Following an anticlimactic cop-out of a “finale” to The Walking Dead last month, I withdrew paid viewership from FOX channel and made some changes to the cable plan. So it was by accident that I channel surfed and landed on CI Network, where real life crimes are recounted and analyzed in edu-documentary style.
Three weeks in and programs such as The First 48, an excellent FBI Criminal Pursuit, and raw-footage centric Real Interrogations have quickly become weekly must-sees. Suffice to say, the hubstation HD is working extra hard and recording on a daily basis.
Apart from real life crimes being darker [thus scarier] than Hollywood fiction or run-of-the-mill soap horror, I could only imagine because they appeal to the couch detective/psychoanalyst in me. But when a random Google search on one of CI’s featured outlaws, Mario Centobie ran up a fascinating article on Cracked.com, I was a little alarmed — at myself — I ended up searching for all 6 parts because they are actually interesting to read.
Why are these urban tales intriguing? Is there a correlation between them and being a horror fan? Also, why hasn’t Hollywood caught on with a film based on Glen Tucker, the plastic surgeon who mutilated his patients for gratification?
According to pop-psych 101, addiction to horror can be explained by the excitation-transfer theory. Basically, some of us are motivated to seek out stimulus that produce pleasurable psychochemical effects — we need to obtain a certain “high” so as to feel satisfied. Therefore, when watching something scary generates adrenaline; the tendency to want scarier, even more terrifying experiences again and again to satisfy the craving steadily increases. I wonder if the same theory explains video game, nicotine or even exercise and gyming addictions. But I digress.
This entry really came about after seeing a backlash on Sightseers at various review sites and IMDB. Some mentioned how morbid, gory or graphic it is. And instantly, the first thing that came to mind was, “Well if you think this is bad, then you really don’t want to see [insert name of fucked up horror film]…”
There are many variations of so-called frightening or terrifying films. Granted negative affect is a subjective concept because what scares one may be vanilla for another, there are certain films imo that cross the line from being plain horror to unforgettable disturbia. The kind that not only raises chemical high, but invokes feverish dread that lingers because something about it activated vivid long-term memory.
I’m not talking about stock horror or positively mundane torture porn with the likes of SAW, Hostel, Scream, Vacancy, The Sixth Sense or Paranormal Activity. But the kind that sometimes I really wish I hadn’t seen in the first place. Disturbing, nightmarish stuff [not necessarily all supernatural] that leave a mark long after all credits are done rolling. For example, Ju-on: The Grudge (according to my friend Micah, an organic badass) has forever changed the way he looks at the bedroom ceiling. It has created the same effect for looking under a creaky bed.
You get the drift.
A SERBIAN FILM
A reviewer once advised against watching by warning “you think you want to see it, but you really don’t” (or something to that effect) and I fully agree. But like an itch that must be scratched, I did and then regretted. This 2010 debut of Srdjan Spasojevic revolves around a washed-out porn star named Milos, who comes out of retirement for a fat paycheck without knowing anything about the film he’d be starring in. By the time he realizes it’s snuff demanding paedophiliac and necrophiliac scenes, all hell has broken loose. A Serbian Film contains too many upsetting elements to describe at length, but forced penetration on a newborn baby and someone’s eye socket were more than enough. Do not feel compelled to watch this apologist (on the basis of political commentary) of a film because it shouldn’t have been made in the first place.
DAWN OF THE DEAD (2004)
With the messed-up above mentioned out of the way, it’s safe to move on to ballsy types by rigorous filmmakers.
One scene in Zack Snyder’s 2004 Dawn of the Dead [being the first zombie flick I saw] left a deep impression: Luda and her zombie baby.
I’ve seen George A. Romero’s original and many zombie films since but none made the same impact.
I had the misfortune of being exposed to this story in a plagiarized telemovie (conceived by an Asian writer-director I interned for in 2003) before the original Thai film credited to Banjong Pisanthanakun even made it across national seas in 2004. According to him, the teleplay was “inspired” after attending a film festival in Thailand.
Nonetheless, it wasn’t execution or treatment that made this film scary. Rather, the idea of an ominous presence in the place you least expect — not floating in a dark corner or lurking under the bed — but sitting on your very own shoulders all along that did. Ick…
This classic from Stanley Kubrick has been lauded and dissected in too many sophisticated narratives to warrant re-emphasis here. In fact, no justification is needed to explain why it made this list. 😀
Apart from Jack Torrance axing down the wooden door, one of the eeriest scenes for me was the Grady girls appearing at the corridor. Beyond formalistic narrative, new documentary Room 237 also delves into alternate layers of ideology embedded in the film as a bonus. It may be worth watching as a companion piece.
This enduring British feature by Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers & Doomsday) about a cave exploration gone wrong for six women is sheer terror and paranoia.
I hid behind the pillow, hit the pause button, winced, shrieked, gasped for air and held my breath many times during its running length of 99 minutes.
Atmospheric claustrophobia in this film remains one of the best and most creative I’ve seen.
I don’t want to write in excess about Hideo Nakata’s Ringu… and how its clever choice of cast [in choosing an unknown dancer-contortionist] to portray Sadako evoked one of the most lasting and iconic imagery in modern horror — that of a long haired woman slowly twitching her way out of the screen and towards me.
DON’T LOOK NOW
Neither do I want to remember this 1973 cult psycho-thriller by Nicolas Roeg. A married couple’s daughter drowns in the lake and they relocate to Venice for a change in scenery. This film succeeds because it exploits recurring colors and visual motifs to condition very subtle associations and infuse dread in the minds of viewers. Their daughter had drowned in a red mackintosh, and the final scene when “the mysterious figure” in a red coat revealed herself almost killed me. Ditto in effect for nightmarish 1968 demonic-horror Rosemary’s Baby, directed by Roman Polanski.
SEUL CONTRE TOUS (I Stand Alone)
Today, there is a wave of New French Extremity sweeping across the art house landscape ranging from revenge to body-horror. But before all that was Gaspar Noé’s transgressive psychological drama, I Stand Alone. Also considered part two of a loose trilogy succeeding Carne and preceding Irréversible, this anarchic film takes a compelling look at extreme psychosis through the mind of a twisted man known only as “The Butcher”. As he raged against society; perverse, violent and delirious virulence repeatedly assault the five senses through frantic voice over. The Butcher roams the underbelly of France in search of “justice” and things culminate in a tragic final act. That narrative was designed to relate with modern society makes it personal, downright insidious and disturbing. Sealed the deal as something I regretted watching.