Random Rambles on Horror

Since I am a big horror fan, I occasionally want to ramble on or muse about horror (books, movies, music, halloween in general, etc) but a good number of them are off the head, rough concepts that don't quite warrant an entire article. I figure I'll put the random bits here and connect to them as I go along, and sometime in the future may have something close to a full concept.

Horror Movie Target Audiences

These strike me as being the four target audiences that horror movie execs are looking for, and the types of movies that generally get aimed at that audience. Of course, all generalities are meant to be broken, but that's ok.

The Horror Fan. A typical "for the fan" horror movie would be a Eli Roth or Rob Zombie film. Also, most movies that are good and involve zombies fit in this category. They use unrestrained amounts of gore and violence, and are filled with in-jokes, dark humor, strangely tight plots, self-awareness as a movie, and plot points that allow the fans to discuss the validity of certain strategies. A closely related cousin to this are movies, usually ironic/iconic horror, that are suited for the sort of people who like the trappings and visuals of horror but aren't horror movies. For this latter cousin, think Tim Burton movies.

The Person Who Wants to Be Scared. Movies that fit truly into this category are probably the best overall (though my favorites generally fit into the Horror Fan category). These are horror movies that try to be scary. The plot is designed to make you care for the characters and to feel for them. The scares tend to be less sharp on the senses, though a few jump scares are allowed. In-jokes are avoided, unless subtle, because anything that rips you out of the movie sort of stabs the genre in the foot. These movies aren't necessarily scary, mind you, but they set up the possibility to be. They work on the assumption that the audience wants to get into the movie, not just be passively watching the screen.

The Frat Boy Horror Movie Fan. One half of the popcorn horror category. This audience group would be into Torture Porn. Exploitation horror. Adventure horror. Sex and violence with a tendency to shallow character depth. The characters only real purpose is to excrete fluids at the correct time. Crosses over into the first category, sometimes pretty sharply. The only real difference is that the first category usually requires a certain visual restraint while this category is pretty hyped up on visual excess. This category is not above explosions and helicopters. The name is not meant to be disparaging, but is meant more to symbolize the fact that this style of horror is best served with a group of friends while drinking and talking and having a good time. Actually a lot of "good" (read: entertaining) movies fit here. Things by Fox Atomic fit here. A lot of gore flicks at least circle this category.

Populist Horror. The other half of the popcorn horror category. Horror designed to appeal to non-horror fans (the first three categories are for people who specifically like horror). A lot of the gore is downplayed into a few key scenes, with the "make your older sister and mom wince" factor turned up. Plots tend to be really contrived. Everyone is beautiful. Teachers are beautiful. Students are beautiful. These beautiful people often have exactly one extended sex scene (well, not students and teachers...but you know what I mean). An obsession with home life shows up a lot, with plenty of shots of suburbia. Usually stuck on visual keys and jump scares. Quicker cuts. Soundtrack is top 40 material. Assumes its audience does not deal with horror very well and so plays most scenes off as kind of light. Kind of regularly tries passing itself off as a category two, but fails to completely do so. Lot of movies made just to make money fit here. A lot of remakes of Asian horror movies fit here.

Horror Endings

It seems to me that there are roughly four ways to end a horror novel (or movie). There are several variants on these four, but these seem to be the most basic.

Into the Sunset. This is the one where the hero ends, usually with a sense of completion in a given stage of life. Quite a few variations on this ending involve romance being established. Since this is horror, this is not a purely happy ending, but overally the sensation is of a job well done.

Into the Fire. The exact opposite. Right at the end, the characters die due to surprise. More often, the monster that was thought to be killed is actually still alive and is somehow in a better position before next time.

Into the Unknown. Neither of the above. While the current arc is finished, the book ends with a sense of an even larger arc forthcoming. Can actually be really powerful, but is likely to upset people.

Into the Twilight. A bit of all three. Seemed to be pretty popular in the 90s. The main character overcomes the evil, but is touched by it. Somewhat becomes evil in his/her own right. While it is a darker ending, often endowed with a sense of anti-heroic energy, so that the ending is simultaneously played off as a good one.

Written by W Doug Bolden

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