As a borderline agorophobe and vertigo sufferer who is too terrified of sharks and his own lack of co-ordination to ever go surfing or do anything else thrilling, the closest to a proper adrenaline rush I get is a good scare. Unfortunately now that I am not five years old and am much too nimble to be caught by Hugo Duncan, There are fewer and fewer scares to be had.
I’ve been fairly vocal in my distaste for the state my beloved horror genre is in these days so I’m not going to labour the point again here, but at a time when new sub-genres are springing up every day sometimes on the back of one or two similarly themed pictures, and reaching saturation point within a matter of months, It’s a pleasant surprise when someone endeavours to make an unashamed genre film. It’s an even more pleasant surprise when that genre film turns out to be very good indeed; as is the case with the latest James Wan movie “The Conjuring.”
Wan has been someone to watch for a while now. After the runaway success of his debut picture “Saw” he has been making inroads into more straight ahead horror with “Dead Silence” and more recently the well received “Insidious.”
Both were fairly solid offerings, unafraid to use some older and more traditional tropes to provide scares. Both movies exhibited a learning curve and more importantly, an understanding of the genre that has continued with “The Conjuring.” It is itself an old kind of movie; both in how it looks and how it feels, and hearkens back to other old movies and the tropes they expound from which it could claim heritage. I’m going to have a light-hearted look back at some of these, and the different aspects they exhibit that The Conjuring makes use of.
Remember Robert Shaw in “Jaws?” and how he described the unfeeling, murderous blackness of a shark’s eye? What he compared it to? A Dolls eyes. Yep; an underwater murder-locomotive with knives for a face comes out better in comparison with a little girls toy BFF. Any questions? Didn’t think so, because dolls really are that damned scary.
Their eyes follow you about; their sickly sweet, knowing rictus-grins are unflinching and if the Childs Play franchise has taught us anything, it’s that they are voodoo-friendly to the point where even the very thought of harbouring a displaced murderers soul is probably what they’re smiling about in the first place.
Some notable examples:
- “Fats” (Magic; 1978): Not so much an entity in itself, but rather a seeming manifestation of its owner Corky’s (Anthony Hopkins) neuroses and extension of the darker side of his id. It is also a manifestation of his Jimmy Cagney impression
- “Chucky” (Childs Play): Rubber Smartarse Murderdoll.
- “Fletcher” (“Making Contact” AKA “Joey” 1985): Possessed Ventriloquist puppet from an early Roland Emmerich movie. His voice alone is enough to give you the shits.
As time goes on the popular perception of witches in the public consciousness has mellowed. It has become widely accepted that for the most part, they were innocent of the satanic and arcane things of which they were accused and often killed. (Evidence suggests that for the most part they may have been simply tripping balls) but that hasn’t kept them from being a stock movie villain in recent years, regardless of how sweet and wholesome they are during their time at Hogwarts.
Some Notable Examples:
- “The Blair Witch”: Forest dwelling child killer, who likes nothing better than messing with the heads of local teenage campers. Whom she kills one by one. Can’t help but think that if she had bothered to pick up their camping supplies and the crap they left behind them, we wouldn’t have had to sit through “Book of Shadows” and get travel sickness from watching all the other found footage movies that came after, the lazy oul harpie
- “The Wicked Witch of the West”: The enduring image of the pointy haired, pointy hatted green-skinned witch started with this one. Time has been kind to her and people expound the opinion nowadays that she is a much more sympathetic figure than she was considered at the time of the release of “The Wizard of Oz”. After all, if some jerk arrived in my town in a massive vehicle which announced its presence by knocking down and killing my sibling, and all the local townsfolk performed a fucking song and dance routine to celebrate this fact, I’d be fucking livid too. And if you don’t think she was scary, I say to thee “Flying Monkeys!”