Now that it’s October, I can unleash the torrent of horror related material that I’ve been saving up. When I was writing more often, a good portion was related to horror movies. Not that I’m surprised. I’d say twenty-five percent or more of my total media viewing revolves around horror. That’s a large chunk of time dedicated to trying to trigger my fight or flight response.
Even if what I watch is complete garbage, I usually find something to enjoy. Mostly, it’s simply shitting on the movie itself. Horror has one goal to accomplish: scare you (unlike, say, a drama, where any number of different emotions can be triggered). When it fails, it’s really easy to point your finger to determine what caused the failure. For example, it’s damn near impossible to explain why I didn’t like the film ‘There Will Be Blood”, at least in a fair and full assessment. I could probably explain in three sentences why ‘Texas Chainsaw 3D’ sucked, and the first sentence would just be ‘Sigh…’
But let’s kick things off with a movie that surprised me with how much I actually enjoyed it.
Rating: WHEN YOU SEE HIM…YOU’LL WANT TO GO SWIMMING (IT’S A REALLY NICE POOL).
There’s an odd trend in horror movies nowadays. They come up with this whole mythos to some kind of ancient spirit, make him out to be a force of evil so terrible, that anyone who comes in contact with them practically goes insane from the psychological torment they’re put through, then said evil spirit is designed by some shit head working for ten dollars an hour at the local haunted house. The audience may not know where or when the next scare is coming from, but when it hits, they’re ashamed that such a stupid looking creature could draw a reaction. Imagine someone jumping out at you (shouting, Boo!) and the only mask they could find is one of the Disney princesses. Yeah, it’s pretty damn close to that.
The premise of the movie is that there’s an unsolved murder at a house in a small town. True crime novelist Ellison Oswalt (played by Ethan Hawk, a name so cool that it seems to be a mistake that it’s not the other way around) moves into the house (you know, because…) in order to write what he believes will be his next hit book (with this genre shattering premise, I’m surprised it’s not set in Maine and written by Stephen King). When he discovers a box with films of multiple murders, he finds one connection between them all, a spirit hidden in each reel…
Sounds creepy doesn’t it? Well, it is. The scares are set up nicely. The atmosphere is ripe for anything to happen at any moment. What’s probably the most skillful aspect about this whole thing is that the tension doesn’t always come from someone wandering around for ten minutes doing nothing but looking around. Sure, this happens, but not with the intensity of most slashers. Large chunks of movies pad their timing by having their characters wander around looking for the source of every bump and creek. Shitloads of horror movies do this, like the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th, or The English Patient. I can make a man looking for a can of beans frightening with the right soundtrack and lighting.
There’s more context to each scene. Most of the time I’m left wondering where the scene is going and whether I should guard myself against a scare, or pay attention to the next plot point. I jumped more than a few times because I chose poorly, and that left me on the edge of my seat with every new development. It’s been a while since I saw a horror movie that had a good balance of tension and ‘jump’ moments. And not a single one was a fucking cat or a stupid neighbor. Just once I want to see a movie where the neighbor scares the hero and instead of realizing who it is and relaxing, he accidentally blows his neighbor’s head off. But he better not shoot the cat. I like the cat.
While each scene has good development, the story could use a little work. The drawing factor is that anyone who sees the spirit in the film, sees it all the time. Then everyone is murdered. See how I kept that as two different sentences? That’s because they’re two different concepts in the movie.
After you see the spirit, you will see it in your bushes, on your computer monitor, and in your attic all the time (or not see it…it seems that the evil spirit tries to get Oswalt’s attention as much as he actually appear in front of him). This is annoying, but it doesn’t kill you. Am I spoiling something? Should I put up a Spoiler Alert somewhere? Maybe, but unless he’s staring people to death. the spirit Ba-Gul (which sounds like a curry dish) watches as someone else does the killing.
So there’s a mystery aspect here and Ba-Gul is associated with it. That’s a cool concept, but it also fucks up a few things. If we didn’t know that Ba-Gul was real, and that he was a red herring the entire time (with the faces in each picture being something explainable), this movie would have went to a whole new level. Audiences would leave the theater with the satisfaction of…of…leveling up, or something. Instead, we’re constantly reminded that there’s a spooky ghost hanging around, even when the main fucking character can’t see it. A spooky ghost who’s make up line ends at the top of his neck, and who’s wardrobe seems to have been picked out at Macy’s.
Final Thoughts: It’s actually surprising how good this movie really was. I’m not saying that it’s a horror masterpiece that everyone should rush out to see, but rather that it’s actually good. It’s got problems, but it has a decent plot, characters that are believable, if a little over the top, and genuine scares. It’s hard to predict the direction of the next thrill and to someone like me, that’s exciting. Check it out while it’s still in theaters if you can. It’s still the best experience you can get for a horror movie. Otherwise, I’m sure your friend with the 100,000,000″ TV/Blu-Ray combo will let you watch it when it comes out. Right after their seventeen hour Call of Duty/porn marathon…