Monday, May 01, 2006

The Horror Shlockometer.

Art can have the ability to send those who appreciate it into transports of joy and wonder and none more-so than film which combines so many art-forms, literature, photography, acting, costume, music etc, but above all, lighting, for film is luminous, light shines thru it and into the viewers soul. I've been movie-crazy since a kid, escaping the mundane horrors of the adult world to lose myself in their dream-like formats, wagging school constantly to sneak into the city and see the latest on the big-screens. I go at least once a week, either to see high-art/international cinema and or pop-culture/Hollywood sclock-busters. I was reminded of the transcendental potential of film last night whilst watching "Whale Rider", for I got very high, uplifted to a higher plane of beauty when the girl rode the stranded whale out to sea.

But there is one genre that I very much relish yet it gets ignored or put down by the high-art movie critics, I'm referrig to 'horror/fantasy'. Much of the latest releases don't even rate a mention, too low-brow and below artistic considerations. I think there should be a whole other rating regime for 'horror/sci-fi', and separate shows on TV to review them, appealing to horror freaks/heads, ignoring the high-art Grand Poobahs of film criticism.

And instead of the 10 star treatment I propose a little machine somewhat akin to the 'strength-gauge' machines at Carnivals: one can hit a weight with a hammer and watch it ascend a totem pole setting off lights and bells, one ding for every classic element expected in the 'horror' genre: good-looking protagonists, edge of seat suspense, blood splatter, gross-out nausea, ugly monster, sheer terror thrill ride, flesh crawling horror, imaginative plot, creative imagery, rock'n'roll/soundscape. I'd call this machine "The Shlockometer" and when applying it to the movie I saw on Friday night, "Final Destination 3", it gets "ding! ding! ding! ding! ding! ding!! = 6 Dings.

Not just me, the rest of the packed theatre moaned and groaned, yelped and whelped, squished and squelched at the ingenious ways the disembodied force of 'Death' bumped off the pretty young protagonists, one freak accident leading to another, and then another, an unlikely series of events tumbling over like dominoes, us the audience following the trail that eventually leads to the squashing of a life-loving beauty, it had me clutching my seat with perverse, tense excitement. While the movie is the third in a popular franchise and thus is not original, it was done with great panache, better computer graphics etc. For example, the opening out-of-control roller coaster ride and crash was a real hair-raiser. The theme to me had existential depths, death the final destination for all of us, life in this world a transient phenomena, so we better get used to the fact. That, I suspect, is why there's all these crazy, superstitious religions ruling this planet, everybody is so shit scared of dying.

Why do I like horror movies so much? Maybe I identify with the protagonist who survives at the end, rehearsing all the skills needed for that survival. Or they console me as good metaphors for contemporary living, nothing can be nastier than real life, television news reports and human history. Maybe I can wank and say they're like the spiritual disciplines of Buddhists and Hindus where monks and sadhus sit by and meditate upon corpses in the charnal grounds and crematoriums, reminding oneself not to take this material world too seriously, that all things of the flesh come to an end, and it might be possible to transcend such limitations.

But then I'm back to crazy religions and I'm too rational to even believe in "reincarnation" or "after-lives", the joys and horrors of this life are enough and you have to enure yourself to all the ups and downs, otherwise you'd go mad. I sure dug walking out of the cinema while the rock soundtrack thumped, happy to be alive and thriving, the wind and rain in my face, with still a few more years of adventures to enjoy, maybe.