Buckets of Blood: Not Always Thirst Quenching

The difference between horror and slash:

Horror is a genre. Slash is a musician.

Ba-dum-pum.

But seriously… for those who don’t like either genre, there’s a tendency to lump these two together. But these are two completely different animals. Horror does not equal slash. But does slash equal horror? That can also be debated.

I’m obviously a horror fan. I mean, I’d really hope so, since I spent a chunk of my life writing a horror novel. Sit me down in front of a stack of horror movies and I’ll happily watch every single one. I’ll even watch the bad ones as long as they’re good for a laugh. But slash… ehhhhh.

I’ve watched a few slasher flicks in my day, and every single time I’m left wondering why I bothered to sit through the whole thing. These movies are nicknamed ‘torture porn’ for a reason. Hey, I’ll go out on a limb and say it… I think it takes a ‘special’ kind of person to truly enjoy these films–special meaning you might be a forty-five year old serial killer living in your mother’s basement. Special as in, I wouldn’t check your internet history even if you paid me.

I really don’t get the appeal of these types of movies. There’s blood and gore and screaming. They make you cringe and peer at the screen through your fingers. This isn’t horror… this is an unabashed bloodfest designed to gross out the viewer. The point isn’t to scare anyone. The point is to make you uncomfortable until you squirm, to make you laugh out of (perhaps) embarrassment, because you paid ten bucks for this. Ten bucks.

There are two movies that spring to mind when I think ‘mindless torture’. The first is Funny Games–the 2007 version; the second is Last House On The Left–the 2009 version. Odd that both of these are remakes. It seems that a good majority in this genre are, because there’s only so many ways you can saw someone’s arm off before it gets… well… repetitive. I saw both of these films in the theater, and both left a bad taste in my mouth. (Some will say that’s exactly the point; to that I respond, since when did entertainment become unpleasant?)

I’ll admit, I only went to see Funny Games because of Michael Pitt. For those of you who don’t recognize the name, Mike Pitt is a bit of a Hollywood rarity. Seeing him in a movie is like seeing a shark while snorkeling, or catching pandas in the throws of fuzzy passion. Unfortunately, he swindled me into squirming through a torture flick all in the name of edginess. Funny Games is nothing more than a movie about a pair of torturous kids who kill an innocent family for fun. (Crap, did I spoil it for you?) The silver lining is that it only managed to gross about seven million, and that’s world wide.

The same can’t be said for Last House On The Left, which pulled in over forty-five million. Last House is a slasher of the worst sort. It’s one of those movies that tries to be as gory as possible without garnering an NC-17 rating. There’s a hammer to the head, a bullet to the face, a hand down a garbage disposal, and, most unfortunate of all, a graphic rape of a seventeen-year-old girl that seems to last forever, all in the name of ‘horror’. Granted, this movie does have a nice twist of bad-guy-becomes-the-victim, and you actually start to feel a little justified in the horrible fates these people succumb to, but at the end of the day it’s nothing but gross-out gore.

You want to talk horror? Kubrick’s version of The Shining: that’s horror. Everything from the score to Jack’s long and winding drive up the mountain to the Overlook Hotel to Danny’s infamous big-wheel ride through the hallways. Those are images that are forever tattooed onto the psyche’s of those who call themselves lovers of horror. The Ring’s Samara is another perfect example of the genre being pushed to it’s limit. Who can forget the image of Samara crawling out of the television and becoming real? Even The Blair Witch Project, while leaving audiences befuddled and a little irked, managed to scratch its way under the viewers skin. The subtlety of it was masterful. I left the theater thinking ‘um, okay?’ only to lie in bed with my eyes wide open that same night, freaked out but not sure why.

The difference between horror and slash isn’t just buckets of blood, it’s exactly that: subtlety. The best horror movies  scare you, seemingly, without even trying. They scare you with slowness, with tension. I’m not saying that every slasher flick lacks these elements–some of them are better than others. But the slasher flicks aren’t the ones that keep you up at night.  And really, shouldn’t that be the point?

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11 thoughts on “Buckets of Blood: Not Always Thirst Quenching

  1. I supidly sat myself down and watched The Human Centipede not too long ago. I wished I hadn’t – not that it was explicity gory because it wasn’t – but more because I had trouble with the mind that came up with this disaster…

    …Then I realized I was watching this disaster.

  2. Great post! I could not agree more.
    I prefer the more Lovecraftian types of horror.

    Movies like “The Other” and “Alien.”

    Good horror is all about suspense. Not that there’s no room for shock or blood, but that
    can’t be the only point.

    • Agreed, Mike. Far too many movies focus on nothing but gore. Saw 1, 2, 3, 79, and 223 are perfect examples of this. What’s sad is that this kind of thing has such a huge audience. Makes you wonder…

  3. see…this is how I know I’ve spent too much time circling the outskirts of online writing communities.

    Because when you said “slash”? I ….did not think Slasher-flick. At all.

    So I thought your comparison between Horror and “Slash” was going to be…something *entirely* different.

    To explain, I’m sure you’re familiar with the concept of fanfiction, where fans take characters from an existing novel/movie/comic/whatever and write their own stories using the same people. Well, there’s a subset of fanfiction that takes unlikely pairings of those existing characters and creates…hopefully steamy, but usually actually hilarious, shall we say….romantic stories about them (example: It’s very popular to write love scenes between Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy). Anyway…that subset is called slash.

    So when I read “the difference between horror and slash”…my first thought was “no no, there is no difference. Most slash is pretty horrific”.

    And now, while I agree with your comments re: horror vs. slashER, I kind of desperately want you to write a comparison between horror and slash. 🙂

    • Ahhh Kat Kat Kitty Kat,

      Hilarious. I know what ‘slash’ is… as far as fan fiction goes. Gives me the hibbie jibbies is what. You crack me up. 😀

  4. Good post, I entirely agree! I love a good horror movie like The Shining, but like you, I don’t see the point of slasher movies such as Saw. I’m certainly not against having violence or gore in movies (and other mediums), however, for me there has to be some kind of point to it. Just like how action movies don’t interest me unless they have an interesting plot/characters.

  5. Literary horror like The Shining is a whole different animal than Saw. Both are trying to do two much different things. The Shining never tried to shock with gore and blood and/or force viewers to cringe at gory uncomfortable images. The horror in Saw is geared, pardon the pun, to cringe-worthy acts of self-mutilation. Unfortunately, the ‘torture is frightening’ tactic can get old if that’s the only game. .

    My problem with slasher flicks is when they leave horror and become horror franchises. I’m talking Halloween 1 & 2 (great), Nightmare on Elm Street (up to part 3), the first few Friday the 13th, which were good horror flicks subsequently ruined in one too many sequels. Pretty much all scariness about these stories exits and then you know they are just going for the gross-out and shock factor.

    The Saw movies are supposed to have a point if you watch all of them together but I’ll admit to getting lost in them. If you need six movies to tell us who did what to whom when and why then the story might need some more editing.

    On a non-horror note: George Lucas should have left Star Wars alone, it was great as a trilogy and lacked in six parts. I realize the original was supposed to be nine parts, but when you start in the middle and use parts of episodes 7-9 it is a nearly impossible task to go back and tell a compelling story with parts 1-3. Will be a long time before somebody tries that again.

    I do enjoy seeing the slasher franchises pitted against each other in films like Freddy vs. Jason and Aliens vs. Predator, even if the movies aren’t horrifying. They are buttery popcorn movies.

    • Oh dear, the topic of sequels and remakes. I could go on for DAYS about this stuff, but I have a feeling we share a very similar point of view on the matter, so I’ll refrain.

      One remake I did enjoy was Halloween (Rob Zombie’s version). If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a viewing. I expected it to be ‘just another remake’, but it surprised me with how much I liked it. It took the original movie and gave it a new spin, which I appreciated. If there’s a movie out there that’s been hugely successful, and a director can breathe new life into it by retelling it in a different way, I’m all for it. It’s like reading your favorite book over again, but instead of first person it’s now in third. Same story, and yet… totally different. The Halloween put a lot of focus on Michale Meyers’ childhood, and I’m a NUT when it comes to evil kids (as you’ll see when my novel comes out in June).

      I’m not saying that all slashers are bad. Like you, I appreciate Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street and all of those classic 80’s franchises. Those define a good chunk of the horror genre. However, they’re a different breed of slasher. Those are scary because they actually have character development. Saw? Ehhhh, not so much. Why should I care if some dude has to saw off his own foot if I don’t give a crap about the guy in the first place? Jaime Lee Curtis, on the other hand… whatever you do, don’t go upstairs. Those kind of slashers are rare these days. The more ‘torture porn’ that hits the theaters, the closer to extinction they’ll become.

      • I’m lukewarm on remakes, reboots, whatever the label. In some genres Hollywood has completely missed the mark. Why even try to remake B&W classics like The Day The Earth Stood Still and Miracle on 34th Street? Black and white made these films.

        They’ve tried to remake my favorite TV series Twilight Zone a couple times now and it hasn’t worked that good in color. Some works aren’t meant to be upgraded or changed only extended. We want more of the classic Twilight Zone that Serling would have given his stamp of approval.

        As for Halloween? Man, how can sterling performances by Donald Pleasance and Jamie Lee Curtis ever be replaced, improved or say something different? It’s a tall request.

        I’m still willing to give a reboot a chance, particularly if it blazes significant new territory with old, familiar faces.

        I know at one point I was going to watch Rob Zombie’s take on Halloween and even had it running but didn’t get through it for some reason (unrelated to the quality of the film, just life interruption). Will have to revisit and give it another look.

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