ByCraig Whyel, writer at
Film & TV news, previews and commentary
Craig Whyel

I need your input.

I want desperately to better appreciate horror movies but, I seem to fail repeatedly.

It is odd to me, because a lot of memories of my life, especially my late childhood and teen years have been fondly attached to the horror genre.

The earliest and longest lasting memory was in the late nineteen sixties (yes, I am that damn old) when my parents took my brother and myself to the local drive-in to see a film they described as “a story about monsters that wouldn’t die.”

Okay, so it wasn’t entirely a spot on description but it wasn’t bad.

The line to get in was out of the drive-in’s approach road and sloppily sprawled along the shoulder of the street in front of the place. Eventually we got in and the four of us watched in unsettled silence as Night of the Living Dead unfolded.

I was frightened out of my mind, even though I know what I watching was pure entertainment. A few days later, I returned to normal sleep though images of zombies snacking on entrails returned periodically.

Great fun for my generation was the regional TV horror shows. For people in the Pittsburgh area, it was Chiller Theater, hosted by local TV personality, “Chilly” Billy Cardille. His show ran on the local NBC affiliate station every Saturday night for twenty-one years. Each episode was a double-feature of cinematic scariness with a mélange of wrap-around skits. Through the show, I watched hundreds of scary flicks and couldn’t recall a single one.

It was all decidedly low-brow but it was never taken seriously and seemed to be a great backdrop to have for a viewing party or a smaller get together.

Okay, digression over. Jump cut to the present.

I recently had a conversation about movies with a friend. When the talk turned to favorite genres, I was then asked what I had against horror movies.

I have nothing against them. They don’t, for the most part, resonate with me. In fact, there are only three that come to mind when I think of horror cinema:

  • Night of the Living Dead
  • The Shining
  • The Blair Witch Product

Those are not necessarily my favorites but they are three who easily resonate with me. When I think of those then I can’t overlook the many failed attempts in recent years to enjoy the latest of the genre, here are where the newer movies flop miserably.

Over-reliance on Gimmicks

The woods…abandoned buildings…haunted houses…are just locations. They are not frightening in and of themselves.

People make them frightening.

The Ready-to-slay Victims

I wonder how many movies there are about nubile young ladies (who can’t act to save their lives), who often prance around in skimpy attire and wind up being horribly victimized. I'm guessing the total is in the thousands.

I mean, are there any horror movies in the works about M.M.A fighters to take back a haunted house…gym…arena…woods?

Makeup and special effects:

There’s no question that they have become an art form in and of themselves. As a matter of fact, I live about two miles from the school where horror legend Tom Savini hosts his makeup and effects program. While I’ve not met Mr. Savini, I know several of his former students and they work they do is absolutely fantastic.

On the other hand, an extreme dependence on the blood and guts and explosions and lighting distracts from the storyline and diminish the intensity which emanates from pacing.


There is too much dependency on exposition and a complete lack of naturalism. Part of the problem, I have noticed, is that horror films have heavy back stories in conjunction with present day stories so they are doubly tasked to cram the overload of details into roughly two hours. Also, it takes considerable skill and experience to balance such a challenge.

Further, I hear almost no natural sounding dialogue among actors in recent horror films.

Directing: Directors should effectively battle the visual with the written word all the while keeping things moving along at a good pace. Too often, I’ve given up on a horror film because I feel like it’s all over the place, like a truck stuck in a snow drift and desperately spinning its wheels.

Okay, so I won’t belabor my point. Please note that I kept out specific examples because there are so many of them and I want to be respectful to their legion of artists who’ve undertaken cinematic horror endeavors no matter how talent-impaired they might be.

I’ll end with a question.

Can you help me learn to appreciate horror movies?

This is one of the all-time greats...
This is one of the all-time greats...
Scary is more often in the mind...
Scary is more often in the mind...

He made scary fun.


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