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October 29, 1997 - Image 19

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The Michigan Daily, 1997-10-29

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0B Ate ichi r Dail WeekeZid Mqgazm*e - Thursday, lptober 30, 1997 w

The Micigaraily Weeken Magazi4

K Thursday, October 30, 097 - 7B

iFdmFeature

They're alive! Horror flicks undergo metamorphosis

Weekend Column
THE GIFT OF FEAR

By Michael Zlbermen
Daily Arts Writer
The moment patrons of a Parisian
caf6 jumped up and out of their seats at
the sight of that approaching train, cin-
ema's greatest gift was discovered: its
uncanny ability to scare you silly. The
tradition of literary horror already firm-
ly in place and Brain Stoker a house-
,.hold name for three years or so, it was
only a matter of time before someone
had done the math. Before too long,
Nosferatu was levitating out of his cof-
fin at a nickelodeon near you.
By mid-1930s, the horror cinema
already had a quite expansive pantheon.
Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, the
Werewolf and the Mummy have put in
at least one appearance each, and each
has found a permanent niche in our col-
lective psyche. Each successfully
tapped a separate human fear, peering
especially deep into the adolescent psy-
che (there's a theory proclaiming that
Dracula personifies the fear of menstru-
al cycles, but let's not go there).
Such intensity tends to trigger defen-
sive irony, and just about the main fea-
ture of horror is that it teeters on the
edge of comedy like no other genre.
Which explains why pretty much every-
one in the list above was eventually met
by Abbott and Costello.
The 1950s brought about faster film
stock, lighter cameras, drive-in theaters
and a great new tradition of a horror
cheapie. The genre found its epitome in
maestro Roger Corman, the man who
shot the battle ofTroy withtwo men and
a bush. Nowadays easily found on
-":'Mystery Science Theater;" Cornan's

Kubrick's "The Shining."
If these names have managed to
make horror sound oddly respectable,
the 1970s and 1980s also returned the
genre into the realm of unadulterated,
base fun.
A new breed of the horror movie
appeared on the horizon: a slasher flick
with endless sequel possibilities.
"Halloween," with "Friday the 13th"
and "A Nightmare on Elm Street" join-
ing in later, defined new horror for a
new generation: splattering blood, axes
coming down from a variety of angles,
shadow tricks recycled from Hitch and
an occasional nudity flash.
Easily spotted genre conventions ran
rampant: "Don't go there!," the murder
of an amorous couple, the virgin as a
lone survivor. As for representing fears,
slasher flicks unanimously short-cir-
cuited on punishing sexual promiscu-
ity. Needless to say, professional paro-
dists had a field day with this, with
"Ghostbusters" taking in record box
office numbers and Sam Raimi's "Evil
Dead" series building a cult following.
By the 1990s, the need to parody hor-
ror was gone: It has become its own
best critic. We've entered the age of the
Postmodern Scare, where every honest
jolt is followed by a cackle of self-dep-
recation. Sure, sure, "Scream" was
great, but the greatness of it lied in how
well it worked off the existing horror
canon.
Now imagine films like this have
become that canon ... and, judging
from "I Know What You Did Last
Summer" that is the way things are
going. Ifa teen-age hero rips on a Jamie
Lee Curtis movie before getting his
head smashed in, it buys the director a
license to proceed with the actual head-
smashing in the most unimaginative
ways possible. You can take credit for
the good and write off the bad as an
homage to schlock cinema. Very conve-
nient.
Then again, a "Freddy Krueger
Versus Jason', movie is in the works.

Neve Campbell and Rose McGowan deliver riveting performances in the most recent horror film success "Scream."
masterpieces still stun the imagination mer realized itself mostly in the form of From Outer Space."
by the sheer amount of times a single "mutant" movies centering on oversized During the 1960s, it was not the gila
shot can be recycled for different pur- critters - "Them!" (giant ants), "The monsters but the horror genre itself that
poses ... the decade also brought with it Day of the Locust" (giant rabbits),"The was mutating. Hollywood started
a variety of new things to fear. Giant Gila Monster" (self-explanatory). exploring intellectual cinema, and it
If Dracula was arguably born out of The Communist scare, in its tum, comes as no surprise that the best hor-
the British fear of gypsies and various resulted in a couple of peculiar parables ror movies of two following decades
Eastern European immigrants, the '50s of brainwashing and de-individualiza- came from "serious" directors who got
horror heroes are children of the tion - check out the original "Invasion their start in the '60s: Roman Polanski's
nuclear era and McCarthyism. The for- of The Body Snatchers," or "It Came "Rosemary's Baby" and Stanley

Do you remember what it was like, as of fa
a kid, to be scared? Ni
I'm not talking about the kind of fear thing
we face now - rational stuff like alien
whether we'll finish a paper on time, and
whether we'll find a job when we gradu-
ate or even whether a loved one will pull
through after a risky medical procedure.
I'm not talking about things you can
think over, things that - no matter how
scary they may seem - make sense and
follow some prescribed pattem oforder.
No, I want you to remember what it
was like to really be scared.
Think back to that time when every-
thing around you was at least two or
three times your size, but seemed about
30 times your size. When you had to tilt
your head every time you wanted to
look a grownup in the eye.
Think back to when every person you -
saw on the street wasn't just a random as It
individual, but a stranger - someone emb
you didn't know and didn't trust. mosi
Someone who wasn't your parent. hor
Someone who could hurt you. "Gh
When we get older, many of us have ner, I
trouble sleeping. We toss and turn, wor- Bt
rying about things like the future. pora
But when we're younger, tossing and mak
turning is the least of our worries. That ther
shadow by the closet just might not be
our shirt hanging from the doorkno. If
we hear something moving around
under our beds, its not so easy to tell
ourselves it's just our imagination.
Fear, when you're little, is not some-
thing that makes sense. It just fear.
Pure and unadulterated. No reason, no
rationale, no explanation.
Fear stuck around with me a little
longer than it does with most people.
In the third grade, as much as I was
intrigued by stories of the supematural,
they made myimagination go wild. c
Ater begging my parents for days, -
they finally took me to see the movie
"Ohostusters' My friends had seen it
It was hysterical, they told me, I'd love it
I didn't find it hysterical, but the
movie did drive me to hysterics. I can't a1t
even remember what about the movie trom
upset me, but upset me it did. Literally.
My most vivid memory of the
evening has nothing to do with the pic-h
ture itself. What stands out in my mind
is not any image of ghosts or goblins,
but of myself, puking that night's meal
onto the red carpet of the theater lobby
as my dad carried me out, sobbing and
scared out of my wits.
That was the last movie of its kind I
saw for awhile. Even as a grade-school-
er, I still had trouble separating the realm
"S-
_dvnt." s- endon T
when starting their
own busnesses
ST

ntasy from the constraints of reality.
o matter how much I was told
s like, "Ghosts don't really exist;
s aren't really going to come down
suck your brains out,' the horrible
things I saw in
movies seemed
real to me.
Why not ? I
would think. How
much can we really
know? How can
we really be certain
that demons don't
exist, that seem-
ingly random
occurrences aren't
FARAH the product of the
FARAD'S supernatural.
FAUCET "The Ghost-
busters Incident,"
now refer to it, was one of the most
arrassing of my young life. Like
t of adult society, I not only watch
or movies (much less
ostbusters") without losing my din-
but I enjoy watching horror movies.
ut as much as I like feeling the tem-
ry fear of a scary movie and then
ing that easy transition back into
rational world - as much as I

appreciate not having to take a barf bag
with me every time I watch "Scream"
- every now and then, I miss the fear I
experienced when I was young.
I miss not knowing for sure whether
the creaking sound I hear in my closet is
just a noise that any old apartment
would make, or whether it's really the
gigantic, drooling fly-creature I saw on
Monstervision two nights ago.
I miss not being able to believe in
something magical, something we can't
understand - that doesn't fit into the
neat and tidy bounds of accepted reality.
Once we get rid of the fear in our lives,
once we rule out the possibility of vam-
pires or goblins, we inevitably toss out

everything that was ever fantastic or
magical about life. Everything is logical,
everything is understandable.
That means there's nothing we have
to fear like we did when we were kids,
but it also means that, as far as this
world goes, what we see is what we get.
There may not be any werewolves, but
there also isn't any Santa Claus.
Once a year, on Halloween, we come
just a little closer to that time when the
impossible seemed like it could be pos-
sible. We come a little closer to feeling
real fear, to living in a world where
every question can't automatically be
answered, where we're not ultimately in
control of our surroundings.

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.- .. r.xw. .. ...w :w+. .+ ..a.r.-w .a . . w. ...-.

For a brief time, the fantastic seems
possible. Spells, witches, trolls and
dragons all seem a little more plausible.
While snatching a pumpkin from a
local field, it seems just as likely that
you'll run into a zombie as an angry
farmer guarding his produce. Seeing
isn't necessarily believing.
As reassuring as it may be to return to
the world of the rational, enjoy that
uncertainty - that sense of fear - if
just for one night.
But take it from someone with expe-
rience. No matter how much fun you
may want to have - try not to puke.
- Chris Farah can be reached at
cjfarahumich.edu

E. Hron qt. (watmmstance
campusl :*769-0560
NOVEMBER 2 - 7:30PM
'ATE THEATRE - DETROIT
Tickets ON SALE NOW at
-El ,tat4064r5- 6
inoe jncr nfoa d u o+c

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