Or: Ahhhh Vs. Ugh.
I’ve said this in past reviews, and I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but I thought that it would be useful in clarifying what I mean:
Gore is not a substitute for horror.
The two certainly aren’t mutually exclusive; in fact, lots of horror movies can be considered gory. However, not all gory movies should be considered horror films. The two are both purposefully crafted to invoke a physical response from the audience, but these responses are very different.
In a horror film, there are moments that trigger your fight or flight reflex. You cover your eyes, look away and feel discomfort because of the adrenaline that has started pumping. It’s this suspense, this reaction where the dark part of your brain feels like you’re in danger just through empathy for the characters, which makes a horror movie great. Don’t get me wrong: A lot of supposed horror movies fail to do this. When a film does manage to invoke this response, though, you’ll know it, because you’ll start telling yourself to calm down.
Gory films invoke a very different, yet equally disturbing response. Your stomach starts to feel hollow. You get a slight feeling of dread, not for the sake of the character, but for the sake of being subjected to the aftermath of what happens to the character. In the end, you might wind up an emotionally drained mess because you’ve tried so hard to separate yourself from what’s happening on the screen. The audience isn’t necessarily afraid of what’s going to happen so much as it is disturbed by the imagery that follows.
Like I said, the two are not mutually exclusive. There are plenty of terrifying movies that feature either gory imagery or disturbing concepts. Look at last year’s smash hit Sinister, which featured films depicting families being murdered. But more often than not, it showed the protagonist’s reactions to these films, creating an emotional connection with him and investing the audience in the character. On top of that, just trying to imagine what he was seeing is probably more disturbing that anything Hollywood could throw at you (well, with the exception of the recent Evil Dead film).
So, what do I mean about gory movies that’s aren’t scary? Well, the best example I can come up with is Eli Roth. His first film, Cabin Fever, was a perfect example of this (we can talk about the Hostel movies later). It was disturbing, it was bloody, it was gory as hell, but it wasn’t really scary. It’s one of those movies that appeals to a small group of fans who have affectionately been dubbed “gore-whores.” I’m personally not a card-carrying member of the group, and I do my best to avoid films that use gore for gore’s sake. Does this make me a total wuss? Maybe, but at the same time I think that this approach to filmmaking is overly self-indulgent. It’s like the director is challenging himself not to make a movie that’s good, but rather make one that goes too far. Personally, I would rather watch a movie that leaves me jumping at shadows (this year’s Mama, for example) than a movie that makes me think twice about ordering the chili fries.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not trying to offend anyone here (well, maybe Quentin Tarantino’s goon, Roth). People who love bloody, disgusting movies are welcome to them, but don’t try to tell me that that’s the reason they are scary. Understand that there is a tremendous difference between blood and fear. Some of the scariest movies ever made never actually kill a single character on-screen. Horror stems not from the act itself, but the suspense in the moments before the act. Gore stems from the act and the moments after. Horror is for adults, while gore is for frat boys trying to gross each other out (no offense to the ladies that love gore). There’s a maturity that come with horror that gore seems to lack.
That’s my rant for today. Let me know what you think about modern horror and what I consider a sub-genre of it.