I love a good horror film. My obsession with Halloween and all things spooky make me more apt to choose a good thriller over a romance movie any day. But there are few horror movies that I really love.
See, I’m picky. Darned picky. Most modern horror movies are pretty much trash in my opinion. They’re chalk-full of in-your-face gore, sex, and Satanic crap that is akin to listening listening to someone speak at yell, or hearing only the symbols clash in a song, or having the lights turned up too bright for a good hour and a half long.
I’m looking for something creeping, like the electric current that runs through your spine when you encounter something truly chilling. Something that is painfully slow and plodding. Something more like the fears we encounter in real life.
Your brain wasn’t meant for too much high stimulation for too long. Which means that if you were actually going through something truly horrific in your real life, your brain would dip in and out of a numbed state.
This is why when you watch a scary movie that is all at one level of terror, you end up getting desensitized to it all. Which means that the next horror movie you watch will need to somehow up the ante. Which is how I’m guessing something as gross as the human centipede was made.
If you really want a good scare, endure the steady, slow, eerie feeling of a classic horror film. Pay attention to the quiet and the pace. Does it remind you of anything?
For me it reminds me of childhood. Of laying in the dark after my parents closed the door and said good night.
At first everything would be fine. I’d think I was safe. Then I’d start to realize it was a bit too quiet. I’d lay there for a long time listening, trying to comfort myself. But that quiet birthed new fears in every little sound or flowing shadow. Was that scratching outside my window really just a tree branch scraping the shutters, or was it something more sinister? The longer I’d lie in the dark listening, the less I could keep my hold on reality. The lack of visuals I had in the dark only made my imagination create steadily more terrifying realities. Until finally I was truly gripped with horror.
If you throw in a wild monstrous demon into a movie and have it tear people to shreds from 15 minutes in, to the last 5 minutes of the film you’re ruining your ability to feel frightened.
But if you spend a whole movie wondering what is really in that darkened room, behind the door, until the climax at the end your fear will have steadily risen to something really horrifying.
I say all of this to explain why films like Hour of the Wolf, really disturb me. It was completely masterful of setting me off my footing from the beginning and keeping me feeling imbalanced and steadily more uneasy as the film moved on. The sounds, the camera angles, the pacing were all perfect in my opinion. That is in no way a surprise considering that Ingmar Bergman directed the wrote the film, while Sven Nykvist took the helm of cinematographer. The artistry in this film stands above so many others. It’s rare to come across a film that is entirely akin to observing a painting or reading a great philosophical work.
If you too are a fan of horror try giving up those gratuitous films and give these creepy ones a go instead. And don’t forget to let me know what you think!
Image via Hour of the Wolf, directed by Ingmar Bergman.