Socrates (artists rendition)
Plato (not actual size)
Preface: A lot of people, okay some people, alright one guy actually asked me: Why do you use so many question marks? Well if you had ever paid attention in school you would know that this Greek guy named Plato wrote about a great teacher named Socrates. Socrates was maybe the greatest teacher ever. He might even have been able to impart some knowledge on you, my poor friend. Well Socrates wanted people to think. He didn’t want to give the students all the answers so he actually asked more questions than he answered; to make you think about stuff. Some naysayers say Socrates didn’t have enough sense to come in out of the rain and he asked all those questions because he really didn’t know anything, but Plato was a pretty reliable guy so we have to give ol’ Socrates the benefit of the doubt. Anyway that’s what I’m trying to do with all these questions, get you to think, and you don’t have to tell me how frustrating that can be. So from now on just pay attention and quit asking all these stupid questions.
Horror films are the pinnacle of modern intellectual entertainment. The highest achievement of art in humankind’s long and dreary history. This isn’t to say that the cinema is the best place to experience the fright, but the modern Digital 3D IMAX movie theater is probably the equivalent of the Roman Coliseum as far as entertainment is concerned. Television, your mega home theater system, where you can sit with your nuts hangin’ out, is of course the best venue for experiencing even the most tedious parlor drama, so horror fare is going to be best there. There is no substitute for fast forward, rewind, pause, freeze frame, and picture-in-picture, so the cineplex is just going to have to ride in the back seat.
How can I make this statement? Well the answer is self-evident but you are a little slow so I’m here to spell it out for all you history and sociology professors.
First let’s take a little quiz. Why do you go to auto races? To see the crashes and drink beer, not to watch cars endlessly go around in circles. Why do we go to the amusement park? To ride the monster upside down backwards 10g roller coaster, not the teacups. Why do we go to the opera? Not for the singing but for the blood and guts, murders and battles. I think I’ve made my point. People likewise go to the cinema not to see some guy play chess with Death or some other guy meet a gal on the Empire State building but to get the bejeezus scared out of them in a gory monster fest of demon mayhem. That’s right, the zenith of cultural entertainment is the horror flick and it has been since the 1930s.
First lets get something right out of the way. Live entertainment, any live entertainment, is inferior entertainment. Why? Because the technology involved is inferior to movies and television. I know I am going to get all sorts of whining about artistic merit but this is Luddite thinking. We live in a technology driven culture and what is more technologically advanced than television, digital cinema, computers, tablets, etc. Nothing except maybe NASA and how many of us are going to get to ride a spaceship in our lifetimes? Besides we don’t have to. With surround sound, subwoofer, 3D giant screen HD TVs you can experience virtual spaceflight in your home without the fear of upchucking your beer and popcorn or being blown to bits, or burning up in the atmosphere. You’re having a good night’s sleep after the Alien chest burster breaks loose.
Who also wants to sit in row 52 in the balcony, wait in line for a seat, wait 10 minutes for the bathroom, or get busted for smoking weed when we can always have a front row seat at home? So now we have eliminated live theater, classical music, ballet, performance art, rock concerts, and mimes, etc. from our menu of preferred entertainment unless we can watch them on TV. I think I’ve made my point.
Why horror you say? I knew your attention span was short, because we’re here for the car crashes, remember? When Tom Hanks is in a film we don’t want to see him acting like a little kid, we want to see him as a prison guard when a swarm of bees come out of a prisoner’s mouth and into another guy. When we see Vin Diesel we don’t want to really see all those fake car crashes and ultraviolent shooting, but we do want to see the lights go out and alien monsters attacking spaceships and astronauts. Again, I think I’ve made my point.
Back to the Coliseum thing. Listen, we are in the modern equivalent now of the decline of the Roman Empire in our cultural history and what did the Romans’ value in their time? Bread and Circuses. Now they didn’t have the luxury of popcorn and horror movies so they had to settle for a sandwich and some lions beating up on Christians or even better some gladiators beating the piss out of each other. See the similarity: lion = monster, Christians = scared teenagers in a cabin. History repeats itself.
Bread and Circuses (Roman Entertainment)
Look how far we’ve come and who’s to say the Roman Empire isn’t something to aspire to? They conquered most of the known world in their time and what are we trying to do today? I rest my case.
On to what is best in horror entertainment. Every artistic era has its good, its bad, its imitators, and charlatans. What is the state of horror films today? Well only so-so I would say including an over-reliance on crappy comic book superheroes. Superheroes are kiddie fare. I don’t want to see ’em fighting my monsters and ghosts. I want to see frightened teenagers victimized by berserk psychopaths or better yet, real monsters.
Evil Dead II (original)
Probably the best movie ever made is Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead II, it includes all the classic horror elements jacked up for the end of the century and Bruce Campbell, the greatest actor of all time is in it. Evil Dead II is the Mona Lisa of film making.
To start with Evil Dead II is really just Evil Dead with better special effects. Now any movie will rise in quality if more technology, for example, special effects, are involved. So Evil Dead II has to be better than Evil Dead by definition, no argument there. So what are the elements that make it so good. This is going to take awhile so sit back.
The Dutch Masters of Film Sets
Teenagers in a cabin in the woods cut off from any rescue or escape, the pinnacle of horror setups. Next we have the menace of the invisible unknown demon. Next we have a demonic murder and burial. Then we have demonic possession. Now we have the monsters themselves. We have blood shooting out of walls, possessed body parts, rednecks, shotguns, the undead, and the ubiquitous chainsaws. See why this is a classic? In the end we see a hole into another universe open and deposit Campbell complete with car and shotgun in Medieval times. What artist has ever included all the elements for his/her field of art in one masterpiece? None before! The fact that there was a 2013 reboot speaks for itself as far as classic is concerned. How many times has Citizen Kane been rebooted? ‘Nuff said.
So go see the new Vin Diesel flick Riddick right now. See the under appreciated Drag Me to Hell . See the Evil Dead reboot. See the most excellent Cabin in the Woods, perhaps the greatest monster fest of all times.
You will finally be contributing to modern culture as well as being entertained and if your hoity-toity artist friends demean your tastes, leave ’em off the invitation list.