Let me just start this by saying I am by no means an expert on the horror genre, however, I do enjoy a good scare. And by scare, I’m not talking about the ‘let’s play a little game’ variety (blood really doesn’t bother me, neither do needles or creepy looking dolls on tricycles) I’m talking about the hairs-on-the-back-of-your-neck-sleeping-with-the-light-on kind, which doesn’t normally involve tricycles. I wouldn’t ever choose to watch a horror film by myself, (obviously that would be no fun and, ahem, has nothing to do with being a scaredy-cat) but I do have a friend who shares my penchant for those films you know you’re going to regret watching when lying alone in your bedroom at night. Going to the toilet tends to become very problematic when you’re convinced a serial killer is lying under your bed just waiting for his chance to grab your ankles and turn you into a bedspread. But when a film really sticks with you like that, surely that’s a sign that it’s getting something right?
You would think this is the kind of night you should expect when spending your pennies on films with names like ‘Sinister’. But oh no, other than feeling fairly serial killer myself towards the people that label films like this as ‘truly terrifying’, I can’t say this recent string of predictable horror flicks has been getting it right. To be fair to Sinister (2013) the film actually starts quite promising, I just don’t know where the hell it went after that. Of course there will be the unexplained noises and don’t-go-in-there moments but when the film consists mainly of the lead walking down the corridors of his house, iphone in hand and a mildly concerned look on his face, I’m not exactly hiding behind my sofa. The overall idea is quite clever, washed up crime writer (played by Ethan Hawke) needs his new book to be a hit. He decides (the bright spark that he is) to move his family into the very house a family, who are the subjects of his book, were brutally murdered. The disturbing home videos he comes across in the attic are the scariest thing about this film, and very well done, however the ‘twist’ (if you can call it that) can be seen a long and underwhelming mile off.
Which brings me to my pet peeve of modern horrors. The wife and kids. I’m sorry but it’s true. The creepy kid thing needs to end. If there’s one thing The Omen (1976) showed us it’s that kids can act very creepy, but must we centre every film on some terrible ghoul who is after the kids? Sinister (2013) Insidious (2010), Mama (2013)and the yet to be released Dark Skies (2013) are but a few of the recent string of family orientated horrors. Put the kids to bed and all hell will break loose, literally. Then there’s the pointless wife character “WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!?” Yes, that one. That said, the role of the mother is usually depicted as a victim or protector for the child, not often is she the very thing that sends a shiver down your spine. For this reason Mama was one of the better of the horrors I’ve seen recently as it tried to do something different. In doing so it turned into more of a dark fairy-tale reminiscent of the brilliant Pans Labyrinth (2006)but it certainly stands out in terms of a genuinely haunting idea. Maybe this fascination with setting horrors in ‘stable’ family homes is actually just showing that the boogeyman and nasty things that go bump in the night can get us even where we feel safest…or maybe it’s just boring and predictable. Either way, it’s sending me off on a very nice serial killer free sleep.
Not since the infamous Blair Witch Project (1999) has anything really scared the bejesus out of me. Maybe it was because it was so different and believable that it got to me, but it was the first to use the shaky hand held camera style. Love it or hate it, it really works when it comes to horror. Take the Paranormal Activity (2007)franchise as evidence of that. A couple simply filming what happens in the early hours of the morning was considered ‘one of the scariest films of all time’. ‘What happens when you sleep?’ It asked (couldn’t say, I was wide awake and staring at the door) which just goes to show, it’s not about the blood and gore, or even the ghosts and monsters. It’s not anything that the props or costume departments in Hollywood can come up with. As the old saying goes, it’s what you don’t see that really scares.