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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Why can’t anyone make scary films anymore?

Quickie Reviews: Blood and Chocolate, The Breed, Hoboken Hollow.

Todd H. C. Fischer, October 2007

This past weekend my brother and his girlfriend dropped by my house for a horror movie marathon. Armed with pop and chips we settled back with the lights off, preparing to experience some frights. Unfortunately the only horror we endured was the actual excruciating task of getting through the movies.

Up first was ‘Blood and Chocolate’ about werewolves in Romania. Sounds good, but unfortunately all the werewolves were Euro-trash, lounging around in black clothes and moaning about how rough their life was. Their transformation sequences were all in slow motion and angelic, as they leaped through the air and were surrounded by mist and swirls of white light. (Leaping like monkeys for the most part; one wonders if the makers of this movie had actually seen wolves move before beginning filming.) Hopefully some day werewolf and vampire movies will no longer be made by Emos.

Next was ‘The Breed’, where a bunch of idiot young adults have their vacation ruined by smart and angry doggies. Not high art by any stretch of the imagination, though there was fun to be had in seeing horror movie victims actually fight back, knocking dogs out of the air with arrows or a bat. Of course, the characters make very bad life choices (such as leaving the bow and arrows behind when going outside, or leaving the windows rolled down on the car). These people were too dumb to live, so they don’t.

Finally we watched the worst of the bunch, ‘Hoboken Hollow’. This film (complete with a voice over lifted right from ‘The Dukes of Hazard’ TV show) concerns a ranch in Texas where hitch-hikers are forced to labour doing chores, or else get gutted and turned into jerky sold at the local store. Slow and plodding this film tries very hard (too hard) to be menacing and surreal and just comes off as a lazy man’s version of movies we’ve already seen (‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ being the most obvious parallel). Even when the ex-army guy gets loose—and grabs an axe—there is no reprieve from the boredom since all he does is run away. We should have too.

Have none of today’s horror movie filmmakers ever heard of musical cues (used most masterfully in ‘Jaws’)? Do they know nothing of nuance or subtlety (like in ‘Psycho’)? How about blocking, camera angles, shadow and light (see ‘The Ring’)? It is the art of mixing all of these together that create truly frightening moves.

As a postscript, I also have to ask, is racism so unconsciously ingrained in American filmmaking that the black character always has to die first? In both ‘The Breed’ and ‘Hoboken Hollow’ it is the young black man who falls victim first (and the only reason it didn’t happen in ‘Blood and Chocolate’ is because Romania appears to be peopled completely by white folk). What are white filmmakers saying when they do this?

(c) Todd H. C. Fischer, 2007. If interested in publishing this work, please contact the author.

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