A slavish barometer of social paranoia, the horror movie genre has a tendency to tap into certain trends dependent on what tweaks the public fancy – or, more appropriately, rattles the public consciousness.
When the Cold War was at its height, ‘nuclear threat’ horror, in the form of chemically mutated monsters, dominated B-movie output and sent teens jumping into the laps of their sweethearts in drive-ins the world over. In this climate of international terrorism, the menace from within – zombies – continues to lumber and dominate. Who is the enemy? It could be any one of us.
Horror has a duty to remain… horrible; to undergo transformation with every seismic shift in world consciousness and push boundaries, so in effect, horror never really goes too far. Venturing where no one else is game to venture is the responsibility the horror genre shoulders. It’s not necessarily the gross-out factor that is important here; it’s whether a particular film is encouraging you to think and move beyond your comfort zone.
At this point, I should come clean with some wares I have to peddle: I’ll be taking part in a panel on Monday 25th July as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival’s Talking Pictures Express series, where Rachael Cotra from Hello Darkness Film Festival, Neil Foley from Monster Pictures, Lee Gambin from Fangoria, Guy Davis and myself will be discussing this very subject, ‘Afraid of Everything: Has Horror Gone Too Far?’ Filmmaker Ti West (The House of The Devil, The Innkeepers) will also be offering his insider perspective on horror, although interestingly, his own films sit somewhere outside the current zeitgeist.
One film that is sure to come up in our discussion is the malign A Serbian Film, which still struggles in half-release limbo across the world, having been severely censored, as well as being the centre of legal controversy with the head of the Sitges Film Festival facing criminal charges in child pornography for screening the film. (Let me just say, despite the repugnant nature of the content, this accusation of child pornography is totally ludicrous).
I watched a screener of A Serbian Film almost one year ago and have hesitated in writing a blog post about it, for no apparent reason, except this movie kinda makes you want to run far, far away from it – it is the film that cannot be unwatched. A Serbian Film portrays a former pornstar-turned-family-man who is lured back into the trade with a pay cheque too good to be confused. The hitch? He can’t see the script; he just has to turn up to the set everyday and do as he is told.
Filmmaker Srdjan Spasojevic defends his work as being a commentary on the horrific war crimes of his country’s recent history, but A Serbian Film really does straddle the boundaries of acceptability. Has horror gone too far? I suggest you come along to the panel, hear what everyone has to say and maybe even pipe up with your own thoughts on the subject. Opinionated ‘so-and-so’s are welcome.