Initial Thoughts On Horror Movies

A little over a week ago my wife and I went to see Crazy Rich Asians. She wanted to see it because she loves romantic comedies. I was not opposed to seeing it because I had read some good reviews of this movie. And it is a good movie; despite going through the romcom checklist, it feels fresh and is quite entertaining. However, this essay is not about Crazy Rich Asians; I am writing about the previews we saw before the movie and my subsequent thinking since then.

Before the movie there were the requisite 3 or 4 upcoming attractions trailers. I do not remember how many. The previews were almost entirely upcoming romantic comedies or period pieces. I do not remember what they were, except for one. The one I remember was for the upcoming horror movie The Nun.

One reason this trailer was so memorable is that it stood out like a sore thumb. It was a non-sequitur within its lineup. Another reason it was memorable was that there was an effective scare at the end of the trailer. I will not spoil it; anyone with an interest should see it for them self.

Since then, I have been thinking about the horror genre. To begin with, I want to define the horror genre as containing elements from outside of the ordinary world: occult, non-human monsters, strange and evil forces. I am guessing (I have little formal expertise in literature) that generally the horror part of the genre focuses on forces beyond humanity and outside of humanity’s ability to control. Horror, then, is based on the idea that there are forces and beings that humanity is powerless against.

This leaves slasher movies and torture porn out of the running. These movies seem to explicitly state that we are our own worst enemies, but also suggest that this enemy is still defeatable. I suppose that A Nightmare on Elm Street presents a hybrid of horror and slasher movie, but in the end Freddy Krueger is usually defeated; at least until the next sequel.

In the horror genre, the antagonistic person or force is not typically defeated. Nor is the antagonist in these stories typically defeatable. Even if the vessel of the evil is defeated, the knowledge and forces that the villain used to express their villainy remain after their demise. In its essence, horror is about forces that are able to go on about their daily business even if their agents are defeated.

I suppose, then, that the most effective horror movie I have seen in many years is A Serious Man, directed by the Coen brothers. It is not a horror movie per se; it is a comic movie, played for laughs. It does still touch on all of the factors that make a good horror movie. Were the musical cues changed to something more ominous I have no doubt that this would be a horrific movie where we see a man’s life torn apart by forces we cannot comprehend.

The preview for The Nun led me to do a little research. I found out that this movie was part of The Conjuring movie universe. So, I watched The Conjuring. It checks off all the horror movies tropes and clichés. The movie is entirely predictable. However, it is an effective horror movie with lots of tension and some good scares.

This got me thinking about other horror movies I have enjoyed. I decided to write a list of horror movies that I enjoy. This is an initial list, off the top of my head. Inasmuch as possible I am attempting to conform to my stated definition about forces outside of humanity’s control. Though there may be internal inconsistencies at present I will remedy this as I have time to think about the subject. This list is not exhaustive, and I hope it can help others refer me to other movies I have not seen before. Here, in no particular order, are my picks for my favorite effective horror movies:

  • The Exorcist
  • Rosemary’s Baby
  • The Others
  • Alien
  • Night of the Living Dead
  • Hellraiser
  • The Babadook
  • It Follows
  • The Shining
  • Poltergeist

This is not an essay designed to deliver a top ten horror movies list. This is the beginning of me thinking about horror as a mode of storytelling. Movies are the main medium in modern times for telling these stories. I got to thinking about horror as the result of a movie trailer. There are also many written tales of horror that I admire. I will be writing about those as well.

This is less an exercise in essay writing for the general public than it is a method for me to start thinking about horror storytelling. As a result of this I am hoping to write an effective horror story of my own. And for me, the place to start is analyzing the subject at hand to death. I hope you find this journey as enjoyable as I do.

I am back

I like writing. I suppose that one must write occasionally to become a successful writer. For my part I have not been writing on any of my blogs for a long time now. Part of this can be attributed to laziness, part of it to life getting in the way of things, and the largest part to thinking about what I want to do with my life and my writing. I still do not have a definitive answer to what I want to do with my life. However, I do know about a few things I am interested in pursuing. Writing is one of those things.

I have this blog, Leo’s World, that I will use to comment on things generally. My views on conflict resolution and public policy will greatly influence the things I write about. I suppose my love of movies will play a part as well, though I have not been to a theater to watch a movie in a very long time; there is very little that interests me in the theaters these days. That still leaves DVDs, or Blue Ray discs. I guess we will all see what interests me at any given moment. I also have my other blogs, The Digital Guerrilla Project, The NCR 594 Projectand my Photoblog. I will be attempting to add to each of those over the next many years.

The point of this is to get into the habit of writing. Hopefully I will write things that people like, though I do not mind if they don’t like it. Indifference is what I would like to avoid. Wish me luck.

Building an Audience

I have read several books on social media marketing. Many of them offer really good advice that sounds great when you are reading it. Growing an audience for your blog is usually a well covered subject. My difficulty has been trying to put those recommendations into practice.

For example, most of these books tell you to define your market. Figure out who is your perfect reader or follower. Honestly, I don’t know who I am writing my blogs for other than myself. I am writing about some narrow sets of interests that I have, but I really don’t know if there is a natural audience for any of this stuff. Nor am I motivated to find out. I follow my interests and occasionally I write something on my blogs. 

I aspire to writing that can serve a practical purpose for the people who read it.  I want to help people. So, I have a blog about strategy, wisdom, and success. All of these subjects are well covered by many other blogs and writers, and there is a lot of noise to deal with. I am writing what I think, but I can’t quite figure out whether my humble observations are contributing to clarity or just adding more noise to the cacophony.

Even if I am not sure that I am building an audience, I am happy that I can write what I want to write. I like the fact that I am building a store of intellectual capital for use in the future. Whether I am offering brilliance or bullshit, it is my own. If it ever comes up, I would be happy to point out that I have written on whatever subject on my blogs.

Maybe that is how it is supposed to work. I am supposed to write and toil away in obscurity. Then one day a set of outside operators and circumstances will conspire to make me the next internet sensation. My writing will no longer belong to me, but I will be making a shitload of money. Or not. I guess you just have to ride the torpedo to find out where you are going.

On Thinking and Writing

I tend to experience the world cerebrally, so I spend a lot of time thinking. Not just because I am in school. Everywhere, all the time, I am thinking about everything. Sometimes my wife has to ask me if I am thinking about what we are talking about or ignoring her.

Sometimes I even get pretty good ideas. The problem is that I want to continue thinking about them until I feel they are fully formed models that are strong enough to withstand intensive scrutiny. I am learning this doesn’t work well for my career as a blogger.

It seems to me that bloggers, if they want to be good, have to write something more often than once a month or so. I can say, in my defense, that I have no necessity to be a successful blogger. I don’t suffer any for my lack of reliability. But that may be part of the problem.

I would like to be a successful writer. I think my blogs, which cover areas that I find interesting, will be helpful in getting me there. Now I just need to do the writing.

Wish me luck.