OPINION: Horror Movies Deserve Your Respect | Opinion
Editor’s Note: There are spoilers in this column. So… be warned.
When people think of ways to describe the horror genre in a movie, the first words that come to their mind tend to be like “gore”, “sex” and / or “stupidity”. And while some horror movies definitely play in these tropes, horror movies are way more than they seem.
While Hollywood, in general, has historically danced around concepts and theories relating to sex, gender, race and identity, horror as a genre has never been afraid to address these. front themes.
Consider George A. Romero’s 1968 classic “Night of the Living Dead”. In the movie, the world was taken over by zombies – the movie is credited with developing what we know today as the modern zombie – and at first glance, it seems like a relatively straightforward concept. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. While Romero denies taking race into account when casting his film, it should be noted that Duane Jones, a black man, is playing the lead role.
To dive into spoilers a bit, Jones is as resourceful as they come, surviving all night and putting his life on the line to save the others throughout titular night. In a heartbreaking moment, Jones is gunned down the next morning by a group of rednecks who “mistook” him for a zombie. The social commentary couldn’t be clearer, and it was particularly poignant given that Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated just under six months before the film’s release.
Even movie franchises that you think are stupid often aren’t. It can be confusing to see franchises like “Friday the 13th” or “Child’s Play” get over 10 installments, but their lesser-known sequels often give those who deserve it screen time. Interestingly, 2004’s “Seed of Chucky” explores issues of gender and identity, with the killer doll’s child Chucky not knowing whether he identifies as male or female, and it actually explores how parents react differently to the identity of their child.
Another huge horror franchise, “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” was one of the first major franchises to explore homoerotic themes. 1985’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge” has been dubbed a cult movie for gay audiences and the title character, a male, plays the last girl, a role that has been almost exclusively reserved for women.
While I applaud both of these films, I cannot seriously recommend them for anything other than viewing a case study.
One of the most prolific early slasher films, “The Slumber Party Massacre” of 1982, was one of the first films to explore the horror / comedy genre and was directed and written by two women, which is very rare. for most other genres of films at the time. . Male nudity, still rare to this day, is in the spotlight in this fundamentally feminist film.
“Jennifer’s Body” from 2009, starring Megan Fox, is another feminist film that goes unnoticed. “The Slumber Party Massacre” and “Jennifer’s Body” were both directed by women, and both also suffered from interference in the studio blurring the visions of the respective directors. “Jennifer’s Body”, in particular, suffered from false advertising. I wouldn’t blame you for originally thinking the film was a cheap attempt to cash in on Fox’s popularity and appearance. I canceled it for this exact reason, but the movie is so much more than that. “Jennifer’s Body” is not just a feminist work, but it is full of homoerotic undertones – which would otherwise be ostracized by the mainstream media at the time.
Horror films have not been afraid to address themes of feminism from their inception. The film often dubbed the first slasher movie, 1974’s “Black Christmas,” features an almost exclusively female cast and even touches on topics such as abortion. One of my personal favorites, 1979’s “Alien” features perhaps the most badass woman’s film ever in Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley.
Today’s horror / thriller films have become more evident in their transmission of social themes. Jordan Peele’s 2017 classic “Get Out” and his follow-up film “Us” (2019) are clear in their themes of covert racial discrimination or commentary on class disparity. And you can’t get more mainstream than Bong Joon-ho’s 2019 Best Picture winner “Parasite”.
People also apparently sleep over the time and effort it takes to create an effective horror movie. The makeup artists who fabricate the horrific killings you see in the movies deserve a lot more credit than they get. Guys like Tom Savini are real geniuses, while directors like Ari Aster and Robert Eggers are great at creating spooky sets and finding ways to characterize and villain the environments their films are set in.
One of my favorite examples of great cinematic techniques can be found in the little-known 2009 horror film “The House of the Devil”. Sound design is an underrated component of cinema, and “La Maison du Diable” masterfully finds a way to frighten its audience without showing anything scary on screen until the very end. It’s intense and a real thrill the whole way.
If you are interested in learning more about critical analysis of cinema, the North Carolina State Department of English offers Film Studies courses as well as Film Majors and Minors.