Spoilers for the movie The Disappointments Room.
Recently, I was thinking that to get into the Halloween spirit (because Halloween starts in mid July), I would start watching some horror movies. So far, I’ve watched five horror/thriller movies, and I only really liked one of them. One of the others was okay, but I didn’t really like it. Anyway, I started to wonder if I even really like the horror genre. I mean, earlier this year I was pretty into it, but, if you look back at those reviews, a decent number of them are negative.
I started wondering why I don’t like horror, and I have a theory.
First, because I would love to see more of it, let me give you a little backstory of my own.
Do you remember the Goosebumps TV show that came out in the late nineties? With over the top horror and terrible special effects? I watched every episode on television and Netflix when I was younger. Most of the plots and monsters were so over the top that they were actually laughable. But every now and then, you’d get one of the less over the top episodes that would be just a little too real. Maybe when you first watched it you wouldn’t realize how unsettling it was, but that night, when you needed to go get a glass of water, or you think you might hear something outside your window, all the details would come back to you.
Years later, when I found The Haunting Hour series on Netflix, I watched all of them, too. Even though I am way older than the target audience, and it’s been a long time since I watched them, the episode “Scarecrow” still freaks me out. Even though I haven’t seen that episode in years, I can still picture scenes from it, and, when picturing scenes from it, I feel the muscles in my back tense. The idea of being entirely separated from all other humans, and possibly being the last human in the world is creepy enough. But to know that you are not alone because some terrible, supernatural being is watching you, and that they killed all the other humans, is terrifying.
Now nearly every horror movie, novel, and video game is entirely over the top, some as badly as Goosebumps. It’s not just a monster, it’s that monster exaggerated until the suspension of disbelief is too great. It becomes more ridiculous than scary.
Take the new It movie, for example. I haven’t watched the new one or the original, nor have I read the book. I have, however, seen many discussions of it on tumblr, and the memes about it are literally everywhere. They’re impossible to avoid, so I know a lot more about this movie than I ever cared to know.
One of the complaints that I’ve seen several times is that the new clown is way over the top, and purposefully scary. I agree with this. The one from the original looked more like a normal clown, this clown looks like a mask from a Halloween store.
Imagine with me: I look out my window and I see someone dressed as a creepy clown. That’s unsettling, but it’s clearly someone trying to be creepy. Obviously, it’s worse for me because I live in the middle of nowhere, not some modern high rise, so it takes more effort to come out here to scare people. Also, most of the people who live on my street are in their sixties or older, and they wouldn’t dress up and try to scare people. If there was someone standing in my yard, staring at my window, it would be pretty obvious that it was targeted directly at me, which would make me kind of uncomfortable. However, like I said, if I lived in an apartment complex and saw someone dressed as a creepy clown outside the building, I would assume that they were just trying to freak a bunch of people out. I probably wouldn’t think about it that much. It would be someone else’s problem (and if you haven’t read that book, you really should). I would assume that someone else would have seen it and that they would deal with it.
Now that I think about it more, there are two people I know who would probably think it would be funny to dress as a creepy clown and try to freak me out. So even though I live in the middle of nowhere, if I saw a creepy clown, I would assume it was one of them, and that the other one wasn’t far away.
I would be much more freaked out if I saw a normal looking clown outside my house. With a creepy clown, its entire purpose is to freak people out. With someone who’s just wearing a normal clown costume, you don’t know what their goal is. Maybe they’re here for a party (surprise!), maybe they’re just trying to freak you out, but maybe they want to break into your house and wear your skin. With a normal clown, there are more things that you’re unsure of, so it’s creepier. (I mean, really, he could just be there for the party, or the party could take a sudden and horrible turn.) Also, in my opinion, after the whole creepy clown thing that happened last year, I’ve kind of gotten used to them? I mean, obviously I don’t want to encounter one in a dark alley, but I don’t want to encounter anyone in a dark alley. Preferably, I’m never even in a situation that ends with me being in a dark alley.
Honestly, I’d be most concerned if I saw a middle aged man attempting to hide behind my mailbox because then you have no idea what his goals are. With the other two things, there’s every possibility that they’re just trying to scare you, with a random middle aged man, his goal probably isn’t freaking people out, so what is he trying to do? And what part of the internet will show the video?
I specifically say middle aged man because if it’s a guy in his teens or twenties it’s possible that he’s just trying to freak people out. With a middle aged man, chances are he wasn’t dared by friends to do something stupid. Is this fair? Probably not. But if you’re looking to freak me out, now you know. That’s probably not smart to publicize, but here I am.
Horror is so much scarier when it’s just a few steps away from reality. Then it’s easier to relate the things happening to your own experiences, and you’re more likely to be freaked out. A demon clown isn’t scary. A normal clown that can move from the road by your house to right outside your door inhumanly fast is. Even a normal person who can do that is scary. Maybe it’s just someone who’s slightly creepy, maybe they have a certain look in their eyes or unnaturally long fingers. Maybe you can explain that all away by saying that some people look strange, but then they also move inhumanly fast. That’s harder to explain, at least before you are dead from sudden and unexpected creepy thing attack.
You can’t explain a creepy clown. I mean, you can say it’s a person in a mask, but it’s still a person (I refuse to even entertain the possibility that a clown is part of its own species. It’s a human in a costume, and I won’t accept any other explanation). Creepy things are creepier when you can try to explain them, but they defy explanation except as something supernatural.
Let’s move back to my original complaints about the horror genre. Not all horror can be realistic, I get that. Vampires, zombies, werewolves, and demons are not realistic. Some suspension of disbelief is needed to enjoy any horror novel, film, or game. I’m not looking for realistic horror, though. I just want it to be something that’s believable. If the whole concept seems unbelievable and impossible, EVEN IN A BOOK WORLD WITH PARANORMAL THINGS, then the author owes the reader a good explanation in the end. If you’ve followed me for any amount of time, you know that I love backstory, so GIVE ME THE BACKSTORY. I love mythology about horrible monsters.
My favorite of the horror movies I’ve watched recently was The Disappointments Room. I liked it because it didn’t use normal horror movie cliches like jump scares or excessive gore to freak you out. Instead, it had a character who was actually mentally ill. You’re left wondering if what she saw was real, or if it was just in her own mind. I’ve recommended that movie to pretty much everyone I know, and I would willingly watch it again several times. Literally, my only complaint about the movie is that the cat died, but I’m a cat person, so you shouldn’t have expected anything more from me.
This is the sort of realistic horror that I’m talking about. Something like that could actually happen.
Also, with all of the terrible things happening in the world today, I kind of feel like some horror just gets tedious. I don’t need to watch a thriller to be freaked out, I just need to look at the articles my phone suggests to me. I’m constantly bombarded with horrible things, so maybe some horror has just lost its appeal when one is living in the what is seemingly the end of days?
I don’t know.
I’m probably going to try to read some horror sometime soonish, just because it’s been a while, but I don’t know.
If you know of any good horror that isn’t ridiculous and over the top, leave a comment and I’ll read/watch it.