullies. Giving the killer an elaborate, layered backstory makes the audience sympathize with him and ultimately makes him less threatening.

Also, films today are produced in such high definition that they don’t leave much for the imagination.

Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” is one of the scariest films of all time, but the audience barely sees any violence throughout the film. It’s all implied and left up to the imagination. We only hear the well-written dialogue and see the faces of the actors who portray some of the most riveting characters ever written.

The masters of horror could barely afford expensive equipment to film their movies when they made their classics. The original “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” “Halloween” and “The Amityville Horror” were grainy and shaky and felt like documentaries or home movies; now it’s a commonly used technique.

Much like revealing an elaborate backstory, seeing everything in perfect definition diminishes the illusion and ultimately cheapens the experience of a film. The gritty, raw aspect of a movie makes it feel possible, as if I, myself, am witnessing a murder or a kidnapping or a beating. But the hyper-real images, complex camera techniques and overelaborate deaths and stunts make the film seem fantastical, ridiculous and even laughable. The movies may be entertaining, but, ultimately, they’re not scary.

Allowing your imagination to fill in the blanks is much more terrifying than seeing everything in an obnoxious form. In this case, less is more.

I reiterate: I love scary movies, and I am an enormous fan. I just think we should encourage more creative films – like “The Cabin in the Woods,” “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Zombieland” –  and stop revamping films that have been done too many times.