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Horror Movies: A Mood, or a Series of Tropes?

Since Scream, there’s been an expectation of a certain level of meta-horror film, a film that turns the tropes upside down. Parodies of the genre have become almost old hat.

Films like Cabin in the Woods and Funny Games are of a piece with this idea, that the “genre is dead” and that deconstruction is necessary and possible, that we can talk our way out of this.

Nope. The essential message of Cabin in the Woods is that we enjoy visiting false visions of terror onto ourselves, in order to stave off the real thing. And while it’s useful to ruminate on why that happens, ultimately it defies explanation.

For example, I recently put Wolfcop into my Netflix list. I don’t remember doing that, and when I spotted it there when flipping through the list with my wife one evening when the kids were in bed. We both vigorously denied having put it in the list before deciding to watch it.

It was precisely what we expected: a rather silly, but competently shot B-movie. We both enjoyed it. And while the script had a couple of MST3K-level moments (wife: “Apparently everything happens in the local honky-tonk at 10:30 in the morning.”), we were more impressed with the visual mood the film created when it was moving from plot point to plot point. What it lacked in script it made up in cinematography and mood.

A sense of doom and foreboding is not something civilization loses. Horror is a means of dealing with it. It will always have an audience, no matter how earnestly nerds intone otherwise.

Author:

I write and publish things with the speed of a hare and the determination of a tortoise. I am building it; it will come.

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