I know this isn’t so for everybody; but for some of us, there’s nothing quite so bracing as a good, clean scare–just the thing horror movies were invented to provide. My wife and I both find a good scary movie very relaxing. Sure, it creeps you out for a time: but then it stops! Don’t you wish real-life problems would just stop, roll the credits, and trouble us no more?
Take a classic horror movie like The Uninvited. No cussing, no nudity, no writhing around in the bed–and no blood ‘n’ guts spattered all over the screen. And all the deaths and tragedies involved are in the past (hence the ghosts). It’s in black-and-white, and none of the characters gets killed. It’d be hard to create something less like today’s horror movies; but The Uninvited packs plenty of good, stiff scares. And having Ray Milland, Cornelia Otis Skinner, and Alan Napier in the cast doesn’t hurt, either.
Sometimes we’d like to see a movie that we haven’t seen before. We read the descriptions and rule out the slasher movies. But we still get stung. The last one we saw was supposed to be an H.P. Lovecraft thing, based on one of our favorite Lovecraft stories, The Shadow Over Innsmouth. Back in the 20s and 30s, HPL wasn’t even allowed to write gross-out horror. So his tales rely on true creepiness and weird takes on reality. And never mind! This movie soon degenerated into nudity, physical cruelty, and violence that was so far over the top, it was almost funny. The key word is “almost.”
In the last couple modern horror movies we’ve seen, the story always seems to wind up, “And then everybody got killed in assorted nasty ways!” It’s like the writers walked out halfway through the picture and the director’s 12 and 13-year-old kids had to write the rest of it.
Is this telling us something about our culture, that can’t even crank out a proper ghost story anymore?
I think so.