Wednesday, October 5, 2016

F This Movie! - Why Do We Watch Horror Movies?

Patrick and JB try to answer the eternal question.

Download this episode here. (57.3 MB)

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Also discussed this episode: Night of the Lepus (1972), The Death Kiss (1932), Cat's Eye (1985), WNUF Halloween Special (2013), Kuroneko (1968)


  1. The demon Charlie at the end of this podcast scared the living crap out of me.

  2. I am only half way through, so will probably say something that will be said. I don't really like being scared, but I like horror. Though I have never seen Chainsaw Massacre or Hellraiser because as a child the VHS cover art was scary enough for me to go I don't want to go near that. Something I hope to change this scary movie month. For me there is something primal more mythological about horror that you don't get with other genres. Monsters are old, they come from the time from before, even the likes of Freddy and Jason have that quality. I grew up reading greek myths, brother's grimm and murder mysteries, which lead me to horror. Maybe this does scare me, but it does feel different than being scared and nervious. Sorry if this is rambled it's late here and I'm tired.

    And thanks for the 7 word review read out, that was kind of you. The reviews so far have been amazing clever.

    1. Love your rambling! Keep rambling on...that's what this podcast is about...dudes/dudettes rambling and they just happen to be into movies, so they ramble about that more than other stuff. damn, looks like I'm rambling now.

    2. This is very true. Oh and loved your comment about C.S Lewis not approving of HellRaiser. I giggled.

  3. Last year's total was an even 2900, so we all know what the goal for this year should be, right?

  4. Oh man, you know you're still 13 at heart when JB, after bringing up pornography, says "tear jerker" and you laugh out loud uncontrollably like a teacher just said a double-entendre in class.

  5. Great conversation. I feel like I've been reminded all year that it's time to rewatch Matinee (for the first time since the theater) and now I really need to get off my ass.

  6. I can't pinpoint why I like either feeling scared but as has been discussed on previous podcasts I am chasing that dragon from childhood when a few films had a major impact on me. Spielberg has a lot to answer to answer for - jaws and the scene in close encounters where the child's toys come alive scared the living daylights out of me. Then seeing halloween at an age when my parents should have known better and after that I was sold. It's very rare for me to be genuinely scared anymore, but if a film does impact me it tends to be a slow burn effect where something stays with me long after. The last film to do that was Under the Skin.
    On a separate note thanks for the shout out for my 7 word review

  7. I can't pinpoint why I like either feeling scared but as has been discussed on previous podcasts I am chasing that dragon from childhood when a few films had a major impact on me. Spielberg has a lot to answer to answer for - jaws and the scene in close encounters where the child's toys come alive scared the living daylights out of me. Then seeing halloween at an age when my parents should have known better and after that I was sold. It's very rare for me to be genuinely scared anymore, but if a film does impact me it tends to be a slow burn effect where something stays with me long after. The last film to do that was Under the Skin.
    On a separate note thanks for the shout out for my 7 word review

  8. My dad did let me watch Horror movies at a much younger age than many people would find appropriate. I don't think I was traumatized though so much as I felt like I was getting to watch something I wasn't supposed to. Ok, Cujo probably traumatized me for a long time when it came to dogs, but for me Horror movies in an odd way have had a family bonding aspect for me.

    On family road trips when we'd stop by a gas station, along with some comics it wasn't uncommon to pick up a Fangoria for reading material that my brother, sister, and I would pass around. I think that's a large part of where I learned to appreciate the craft of practical effects which is one of the things I love about Horror movies.

    The only other thing I can think of, is that there's just something about the struggle for survival in a lot of horror movies that appeals to me. Even though in most cases the characters are doomed, when people fight back against almost inevitable death, I feel like there's something we as viewers can take away from that, and it's something you don't get out of most other movie genres.

  9. Hey, I get it. I love to watch comedy films.....but I don't watch them so I will laugh.

    of course, I'm an escaped mental patient. I have no idea what Bromley's excuse is.

  10. I, like Patrick, don't necessarily go to horror movies to be scared. Being scared is great, but something like Dracula (1931) doesn't scare me. If I intellectualize it, sure, but fear is a gut reaction, and Dracula doesn't do that to me. Still, I love Dracula.
    I sometimes think about the reason I got into horror versus why I love horror now. My parents hate horror, so they never showed me any. But they did show me The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939), Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, and Young Frankenstein, all of of which scared the shit out of me when I was about six years old. We also went to Universal Studios Hollywood around that time and we saw a film about how Hitchcock made the shower scene in Psycho--with chocolate syrup and watermelons and all that. Needless to say, for about a year I shampooed so goddamn fast so I could make sure there wasn't a murderer in the shower with me.
    On top of that, my brother has always been a scaredy-cat. Everything from flies to dogs to scary movies really freaks him out. He's also older than me, so perhaps there was a "I'm better than my brother" thing going on there. I don't know. I was also fortunate enough to have a friend in elementary school whose parents loved horror and showed him everything, so I had many opportunities to see things I shouldn't.
    However, I feel like virtually none of that applies now. I don't feel like I'm chasing the dragon because I also really only need the movie to be imaginative. City of the Living Dead has become one of my favorite movies, but nothing about it scares me. It has everything to do with the feel of the movie. With the Lovecraft inspired setting, the great effects, and, most of all, the zombies that appear and disappear, it just speaks to me. It's poetry.
    I've thought about some of the reasons JB brings up at the end, particularly dealing with what we're scared of in real life. But that really only works if I rationalize the film. That being said, I do love to rationalize it and try to figure out what cultural or social anxieties the film is addressing--even if it's something like Friday the 13th. While I'm watching, I try to watch the films as metaphors for something society is scared of, which is, for me, far more enjoyable than actually being scared. It doesn't always work, but that's ok--I like it anyway.

  11. Thanks for the podcast, fellas. I've been waiting for this topic to come up! FTM is my first, entire introduction to ANYthing horror movie related. No one I know has ever told me they like or watch them. And even though I saw a few movies like Unbreakable or The Others when they came out, I never heard them talked about in horror movie terms.

    Can I say watching Videodrome was really interesting to me bc at first, from the trailer, I thought it would be totally unwatchable. I don't like being scared or unrealistic or paranormal things whatsoever. In fact usually the more REALISTIC movies are, the more I like them. It's nothing to do with how they appear - but I need to feel like there are super realistic characters, who have super scary, relatable things going on INSIDE them. What goes on OUTSIDE them, however, I usually prefer non-scary.

    But then I read up on Videodrome on Wikipedia so I wouldn't be scared not knowing what would happen. So then I found I could watch it...easily after that. And wow I LOVED how EASY it was, and how good it kind of felt to watch the guy's stomach open and the other guy's head explode or whatever. See, physical transformation is hard for me - even watching people in PAIN or being sick is hard. In my life I have a very strong attachment to flesh and to my looks and my mom's looks, who I model myself after. And I often wondered, as she is the closest person to me and she gets older, how will I be able to accept her appearance...age? It's terrible to think that way, but our appearances were/are pretty defining for us. A lot was built around them, I'm afraid. She came home one night a couple years ago and we discussed plastic surgery her doctor mentioned. She was kind of calm but I could feel her privately desperate. I started crying, like oh my God, is this really all we have, because it's...going. And I'm against plastic surgery, I'm a natural beauty snob, but hey, I'm totally just as insecure and vain as any woman who gets it done.

    So anyway, I've been looking for ways to deal with that painful attachment to what will soon be gone. One movie can't get you over it, nor can probably any amount of movies, but watching all that flesh transformation happen in Videodrome felt pretty cathartic when I saw it. To NOT want anything to happen to you, then to be able to accept it when it does. Plus my own interpretation of the "new flesh" concept, I find comforting.

    Anyway other than that it seems like there are a lot of interesting roles for women and girls in these less mainstream movies like horror. There's "more", as you were saying, going on. Thank God! We need more ways that girls can learn to see and value themselves.

    Also, wanna say I really relate to JB's psychoanalytical ways :)

  12. Great discussion!

    I had one other thought on a possible appeal of horror for some people. The surge of 80s and 90s nostalgia in popular culture and the seeming desire of many to relive the past made me wonder: could horror movies offer people the chance to return to their childhood in some capacity?

    For children, the world is a larger and more mysterious place, not yet bound by the realities we learn as adults. Just as kids can believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the nobility of their elected representatives, their fears are also scaled toward the fantastic: the creature under the bed will get you, that house across the street is haunted and if you go into those woods behind the school, there's a masked psychopath that will kill you.

    Then as we get older, our fears change, take on a less exciting, more mundane nature. Will I pass this semester? How am I going to pay the mortgage? Is this covered by my insurance? The rules of reality fall into place and we lose something of the fantastic.

    Horror films allow us, for a brief period anyway, to return to those more dramatic fears. If we let a movie work on us, it can convince us that all the things we were afraid of and believed to be true as children exist, if only for ninety minutes. For that brief period, the world of the movie is just as large and limitless as we once imagined the real world to be.

    Just a thought.

    P.S.: I just attended a screening of the Universal Dracula with a crowd and they didn't seem to know what to make of it. The film ended and there was stony silence. I still think it works. Lugosi inexorably closing in on the flower girl still gives me chills.

  13. JB I'm thinking a Universal Monster tramp stamp. If you need more cred with the kiddies go for the neck.

  14. Oh hey, I just saw Kuroneko recently for the first time as well. Patrick describes its weird, haunting vibe pretty perfectly. It's lovely and strange and touching.

  15. That Dr Caligari review about Tim Burton was on a show from last year too, no? Review repeaters!

  16. I have to say a massive Thanks to JB, the explanation about the difference between creating Horror and releasing Horror has had my head spinning all week, some deep shit to really chew over in my mind, the theatre of my mind, I genuinely loved that

  17. I really connected with this podcast and really relate to Patricks POV.
    While I love horror as a genre (although i need to see more as of late) I do not necessarily return for the scare. While I appreciate getting scared or a feeling uncomfortable or dread while watching them, it is not the sole reason for viewing. Much of the time I’m not placed into a fearful place by them, not in a nothing scares me, but that's just not it. I can’t describe what it is I get, sometimes if just the adrenaline rush of a tense sequence, sometimes if the squeamishness from a particularly gorey sequence. Ultimately with any film horror or not I’m interested in a good story, good characters, compelling drama or tension, and have always been drawn to the macabre or darker visions of the world.
    Overall great discussion!

  18. This is a great topic, enjoyed that episode.

    My thoughts on why Patrick pursues Horror without seeking scares (which also may explain why he prefers Chainsaw II over Chainsaw).

    First, scares are temporary. They are most effective the first time around; they are "surface" entertainment in that regard. When you revisit a film (especially if you revisit it often) the scares don't work anymore and all you have left is the film content itself and the memory of when the scares DID work. If all a movie has to offer is scares, it's not offering a lot and is probably a one-time viewing. The best horror films offer something more. The "more" can be an interesting metaphor, or a commentary on society, or an exploration of fears and insecurities; importantly, the "more" need not be scary.

    (side question: Is that partially why we like to share scary movies we've seen with other people? If the scares don't work on us anymore, can we vicariously experience them again through their eyes?)

    Next, horror films do two things in a way that other films don't:
    1) Explore the dark side of life.
    2) Allow for unlimited imagination.

    Horror movies offer a way to experience the un-experienceable and investigate the undesirable. Werewolves aren't real, people don't come back from the dead, and not one of us wants to stumble upon a house of lunatics in real life, but it's fascinating to imagine what those things would be like. When crafting a horror film, there is (almost) nothing a filmmaker can conjure that is out of bounds. If they can imagine it, they can put it onscreen. Horror movies offer an ultimate "what if?" experience; and they need not be scary to be intriguing.

  19. great, now i want to get that Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast set. because it look awesome and arrow always release great collection. i mean criterion quality release.

    here goes 250$. thanks a bunch guys.

  20. The real world is so filled with legitimate fear that most times horror movies and their subject matter fail to illicit fright in the average moviegoer going to watch a film. Not to say people aren't frightened by horror movies, but, the more your basic nightly news broadcast shows what humans are capable of the less cinematic impact one will see when it comes to horror. As for my reaction to horror, well, David Lynch has always had a way of unnerving me with his films. Eraserhead is one example of his ability to set me on edge.

  21. The fact is, different kinds of horror movies need to do different things. There are certain kinds of horror movies that won't have value if they are not scary because they're not really offering anything else. The recent Blair Witch is a prime example. One reason that movie failed for me is it exists to scare and didn't scare me at all. The Witch also exists to scare, and it was the scariest experience I've ever had in a theater. However, I don't know that I'll ever revisit it. I'd rather revisit Halloween III, which is a movie that doesn't scare me at all. One reason I love Italian horror and 80's horror and Hammer Horror and classic Universal horror is they offer me so much that they don't need to be scary. Most of the time I don't care if a horror movie is scary. I like horror movies to be fun and wild, and that's what those movies offer me.

  22. Listening to this episode again. On Patrick's note of envisioning things as a child -- I definitely still remember being told about the garage scene in Scream while huddled with a few other kids on the bus better than I remember my actual first viewing of the film a few years later.