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Ol’ Hallows’ Eve comes but once a year – where masked murders and ghouls alike team and vie for the screams of the weak. No medium captures and evokes such emotions better than film and with a century-long legacy to salute (or slap in some cases) one night cannot contain what has become known, simply, as the scary movie. Welcome to Five Days of Halloween: Day Two – Fright Flicks for Fanatics.
Like watching people masturbate while bathing in someone’s blood? No? How about being attached surgically mouth to anus? Still no? Perhaps you would fancy beholding someone scurrying around a pit filled with syringes? Not even close, you say? Well then you can stay away from the horror subgenres strictly for the demented. From the torture porn genre as a whole to the twisted minds of Takashi Miike, Lucky McKee and Tom Six to name a few, the products spawned from this area of terror is strictly for niche fanatics (or, you know, just sick bastards).
That is until you spin the picture 180 degrees. Then you’ll just need a sense of humor and basic knowledge of the genre tropes to have a good time. Please welcome the horror comedy. Although the blood may still flow, you’ll at least most likely be laughing while you cringe, all while gleaning all new insight into the meaty world of horror
Most people who subject themselves to horror fare squirm at the sight of a “simple” knifing (yay, desensitization!) but when you begin to descend into the modern torture realm spawned (and popularized) by Saw and Hostel we are talking about an entirely different beast.
Now I’m certainly not suggesting that die hard fans of horror movies automatically adore this repugnant corner of the genre, as though a fan of the Saw series, I do believe the subsequent copycats that helped spawn an entire brand of terror to be the worst thing to happen to scary movies. Throughout the mid aughties and up to the death of the Saw franchise, which was replaced with found footage (small blessings, people), scares were all but replaced with gross-out sequences that targeted an even more baser level than the boogeyman in the closet.
The thing about this area of horror is that it lacks any subtlety, is often even ugly to look at aesthetically and winds up just being a slog of people screaming and losing gallons of crimson. On the flip side, it’s also not to say there aren’t noteworthy efforts and talented filmmakers who have tried their luck. The most subversive has to be Takashi Miike, auteur behind skin-crawling efforts such as Audition and Ichi the Killer, films that are miraculously able to understand restraint even when going to grotesque extremes. Not to mention the fact that Miike knows how over-the-top the goings-on are, and is smart enough to add a level of dark humor and subtle parody to his works.
The same was the case for Tom Six’s The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (not his sequel by a long shot let me tell you), which though implanting a revolting idea, was scarce on gore, never showed the excrement-heavy result of the mad doctor’s creature and was at times quite funny both at a campy and winking level.
As promised, at the other extreme there is horror parody – works that hit home the hardest if one has versed themselves in the genre and all the clichés that go along with it. Now I’m not talking about Scary Movie here, those that target en masse everything in sight. Spoofs are the skin deep attempts at subversive humor at best. No, satires and nicely melded horror comedies are where it’s at – films that notice a blemish, dissect why it is as such, blow it up into a feature-length movie or simply blend outlandish gore and witty repertoire with the staples of the genre.
This area of horror is a tricky line to tread. On one hand you have those with no interest in the genre as a whole and would likely not register the jests, blended with the subjective nature of humor. There is a reason why these types of movies are either met with either a critical lashing at the simplistic treatment of the material or with audience rejection due to the meta nature of the whole thing. There are some great indie examples of when horror comedies work, but major studios will rarely greenlight anything but a broad effort.
The masses can have their slasher remakes and found footage franchises, but whether the gruesome Cannibal Holocaust or pithy Scream there will always be small corners of horror meant for a distinct (and ultimately unique) crowd.
Be sure to check back in tomorrow for Day Three – Top Ten Little Seen Gems and if you missed Day One, check it out here.