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Monday, September 1, 2008

Thoughts on Horror, part 1 - isolation

Good Evening. So I just concluded watching The Ruins, which was not too bad...and made me think about a topic that's very...let's say fascinating to me, although "close to my heart" was a close second - horror movies.

So basically, the plot is...well, four friends get into somewhat of a tight spot while on vacation and get killed off one by one in a foreign land, by a mysterious killer. Man, we've heard that one before - right? So anyways, I say this one wasn't too bad because they played it straight. The "mysterious killer" was something natural, and didn't seem forced and they didn't try to hide it until the end for some crap twist ending. There were obviously some things they could have done a lot scene in particular, could have taken a nod from their predecessors, but unfortunately - in today's horror film industry, the general consensus is that blood sells.

So the basic fear point of this film is isolation - the concept of being alone and facing an unknown danger. There are many ways to approach the isolation horror film, however the most common is to put your group of protagonists in a foreign land (see The Ruins, Hostel). This is a simple plot tool simply because it's universal - what's more frightening than being surrounded by people and not being to ask for help?

~~Unfortunately tonight, I don't have too much elaboration in me...again. Maybe my problem is that I have a million ideas that just don't go very deep...maybe that's why I want you to people, to flesh out my thoughts for me. Anyways, back on topic.~~

Now, my personal favorite (and I doubt I'd find many who disagree) isolation film is easily Jaws. This is a true isolation movie - 3 guys and a boat versus a big ass shark, who at one point you really have to ask this shark just fucking with these guys? The true beauty of the isolation technique isn't the killed itself, but rather, the mental anguish the protagonists go through. This is because, at a certain point you realize, either you or your friend are next. You're constantly looking for a means of escape, you're constantly holding in that panic button (although too many characters in the horror movies, fail at this concept), you're constantly looking for a way out or a bargaining chip. Basically, you are forced to go through the five stages of loss on repeat until...well, you die. And then think of the mental anguish if you survive! Would you want to be that sole surviving member in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre? That's years and years of therapy and even then, I'd be hard pressed to find a well functioning adult after that tragedy.

All in all, isolation is a tricky method to use in causing fear. When in the right hands (Mr. Spielberg), it can be a useful device in not only creating that panic in the audience, but also instantly make your characters personable and they sympathize with their plight. In the wrong hands, however, isolation is just plain boring and/or sinks into the mindless void of slasher films.

I apologize for the poorly written essay, I shall take this core and clean it up a bit, I think...I'll repost when I'm done. Input?


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