As a writer and fan of the macabre I can appreciate and fully understand the pull of the abyss. As humans we are all drawn toward the darkness of the human spirit, the human heart, and the awful things we are capable of doing. That is one of the things that sets us apart from the animal kingdom – our cruelty and occasional joy in it. If you question that then turn on the television and watch one of the dozens of crime shows that are one. We all feel the pull of a roadside accident, or the allure of televised carnage but most of us turn our heads when we have sated that curiosity. Some, but not all. And for those few that keep looking when the blood flows there are all manner of movies, books, television shows and more for them.
Now, this is not meant as a condemnation of people drawn to the dark side as unless someone crosses the line and commits an act of violence themselves, but most don’t. Some people just look longer into the darkness, and their reasons are their own. For once though, I wanted to look into the abyss a moment longer to see what was there.
Now, when peering into the darkness you have to set a few ground rules, you have to understand what your limits are, what you are willing to see and what you just cannot handle. Me, I don’t dig on the ‘true death’ stuff. Not for me. I can see why some people are drawn to it and can even feel that morbid pull but am not interested in seeing the stuff. For me, the little I have seen was more than enough. I had my fill. Only you can set parameters and you do need them because you have to understand that it’s one thing to go to the deep end of the pool when you are learning to swim and another to dive into the ocean. Baby steps, people.
But sometimes you need to look into the darkness to remind yourself why you cling to the light.
So I found two movies streaming on Netflix and thought I would take a walk on the dark side for the night. I won’t say which films I watched because it wouldn’t be fair to publicly judge them as I fast forwarded the films. I can walk on the dark side from time to time but it doesn’t mean that I didn’t leave a nite-light on. Just saying. Anyway, it isn’t fair to condemn the movies by name because I didn’t fully commit to them. I will say I got the gist of both and got all I was going to get out of them. I saw enough.
What I found is that really, the fringe of horror has never changed, it just evolves. When I was a kid growing up we were into the foreign gore films and the harder they were to track down the more we wanted to see them. After that people got into the true gore films like Faces of Death. After that the fringe and the mainstream got together and turned out movies that were mainstream gore films that dragged the skeletons out in front of everyone, making us all confront our taste for torture and death, making us face our taste for the perverse. But when movies like Hostel there was a need to push further out, and that brings us to the new breed, the newest evolution. With the availability of affordable high def equipment amateur and budding filmmakers can now make films for next to no money, can edit them on their home computers, can burn copies on their computers, and can sell and distribute their films online. Now the fans are the filmmakers and with social media they can get immediate feedback and can give the fans exactly what they want. A blessing and a curse because there is a point where fans, knowing they have your ear, will keep pushing, pushing, pushing and you won’t be an artist, you’ll be a factory.
What I found was that the old is still new. Gore is still in, more realistic, for sure, but still as fake as ever. With the gore you get some other bodily fluids, some vomit, some pee, some blood, and if you look hard enough maybe poo. With all of this you get torture, you get borderline hardcore sex, you get sadism, and from the couple I saw, you get very little story. Now, this is not at all to say that every movie is the same as I am sure there are gems out there waiting to be discovered but, well, the dark side is out there for a reason. I can still watch the old gore movies from my youth and enjoy the heck out of them but I can totally see that these were definitely not great films, they had their charm, but often that charm was to spite the filmmakers and their efforts. Now there is little charm, just a purer taste of the dark. How long these filmmakers and their films will last remains to be seen. Like all trends, they will pass, they will become too timid, or maybe too dark, and tastes will change. Happens all the time. Even on the dark side. It is interesting to see what the fringe parts of horror are up to, interesting to get a pulse on things, but the fringe doesn’t do much for me anymore, and I don’t really mind that.
I don’t condemn the fringe, the dark side of horror, and never will. It’s pretty hypocritical to damn something for being different. For being extreme. And while the two films I sorta watched were not something I would want to see again I will grant them that there were kernels there, there were ideas that could turn into something if they were fleshed out. And the thing is this, I may not like the movies on the fringe but I admire the passion to make movies with only the money you can scrape together, and doing it with the understanding that you may never get rich off of what you are doing. Horror often thrives in the underground, and while the fringe is more of the basement to the underground, their spirit is what makes me wish them well, and hope that they find ways to focus on the storytelling first, and the shocks second, though, really, I have that hope for most horror, new, old, mainstream or indie. And in that, all movies are the same.