Posted by: Paul | October 26, 2010

A History of Horror with Mark Gatiss

This excellent short run of documentaries by the League of Gentleman man finished last night with a look at the horror movies I myself grew up watching, and it was an informative and very creepy watch.

Over the course of three programmes, Mark Gatiss explored the beginnings of the horror movie genre, and then two of its ‘golden ages’ (or should that be gore-den ages?), that of Hammer studios and the British horror movement, and the new dawn of American horror, massively influential over the icky mess horror movies find themselves in now.

Last night’s show was especially entertaining as it took me back to illicitly watching things round friends’ houses which I knew I probably shouldn’t see, impressionable young man as I was, but just couldn’t tear myself away. Dawn of the Dead watched at a sleepover at a friend’s while we were still at primary school. Halloween at a Cub Scout charity event where the aim was to stay awake all night (I didn’t, even the fear of Michael Myers couldn’t stop me from nodding off about 3am).

I used to love horror movies – now I can’t bear to watch them. Modern horror is all a bit too concerned with ‘real’ situations for my liking, and the penchant for torture and worse does absolutely nothing for me. What got to me the most, and stayed with me even until now, was the supernatural – things that couldn’t be explained. For instance, I have a list of movies I’m never going to watch, for reasons of self-preservation. And, as great a movie as it’s purported to be, at the top of that list is The Exorcist. I know, it looks a bit dated now, and has been spoofed and done to death a hundred thousand times, but still nothing can rob the original movie of its atmosphere and power. The sound design especially – in the short clips I have seen in shows like Gatiss’s, it’s the sound that I find freakiest of all. A 14 year old girl speaking with the voice of a demon is just a bit too much for me.

Anyway, growing up with The Exorcist as the granddaddy of ‘video nasties’, and it being the ultimate test of a boys powers of endurance, I fear for Adam growing up in the current climate, as there are ever more repulsive horrors available to him out there than there were when I was a child. You’re inevitably drawn to the illicit, wanting to test yourself, and so I feel overwhelmingly like I have to protect him from what’s freely available out there. Maybe I’m just getting old and more conservative as I do so.

I can imagine the nine-year-old playground conversations, having had them myself of course. Except this time, they go like this:
“Have you seen Hostel? It’s amazing, its the best film I’ve ever seen, it’s disgusting!” For most nine-year-old boys, at that point – you’re sold. Of course, he will never watch anything like that in my house, on my watch, but you can’t be with them all the time, can you? And even so, there’s even worse available on the internet. I don’t even like to think about it. Kids will find it very easy to circumvent parental controls on computers – they end up knowing more about them than you do.

I don’t generally advocate banning things – unless they’re illegal, of course, when the powers that be should be taking over anyway – but a lot of this feeling for me has been sparked by an article I read several weeks ago, about a film which was due to screen in London. I’m not even going to dignify it by naming it, because I don’t really want to encourage its makers. It’s not yet seen a UK release, and in its entirety it’s thankfully not likely to. But there are ways and means of getting hold of things, which now can never be conclusively prevented. This is all sounding a bit Daily Mail, but very very rarely there are times when knowing the contents of something is enough to know it’s wrong, without putting yourself through the experience of actually seeing it, no?

What’s that noise? I could have sworn I heard something downstairs. I’d better go check it out. I’ll be right back 😉

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