The Conundrum of High-Production and Bad Writing

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This is a movie dump focusing on two of the higher-budget horror movies to emerge from 2016: The Forest, and The Boy.

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These movies are the definition of spectacle and voyeuristic viewing: we watch sometimes behind clasped fingers and sometimes between gulps of laughter. The appeal of films such as these are that they are constantly including the viewers, breaching beyond the bodily text of film to achieve active and involved viewing. These films draw me back time and again in that they deliver what they promise: twists and turns, jumps and starts, inexplicable conclusions and unsuspecting deaths. The review whether good or bad is irrelevant – the point is I’m watching, I’m engaging with the film itself through a plethora of emotional and physical responses, including, but not limited to, fright, terror, anger, confusion, humour and laughter.

Plot aside, these two films actually hold a lot in common: female protagonists, high-production, hidden filming locales, cheap scares, and awful writing. Again, what these films do tend to succeed in, and do well, time and again is to evoke visceral physical reactions out of the viewers. Whatever our reactions may be, a sigh from disbelief, a jump from  fright, covering our eyes from gore, shock from a right-turn plot twist, these movies successful cause us to engage with the film body itself, the textuality of the film code.

Many movies can cause such reactions but none so easily as the horror movie itself, particularly the high-production one in that they pull out all the stops and make full use of all the elements they have access to in building a diegesis. Elements such as lighting, camera angels, terrifying makeup or realistic effects, and powerful mood music.

Often I hear people say they either love or hate horror movies: I think it’s this visceral interaction that they are actually referring to. Some people simply do not like to engage with the filmic (horrific) body, while others are addicted to such interactions. I go into these films with preconceived expectations I assume from the genre, including these bodily reactions. It’s very often when these movies fail to adhere to these codes or exceed them that we get the truly stand out movies: the truly awful and the truly great.

But these movies are neither, really. They just exist as a part of the horror medium. They do not change the genre or surpass it, nor did they miss the mark: they just are. Which in a way is maybe the most insulting thing one can say about a horror movie in that they do not stand out for any memorable reason, they just fade into the pile of already “okay” horror films.

 

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