As a writer, and specifically a screenwriter, I watch lots of movies. I like to see how a scene is designed, watch it play out and take from it what I am looking for. As I wrote the screenplay for City 7, I focused on a tight enclosed places for most of the action to take place. Some of my inspiration, specifically where the head zombie toys with our soldiers and begin whittling their numbers down, I looked to the Hospital Shootout in the John Woo’s action movie Hard Boiled.
Zombies are hot right now, and its probably because they where the scary monster in the dark that frightened my generation when we were kids. I am sure there are entire books worth of anthropological and philosophical reasons why we as a culture are obsessed with movie monsters. For me it is the idea of rebuilding after a catastrophe, pulling ourselves out of the ashes, and starting again.
However the idea that the good guys know what their up against and are ready to fight back is pretty much limited to the Resident Evil films, Sci-Fi Movies, a few foreign films and video games.
That makes it hard to forge a path in the Action/Horror Genre, because there really isn’t one. Sure there are several movies that fall into the category, Resident Evil(as mentioned above), Doomsday, Book of Eli, Ghosts of Mars, The Alien trilogy ( I refuse to admit that fourth one even exists), The AVP movies, and maybe a handful of others. But do a quick look at a Blockbuster, or a Redbox, or even Netflix. There is no Action/Horror Genre.
The above mentioned films get placed in other genres, and sometimes don’t even cross over into Horror. The question is why? It’s pretty simple, the Forefathers of Horror had simple tools, and had to use tricks to create suspense, and mood. Just look at some of the old films to see what I mean:
In this clip from The Birds, people are confused and almost helpless, a state that makes most of us uncomfortable, irritated and prone to make bad choices. It’s scary to not be in control. Hitchcock also used what you couldn’t see to make a situation tense and scary, as in the infamous Shower Scene from Psycho:
Even Night of the Living Dead, regardless of the reason, is filmed in Black and White which gives it an extra creepy edge.
As Horror evolved, it still continued to use a lot of these concepts. In the movie Alien, we here and “almost see” the Alien for most of the movie, lighting quick attacks and mystery surround the vanishing crew members.
In this scene we see Dallas hunt for the Alien, while Ripley and the rest of the crew freak out. This is a trick the extended into what is probably my favorite Action/Horror film, Aliens.
(Sorry this was the best clip I could find of this scene….) The Aliens once again use some other means to outsmart the survivors and get way to close way to fast.
Something else happened, well something was happening the entire time. Other Horror movies where folding the market, particularly “Slasher” films, and what could have become Action/Horror became: Sci-fi, Suspense and even plain old vanilla Action at times. The B-Grade Slasher Film took over the Horror movie genre, and sometimes using the same tricks as the old masters, changed what most people think of when you say “Horror”.
The “Trinity” of Horror used to be: Dracula, The Mummy and The Wolf man. And I am not talking about the newer versions, I mean Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney Jr.. Fantastic movies, which prayed upon our fears of what is out and unseen in the night. Of course now we have movies like Twilight, and TV shows like: the BBC Being Human and MTVs Teen Wolf, which pull the fangs out of our monsters. Making them soft, lovable, relate-able.
Its what Disney did to most of our old Fables and Folk Stories. Take something dark, with a hidden message and meaning. The polish it, market some pastel and neon colored toys. Make sure to give it a happy ending. Remove the possibility any of the characters might have to face any real world consequences, and ship it out into the minds of kids everywhere.
These stories had points, and even morals to teach. Concepts like: “The Medieval Forest is a dangerous place, DON’T GO INTO IT! ALONE!” or “Don’t take anything from any stranger, anytime, ever, NO NOT EVEN THIS TIME!”. Put a Disney Spin on it, and its okay for kids to do that stuff because “Prince Charming” or some random Vigilante Woodsmen, is just wandering around the country side looking for people to save.
Now days go up to any Horror buff and you get a very different “Trinity” of movie monsters: Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, and either Michael Myers or Leatherface (depending on who you ask). These “monsters” have replaced our traditional monsters, and the movies center around about dumb, often naked and sex driven, teenagers.
I write Action/Horror, it’s not Classic Horror, and its not Action. My screenplays and ideas, and planned films, are not filled with half naked teen starlets, screaming their heads off while running upstairs.
As we continue to make films through Digital Raven, I feel that we are taking Horror Movie Concepts, Tossing in a dose of John Woo, and hitting blend.
So I challenge the norm, I want to see all the Action/Horror films find their own genre, I want a label that makes sense, and lets me look at those that came before us, and those that will come behind us. Let’s change the way we look at Horror movies.