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The International Writers Magazine: Horror

From Horror to Gore - the transformation of the horror film
Richard Parry

Whenever people discuss horror films the usual ones are mentioned...Psycho, The Shining, The Exorcist and more recently the Saw series; with the most recent being Saw IIII which was released in the UK last month. Though films from the horror genre rarely top the annual box office charts they still remain big business within the industry; with film writers frantically trying to shock the new generation, their new audience.
I went to see Saw IIII with a group of friends the day after its release date; and my expectations were fairly low. I found the first movie both fresh and unique but despite a series of different directors and writers the preceding films seemed to offer nothing new; just the same regurgitated narrative, strung together with excessive gore. Saw IIII attempted to break its foreseen mould by incorporating more twists within the storyline. Nevertheless, this was a complete waste of time as the influx of patronising music gave the entirety of the audience a five minute advanced warning of every major event; solely relying on a load bang to stir the crowd. Leaving the cinema I could not help but feel disappointed, not only with the film but with the genre itself. Call me old fashioned but I prefer a less graphic, more intricate, psychological approach to the genre; and though this is likely to be the best of this year’s blockbuster horrors, it failed to shock me in the slightest.

Saw IIII is just another piece in the gore-intense horror-porn movement; with other films such as the Hostel series following closely behind. This is largely down to the growing levels of violence and graphic imagery we digest in our everyday lives; the horror genre of the past is becoming today’s mundane. For example ‘The Exorcist’ was banned in 1986 under the Video Recordings Act as it was deemed too violent for home viewing. If this film was released today it would probably receive a 15/18 rating, when you compare its visual content to that of Saw’s or a violent computer game such as the highly publicised ‘Manhunt’. ‘The Omen’, a film made more frightening by what the audience does not see, was originally given an ‘X’ rating when it was released in the summer of 1976. Since then this film has been decreased to a certificate 15.

The Omen was revamped last year with an increased level of graphic imagery and has subsequently been given an ‘R’ rating by the MPAA (The Motion Picture Association of America). It is true to say that many of the ‘classic horrors’ no longer hold the same grasp over a young audience as they once did; and that the only means for a film to shock and horrify is through impressive visual effects and disturbing scenes; which the society of today is all too familiar with through newspaper and T.V coverage, not to mention gaming and the internet.

The future for the horror film is unclear; all we know is that it will always be there. Its form is likely to be constantly adjusted to fit the current times; with locations and the nationality of characters becoming more important. The remaking of old horror films has increased within the last five years with productions such as ‘The Ring’ (2002), ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ (2003), ‘Dawn of the Dead’ (2004) the already mentioned ‘Omen’ remake and this years release of ‘Halloween’. I expect this pattern to continue as directors and writers refer back to strong narratives that present more than just gore; and give them the modern revamp which perhaps they, and the new audience, require.
© Richard Parry November 2007

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