Thursday, August 25

Re: "Slashers: Why The Bad Rap?"

Tom Hutchinson, don't you dare question him.
That very question has just been posed over at the great Planet of Terror and the answer is simple. Utter snobbery. But not just toward slashers, but to the modern horror era generally considered sparked by Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in 1974 with H.G. Lewis pissing gallons of blood in the waters a decade earlier. The old guard's fans hated, and perhaps still hate, their Draculas, mummies, and ghouls becoming irrelevant to moviegoers.

Before the prevalence of home video, Fangoria, fanzines by the children of this new period, and eventually a plethora of horror-devoted websites, blogs, podcasts, forums, and conventions; old stuffy guides packed with stills with text that I assume no one figured anyone would actually read were the primary source for "serious" horror comment.

Not all critics derided the on-going sea change in the genre, but many loathed and simply didn't seem see at the time much of what they saw in the Golden Age of Horror had synthesized into a new style that reflected audiences more aware of realities after the trials of real atrocity and political chess striking home. That's not to condemn the importance of still enduring cultural icons, but horror films weren't confined to black-and-white children's fodder anymore. Audiences needed something equaling or topping the violent flashes streaming into their homes nightly.

What's more frustrating is how blatantly arrogant, untrustworthy, and unknowledgeable some of these reads are. It wasn't just enough that these biased authors swayed readers at every sentence, but based on some of their radically incorrect plot outlines, it's not hard to assume they didn't even watch the films they so bashed. Sometimes something like a Texas Chain Saw or Halloween might get a small photo but zero mention in the text. That's fair, right?

After realizing that, these books are little more than a resource for vintage stills and in no way worth the paper they're printed on otherwise. Of course, nowadays horror fans still rabidly bitch about new trends. Though I'd like to believe that both pro and homegrown critics have more credibility with the positive resource of the Internet and ease of viewing most any horror or cult item over-and-over at anytime for assessment.

Here's some entertaining bullshit mined from these old disposable guides:

From Horror & Fantasy in the Movies by Tom Hutchinson, 1974:

On Night of the Living Dead (1968): "...the hero's dead neighbors are resurrected and surround his house, calling to him to come out and join them...ultimately it says less than it thinks it's saying." Referring to an inset photo: "...corpses march towards the house of the hero in Cesar Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968)."

From The Encyclopedia of Horror edited by Richard Davis, 1981:

On Dawn of the Dead (1978): "...showed in macabre detail what happened when zombies overran New York. Most of the action takes place in a large supermarket awash in blood."

From Horrors: A History of Horror Movies by Tom Hutchinson and Roy Pickard, 1983:

On Alien (1979): "a perfect example of how much sci-fi films now rely on monster effects at the expense of the more than a B movie [with] a theme that's hardly new...substandard film [of] plot banality..."

On John Carpenter's The Thing (1982): "...teeters dangerously on the edge of what is acceptable in horror films...[the audience] should not be made to feel so uncomfortable that they feel sick and ill."

On When a Stranger Calls, Prom Night, Friday the 13th, and the "gruesome" Texas Chain Saw Massacre: "...most films of this ilk are no longer film at all; they are simply mindless horror comics in the hands of amateur young directors whose only objective is to produce more shocks with each succeeding movie."

On Dawn of the Dead (1978): (extremely misquoting the film): "They gravitate to places that have meant a lot to them when they were living," says one of the characters in the most overt statement yet about such a consuming and consumed society..."

On Fulci's Zombie (1979): "...yet another movie that used radiation as the reason why zombies [were] rampaging and overrunning New York."

On The Evil Dead (1982): "...presumed that audiences had paid to see a film with just such a title they would not want to be bothered with any rationalizations. The writer-director Samuel M. Raimi has gone so far over the top as to be out of sight."

From The Best, Worst, and Most Unusual Horror Films by Daniel Moore:

On Blood Feast, Last House on the Left, and The Hills Have Eyes: (under Worst Films, dubbed "Gore Films") "None of these are really good...the violence isn't even well done." 

From An Album of Modern Horror Films by Frank Manchel, 1983:

On the then emerging slasher trend: "Why, with all the critical uproar and badly made films, is the degrading cycle still going strong? Men who feel threatened by independent, attractive successful women are the biggest fans of the modern psychological thriller. They enjoy watching liberated women "get what's coming to them"....audiences seem bored with story, action, and characters."


Raymond Betancourt said...

It's fun to imagine what "Night of the Living Dead" would have been like if it had been made by Cesar Romero!

deadlydolls said...

In a way, there's something really fascinating about horror fandom because I think it's the one genre where the viewers rather than the mainstream critics have defined what is classic. John Carpenter's The Thing was miserably reviewed in '82, and it was ultimately canonized not by Roger Ebert's Great Movies exercise but by the consensus of its video store crowd fans. There's something wonderfully empowering about that. Yes, it's a little more official now that so many horror kids have mobilized with blogging and the like, but still today, the reputation of a horror film is ultimately measured by the fans.

Go. Us.

Jeffery said...

Interesting to read the critique of Alien given that audiences qued for days to see it when it first opened and the creature was barely seen at all..I'm inclined to agree that there is a high degree of snobbery surrounding the genre. However in a fast food world sometimes the offerings do become generic and tastelessly the same. A cheeseburger may hit the spot but a feast is infinitely more satisfying.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your viewpoint Jayson and for highlighting it from a more critical perspective. Interesting stuff.

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

Horror films have definitely always gotten a bad rap and taken their share of unfair swipes from sanctimonious critics.


Your statement: "That's not to condemn the importance of still enduring cultural icons, but horror films weren't confined to black-and-white children's fodder anymore" comes off like an equally unfair generalization of older genre films (particularly taking your own swipe at them by denegrating them as 'children's fodder'). you dare tread upon the staircase?

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