In my previous blog post, I discussed the first two entries in Jason Zinoman's four-part Slate magazine series on ways to "fix" the horror genre. In this post, I will briefly follow up with a discussion of Zinoman's third and fourth parts.
In Part III, Zinoman advocates more remakes of well-known horror movies, provided that they become more "relevant" to contemporary audiences, generally by reflecting contemporary political and social controversies (his example is Carrie and post-Columbine paranoia):
"A remake that follows the script of the original while ratcheting up the body count offers few surprises. But one that brings back beloved old monsters while occasionally turning left when we're expecting a turn right has the potential to scare us in ways the original never did."
Somehow this seems wrong. If a monster is "beloved," it ceases to become frightening. This is one reason the Universal monsters of the 1930s grew progressively less frightening in the 1940s and then downright lovable thereafter. It is also why audiences cheer for Michael Myers, Freddie Kruger, and Jason Vorhees rather than cringe in fear. Even Scream's Ghostface and Saw's Jigsaw puppet have become familiar rather than frightening.
In Part IV, Zinoman advocates for more gore, for him the highest form of horror. He seriously misunderstands Stephen King's reflection in Danse Macabre that he seeks first to terrify, and if he cannot do that, to horrify, and if that is impossible to generate a "gross-out." This is not, as Zinoman thinks, King's squeamishness over gore; instead, it is King's recognition that there are levels of fear. The highest is terror (pure psychological fear), followed by horror (psychological fear mixed with fear for one's body), with "gross" things (purely physical disgust) at the bottom rung as the least effective form of horror. How Zinoman misunderstands that is beyond me, since King says as much in so many words.
Taken together, the four parts of Zinoman's series paint his ideal film as a plot-free, ultra-violent remake of something we've seen before. In other words, exactly what Hollywood is already doing.
Update: Zinoman has responded to this post here.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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