Friday, November 13, 2009

Psychological vs. Physical

While listening to an interview with Kim Newman that appeared in The Agony Column some years ago (a database crash with iTunes has me listening to stuff I missed the first time around and re-listening to stuff again) I was struck by something: what makes a better horror movie? Gore? Suspense? Psychology? (Newman was talking about various films, as well as his books, and seemed to like those that infer blood more than those that show it.)

"Suspense" is probably a bad term because "gore" can give you a feeling of suspense (as you wait for the next bucket of blood) and psychology can give you a feeling of suspense. So let's just look at those two.

I'm thinking of The Young Lady here. She sat through the Jurassic Park movies (at a pretty young age). She has seen the various Walking With... television shows. She has seen Indiana Jones (but not Temple of Doom yet) and Star Wars movies. Probably the Jurassic Park flicks had the most gore...but they never really scared her.

On the other hand...she left the room when I watched The Haunting (the original, don't even bother to mention the remake, piece of garbage that it was), a movie without a drop of blood to be seen. The sewer tunnel sequence in Them! also drove out of the room.

Which is scarier? The original The Haunting when Eleanor is in bed, hears noises, looks at the plaster and thinks somebody is holding her hand? Or The Shining, when the elevator doors open and buckets and buckets and buckets of blood flood the corridor?

Me, I think The Haunting was a much scarier movie. The Shining had its moments ("Here's Johnny!"), but the scariest moment in that movie, to me, was when Jack Nicolson was in the empty hotel bar, said "I need a drink" and looked find a bartender there. Real? A ghost? Totally in his imagination?

Is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre really scary or just a bad comedy at this point? Do the Saw movies scare you or have you gotten bored with them? What stands the test of time...showing a ghost or buckets of blood or hinting at the horrors that lie beyond the camera?

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