I was watching TV the other day, and the Sci-Fi channel was playing the original version of “The Blob”. It was meant to be funnyish. Now it seems silly, but there was a time when that was considered a real horror movie. So how did things that used to be scary before, become stupid now?
I think our range of experience and beliefs have drastically changed. The concept of a Dracula, or a werewolf was terrifying to audiences of old, but we know these are myths now. It was unknown and new in the past, so it intrigued moviegoers to be titillated by monsters that preyed on innocent victims. They didn’t even question why these victims were in these predicaments anyway.
As years progressed, most story lines had been exhausted, and screenwriters needed new material to explore. Sometimes they revisited old haunts, but most looked for new creatures to ply audiences with.
Enter the Era of the psycho killer. Spawned by the movie “Psycho”, these were ordinary people who suddenly snapped, and felt the need to prey upon other humans. There was usually some back story about trauma or abuse which set them off, but the majority of screen time was spent spilling the blood of hapless victims. While the characters were simplified, the story needed to be broader to explain how people came into the realm of these Villains.
Sleep-away camps became a popular haven for these maniacs.They would lurk in the woods all year until the summer’s visitors would arrive. Then they would slowly and systematically kill them once each one was alone. It was two hours of thrilling cat and mouse games for the audience, who would always yell at the screen characters, “turn around, he’s right behind you!!”. At the end there was always one last victim to report these horrible crimes to the authorities who only show up after most everyone is dead. If crowds are lucky, the villain will get away and they can look forward to a sequel.
How do you top that one? Well, you introduce a supernatural character who has the same killing instincts as well. Such as Freddie Krueger, who can only get you while you sleep, or the Leprechaun, who only targets those who has disturbed his gold. Those are trickier to fight against since normal human methods of defense don’t work. And, only the victims can see them, so the cops would never be able to get them into a lineup.
On to today. Most disturbing entities are completely supernatural, and can’t seem to be vanquished by any of the prior methods. They are mostly ghosts and demons who for some reason can’t stay dead, and wish to make our life miserable. We as humans(in the movies anyway), always seem to get our gumption together and do battle with them in the end. The hero has had quite enough, and is no longer afraid and ready to kick but.
Every time we think the themes are over, and there is nothing new to scare people with, Hollywood always comes up with something. When I see all those older horror movies, I try to imagine that kind of imagery frightening people, but remember that that was a time long ago