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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Been There, 'Saw' That': TIME Rings The "Horror Is Hot" Bell

Have you heard? The Young People of Today love horror movies? Sometimes they love scary slashermovies with Roman numerals in the titles. And sometimes they scary, subtle supernatural horror movies with lank haired Asian girl ghosts. Right now they love gore-filled disembowel-oramas.
Yes, horror is hot again, as it always is. But why does this kind of horror film touch a nerve?

TIME, Oct. 30, 2006.
Rebecca Winters Keegan: The Splat Pack: Wondering where all those ultraviolent movies are coming from? Meet horror’s new blood.

“People say, ‘How can you put this stuff out there in the world?’ Well, it’s already out there,” says Eli Roth. He appeared on Fox News and proclaimed that it was because of George Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld that Americans are watching horror: “You’re so scared that you want to scream.”

For a much earlier and more thoughtful look at this trend, see USA Today’s
USA Today, Oct. 25. 2004. Susan Wloszczyna, “Extreme Cinema Returns With a Vengeance

“I definitely love to be scared,” says James Wan, Saw’s director. “It draws the primal side out of you.”
Or as screenwriter Leigh Whannell, who also co-stars in Saw, puts it: “Humans are still violent animals, and you need to get that out. The killer has done a lot of the work for you by exorcising your subconscious for a while.”
Some cite The Passion of the Christ as an example of the new tolerance for extreme viewing.

And for a template of the Horror = $ = ? story, here’s Time’s 2005 piece.
Newsweek, April 3, 2006.
Devin Gordon: “US Audiences Hungry for Blood”
One prominent critic views the trend as torture porn:
New York Magazine, Feb. 6, 2006.
David Edelstein: Why Has America Gone Nuts for Blood, Guts and Sadism?

“The issue of where the spectator’s sympathies lie at violent movies has always been a complicated one. But there’s no doubt that something has changed in the past few decades. Serial killers occupy a huge—and disproportionate—share of our cultural imagination: As potential victims, we fear them, yet we also seek to identify with their power…
[Watching IRREVERSIBLE..after the first two minutes] I didn’t understand why I had to be tortured, too. I didn’t want to identify with the victim or the victimizer.”

About that TIME trend piece.
Does Neil Marshall, a director of action-suspense movies (The Descent, Dog Soldiers), in which much of the horror remains off screen, really have all much in common with Rob Zombie, Eli Roth and Wan/Whannell, who made ultraviolent, show-all, hear-all unapologetically sadistic films in the style of drive in horror movies?

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon