ALWAYS KEEPING AN EYE ON HOLLYWOOD!!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

JOHNNY CHAZZ' TURN: EVIL LURKS IN DARKNESS= SUSPENSE VS. SHOCK!

JOHNNY CHAZZ: Who isn't terrified of the dark? October is upon us now and shadows quickly transpose into 3-dimensional forms. But, what's crucial to remember is that Directors and Screenwriters are well aware that it is not so much the darkness that frightens us, but the possibility of what terrors lie within and beneath that frighten us to a cold chill.

Many of us film-goers are addicted, in a sense, to the dual nature of being scared (whether it be shock treatment or simply a matter of suspense) - a double edged sword per se. Being scared in a movie house or simply watching your DVD or Blu-Ray in the dark at home can be a riveting experience producing a real tangible rush. On the other hand, it can be enough to truly shock you to the point of becoming numb and having images planted in your mind during the journey home. Unlocking your door and taking that first step into your house or apartment can be a daunting task and is not advised for the faint of heart. Horror movies really do have this impact (as well as suspense films when properly executed).

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY
There are so many classic films that play upon our inherent fears of the dark and the unknown. "Psycho" and "The Exorcist" are classics that should only be watched with friends. "Halloween" also plays on darkness and the sets never really offer the audience relief from this type of imagery. "Friday the 13th" plays upon the old slasher film with teens who blindly walk right into trouble without thinking of the possible repercussions. "Suspiria", "The Shining", "The Omen" and perhaps even the recent "Paranormal Activity" could also be among your list for this coming Halloween film viewing party.

It is human nature to want to control your surroundings. Horror films contradict that and keep us not only on our toes, but keep us off-balance as well fear the dark and what lies behind the next corner. Still, it is so important to remember that the idea of "shocking an audience" is short-lived and is quickly dissipated. Suspense, however, not only lingers on and on, but also builds character allowing us to grasp a further understanding of what this character is all about. The bottom line is that when ‘suspense’ is properly carried out (even in the horror genre) – “The Exorcist”, “Suspiria” and “The Shining” are probably prime examples of this, the audience reaction is all-together different and the impact that the film makes is 10X that of the effects of the ‘shock’ element.

This is the point of discussion for Cinema: Counterpoint this week. Which element of horror is desired by movie-goers today? Do they want the "shock" treatment leaving them in a constant state of anxiety during the film, or do audiences really prefer the inherent nature of the classic suspense-horror film that leaves them with a terror that lasts long after the film is over? Sounds obvious really, but the debate has long been bandied back and forth.

So, let's put this to the test: I will choose five (5) outstanding suspense/horror films and compare their ratings to five (5) outstanding shock/horror films and see where the total score falls. The winner will become my selection for the best type of sub-genre for horror films of the past, present and near future.

THE EXORCIST
CHAZZ'S TOP-5 SUSPENSE / HORROR FILMS:

1. "The Exorcist" - Rating: 9.5/10

2. "The Shining" - Rating: 8.5/10

3. "Suspiria" - Rating: 8/10

4. "Silence of the Lambs" - Rating: 8/10

5. "Jaws" - Rating: 8/10

*** TOTAL = 42 points (Please note that films such as "Vertigo" and "Zodiac" and "Paranormal Activity" were also considered in this category.)

John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN
CHAZZ'S TOP-5 SHOCK / HORROR FILMS:

1. "Halloween" - Rating: 8.5/10

2. "House of 1,000 Corpses" - Rating: 8/10

3. "Saw Series" - Rating: 7.5/10

4. "Nightmare on Elm Street" - 7/10

5. "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" - 6.5/10

*** TOTAL = 37.5 (Please note that films such as "Black Christmas" and "Candyman" were also considered in this category.)

Well, it looks like the suspense / horror films have the edge by an average rating of nearly a point for every movie. This of course is the opinion of one critic.


What does Jer have to say? Does he feel that the slasher-horror films gain the edge at this time of year? Does he prefer the focus on suspense over the shocker films? We shall wait in suspense...

JER: Wait no more, let me ‘kill’ the suspense right here and now and I’ll ‘slash’ any doubts one might have over which side may prevail.

To begin with, this is a very intriguing topic and a point of view that could be generally ignored by most…even though it is an obvious illustration of two definitive sides to the reflection of what makes an audience enjoy the sweaty palms and the quickening of a heartbeat!

I have had this very same discussion with many fans of the genre and I believe, JC, that we have had this talk as well once or twice before...


Horror: EVIL DEAD 2
“Horror,” as the word describes, is more about what can be visually seen on the screen to get a reaction out of an audience based of the level and graphic content of violence. This can be categorized by the amount of blood and/ or gore allowed as well as monstrous/ demonic displays by way of subject and/ or categorization on screen. 
Suspense: DRESSED TO KILL

“Suspense,” by my interpretation, is defined as the building up of events or situations that are either uncontrollable or unaware to our protagonist. At times, the audience might be invited to view that a murderer is waiting in a room while we follow the victim down the hall that will lead into the room a we anticipate the character’s fate. Another view would be the unsuspecting standpoint of not knowing what might await us and the victim around every corner…we are just as oblivious as the character is.

Now, at the risk of not sounding repetitive, I am purposely going to elect 5 different films to rank within each category. This will allow the reading audience a wider range of films to present as potential varieties to select and possibly view. I give you...

JER’S TOP 5 SUSPENSE/ HORROR FILMS:

5. STAY ALIVE – 7/10: Released in 2006, the story involves 4 teens that play an interactive video game about murder within a haunted house… only to find that the characters they play could spell life or death for them in real life. A very creepy and entertaining film!

4. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY – 7.5/10: In the vein of ‘realistic documentation,’ the audience becomes the voyeur into a young couple’s life as they use a video camera to record the possible haunting in their home.

3. TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1973) – 8.5/10: The original Tobe Hooper directed chiller definitely follows the guidelines of ‘less is more’ when it comes to imagination as apposed to blood and gore. The ‘based on a true story’ liner follows a van full of 20- somethings as they drive through the back roads of Texas only to confront a family of flesh-eaters.

2. JEEPERS CREEPERS – 8/10: A well- crafted ‘edge of your seat’ thriller that follows a brother- sister road trip home from spring break that is interrupted by a menacing driver that may not be human! The ‘creeper’ feeds for a number of days every 23 years!

THE STRANGERS
1. THE STRANGERS – 9/10: The definitive homage to the suspense- filled days of using sound effects like heavy door knocks, trash cans thrown against the outside wall, door creeks and other tricks of the trade to create a threatening environment. A young couple’s lives are threatened by three masked individuals that cause disruption with no explanation as to why! A true suspense film in every sense of the word!
*** TOTAL= 40 even points (note that my runner- ups would have included John Carpenter’s THE FOG)

JER’S TOP 5 SHOCK/ HORROR FILMS:

5. HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II – 7.5/10: A true gore-fest from writer Clive Barker. A true sequel that picks up where the original HELLRAISER left off… this time, the evil and conniving Cenobites lure the puzzle box player into their world to play by their rules…which are non- existent.


Jer with Make-Up Artist: RICK BAKER
 4. AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON – 8.5/10: The first ever horror film to win an Academy Award for Best Make- Up effects went to Rick Baker for his outstanding work within the werewolf transformation and other creature effects that spook- up this grim comedy. Two American college boys, back- packing their way through Europe, ignoring the remote tavern folks' warnings about sticking to the roads and bewaring the moors come face- to- face with their attacker leaving one of them ‘un-dead’ and the other anticipating what awaits him on the next full moon.

3. THE THING (1982) – 9/10: The John Carpenter re-make to the classic 1951 film centering on a group of scientists conducting research in the Antarctic are joined by a shape- shifting creature that can perfectly imitate anything it wants… even humans.

2. TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (2003) – 8/10: Although not something you will hear me say, this re-make proves to be worthy and done with great detail and exhausting amounts of tension and gore to appease anyone’s hardcore appetite! Bravo!


HOSTEL
1. HOSTEL – 9/10: A nail- biting, slow tension- building, blood- drenched, R- rated film that lives up to the expectations of why the ratings system had a field day with categorizing and rating the film properly! A clincher of a film by maverick director/ writer Eric Roth brings us into the world of two college friends who befriend a third while traveling through Europe. Upon arriving at an inexpensive hostel in Slovak, they hear the tail of a small village where paradise awaits in the form of drugs, alcohol and women! Without hesitation, they arrive by metro train expecting Eden… only to find that a living hell of torture and suffering awaits them! In my opinion, a relentless and thought- provoking film that completely took me by surprise… even with the de-sanitation of horror films!

***TOTAL= 42 points (note that my runner- ups included 30 DAYS OF NIGHT and EVIL DEAD 2)

My results seemed to have favored ‘shock’ over ‘suspense,’ beating it by 2 points. As much as I love both genres of ‘horror,’ I think my points reflected my early love for make- up and special effects since the age of 13. I believe that I have been able to really appreciate all aspects of what goes into the making of a horror film. Timing is essential in regards to building up the suspense when creating a scene or simply timing with how much violence is either too much or too little.

JOHNNY CHAZZ: Horror and Suspense are well defined here Jer and I must agree with your take on each. Now, in response to your selections for your top-5 horror / shock films: “Hostel” as a 9/10 is intriguing and it is interesting to see that it makes #1 on your list. 42 points to 40 is also worth noting which basically states that you slightly prefer the horror-shock sub genre to the suspense- based horror films. Still, I know that you are a fan of both especially with such titles as "The Strangers" and "Paranormal Activity" making your list. I also am well aware of your passion for make-up and special effects, but was surprised to see other films such as "The Exorcist" and "Jaws" not make your list.

Hitchcock's REAR WINDOW
 Suspense requires a bit more attention to details in writing, set design, character motivation, lighting and sound. They also require a solid foundation and footing in terms of plot with a story that leads to a meaningful and climactic finale. Films such as "Vertigo" and "Taxi Driver" as well as "Rear Window" are also outstanding examples of this suspense sub-genre done right. Classic scenes from "When a Stranger Calls", "Nosferatu" and "The Omen" are also types of films that offer a level of suspense that makes for a memorable, yet disturbing picture.

Perhaps this is why I prefer this type of sub-genre to the likes of the shock-horror segment. It simply seems to have more substance and requires the film-goer to actually become deeply involved with the characters and events on the screen.

Nonetheless, a fun topic this week and now we leave it to our readers to decide what element of the horror-genre they prefer. Until next week when Jer "shocks" us with another topic in the horror genre during this month of October on Cinema: Counterpoint. SEE YOU NEXT WEDNESDAY!

Have you visited the official CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT page on YOUTUBE? Check out classic and contemporary trailers, scenes and other great trips down memory lane! Just click the link and check out the "Favorites" on our site! Enjoy!

7 comments:

  1. The "Hostel" films left images that still burn in my memory to this day (I've only seen each of them once!). Out of nowhere, a scene will pop into my head and I think, "Damn thoes stupid movies, they still haunt me"!
    One of my favorite suspense films (I guess you call it that?)that I did not see on either Jer or Johnny's list is "The Blair Witch Project". That movie left so much to the imagination, that I think it's level of suspense depends on the idividual watching the film. Anyway, really enjoying the month of October's blogs. Keep up the good work gentelman! ;-)
    SCH

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  2. Thanks SCH,

    HOSTEL is a very disturbing film and I can see what you are saying about images burned into ones head. BLAIR WITCH almost made my suspense list, but I felt there were other films slightly more so... thanks for sharing and please keep coming back for more!

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  3. Love the site guys and would like to toss in a few movies of my own for this genre of horror and suspense. "Village of the Damned", "The Ring" and "The Entity" and some that I always liked and I plan to watch them again this Halloween. - April

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  4. the exorcist is for sure the best horror movie ever. i don'tknow how any movie can come close to how great this movie was. Oliver(Visalia, CA)

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  5. Thank you April and Oliver for your comments!

    April: I am glad you are loving the site as much as we are loving putting it all together weekly! Great choices on your end! I remember being quite creeped out when THE ENTITY first came out!

    Oliver: You are so right on your comments about THE EXORCIST... it is very timeless in the horror aspect and cannot be topped for the realistic and frank manner to which the approach was taken! Bravo!

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  6. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT KINDA GAVE ME A HEADACHE WHEN I WATCHED IT. THOSE KINDS OF MOVIES SHOT WITH HANDHELD CAMS ARE SICKENING TO WATCH AND JUST PLAIN STUPID. PARANORMAL ACTVITY WAS LIKE THAT TOO. DEREK (SAN DIMAS, CA)

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  7. Hi Derek, you bring up a very interesting angle on this because I know of people who cannot watch these kind of films or 3D for the same reasons! I knew people who didn't like CLOVERFIELD for that same style of photography...it seems to be the new trend for now and it looks like others are on the way.
    Thank you again for sharing this with others who may feel the same as you do!

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