dir. Renny Harlin
My writing partner recently told me about the release of a new Serbian film aptly titled A Serbian Film. Although neither of us has seen it, we've both read a bit about it. It is supposedly a well made film, but one which is so extreme, so nihilistic, so lacking in any redeeming values that the gist of many reviews has been, "You think you want to see this, but really you don't." Usually, I take such warnings as dares [don't tell me what I don't want to see]; but after watching the trailer for this film, I think I'll take their word for it.
The existence of this film does raise some interesting questions, though. What makes us scared? Why would filmmakers seek to brutalize us? Why would we, the audience, seek to be brutalized? Isn't it a lot easier just to be brought into a happy place where puppies shit rainbows and unicorns puke candy? Considering my penchant for horror movies, these are questions I ask myself from time time—usually after watching a particularly upsetting example of the genre (I'm looking at you Eden Lake).
Although I love this genre, because it raises so many of the aforementioned questions, I find it the hardest to defend. Aside from my writing partner, very few of my friends are horror fans. A horror film has to be ridiculously well-made for me to recommend it someone, whereas I will watch most any of these films, no matter how poorly-made, or how disturbing [A Serbian Film being a notable exception, of course].
Of course, I haven't always loved horror. I needed a lot of training to grow into this genre. In all honesty, it started as a game of personal one-upsmanship. Alright, I made it through The Exorcist, now I'm gonna try The Shinning. I wasn't so much trying to prove myself to friends (not that I had many as a kid), as much as prove to myself that I could do it. Mostly, I wanted to stop being scared. I was quite the chickenshit when I was younger. Very gullible, I believed that many of the horror movies I saw, represented things that could conceivably happen (Yes, I'll admit that the early nineties alien abduction-splotation of Fire in the Sky kept me up a few nights [Side note: feel free to hurl "you're such a gullible pussy" insults in my direction]).
I still remember the moment I decided that I wanted to make myself immune to horror films. It was 1989. I was nine years old and watching, through hand-covered eyes, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 at my friend Curt's house. Like most any kid at the time, even though I had not seen any of the Nightmare movies, I was well aware of the Freddy phenomenon. These films had (and remain to have) a huge cultural presence. Mostly, I always found the iconography pretty badass. Green and red striped sweater, fedora, and claw hand? You had me at green and red-striped sweater. Fancying myself an artist, I would occasionally draw Freddy pictures while bored in class.
[Side note: At around the same age I had dreams of one day being a comic book artist. I wish could find the picture I once drew of my master creation—a man with an axe for a head, a mini-gun for one arm, a katana for the other arm, a chainsaw for one leg, and a shotgun for the other leg.]
At this time, my siblings and I had not seen many of the cultural touchstones of my generation. My mom, rather, showed us movies from the decades before she was born. Not that this was an attempt to get us full of culture and shit, mind you. She merely showed us the movies that she enjoyed as a kid. Although I was unaware of the John Hughes movies, I could recite routines from Abbott and Costello and Marx Brothers movies. I was cool like that. I hated feeling like I was out of the loop, however. Whenever modern movies were brought up in conversations on the school-yard, I always feigned knowledge. "Oh yeah, it was really funny when Ferris had a day off. He wasn't at school and stuff. That's rad."
When Curt asked if I wanted to come to his house to see the newest Nightmare movie, I was all like, "Well 'cha. That shit ain't scary. I've seen that shit a bunch of times. I'm not a pussy." At some point half-way through the movie, while working hard not to soil myself, many thoughts came to mind—among them being, "Why the fuck would your parents let you watch this shit?" Although I haven't seen this movie since then, I still remember specific visuals that were particularly upsetting at the time—foremost being one in which a dude, while lifting weights, grows bug arms. [Side note: I rewatched the trailer and apparently this happens to a woman.[Second Side Note: My memory sucks.]] Curt and I both found the scene of a dog pissing fire, quite funny, though.
Nightmare on Elm Street 4 has a reputation for being a blah entry in the franchise—a letdown after the third entry but nowhere near as bad as the abysmal second film. This is a film that likely holds no place of importance for anyone. Seeing as I haven't seen it since I was nine, I don't know if it's actually scary. Considering the fact that Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2: Die Harder, Cutthroat Island, and Deep Blue Sea) directed it, though, I'm gonna chalk up my being scared to the fact that I was nine fucking years old. Although this is just the fourth entry in a profitable, factory ground out franchise, it is the movie most responsible for my current horror fascination. For better or worse, it will always be important to me.