Thursday, September 15, 2005

Horror Show



A friend of mine who is a fellow screenwriter is writing a horror movie. Specifically, a teen "slasher" movie about a bunch of sassy-talking, shallow college students who go out to a secluded lakeside cabin to drink alcohol, say rude things to each other, and have sex, but instead end up getting killed in increasingly violent and disgusting ways. Apparently this type of movie is very "hot" right now. He already has a couple of pretty successful production companies showing interest in the project. The horror trend has been going pretty strong for a couple of years now and lately I've been wondering why.

Personally I hate horror movies, partly because they are completely contrived and formulaic and have no actual story or characters to speak of, but also because they are horrifying. To me there is plenty of horror right outside my window and the last thing I want to do with my hard-earned free time is pay $12-$14 of my hard-earned money to expose myself to two hours of gore and mayhem and sadism and violence. And as if that wasn't enough, you can play video games that allow you to pretend that you are the one who is dishing out the sadistic violent gory mayhem. A bunch of guys here at work spend most every evening playing on-line games in which they basically go around killing each other over and over again.

The weird thing is, some of these guys actually live in neighborhoods where drive by shootings and gang warfare are a reality. Not to mention that there's an actual war going on where every day people are being blown to bits by suicide bombers. Or a force five hurricane that almost completely wiped out one of America's oldest and most historic cities, leaving thousands of rotting corpses in its wake. Or the serial killers, child molesters and countless other psychopaths that parade across the seemingly endless succession of news shows on TV. Why do we need more horror movies?

The other day at work, I was passing by the conference room and I saw a group of people looking out the window. Naturally I went over to see what was up. Apparently, someone left a red tool case sitting on the street corner right outside our building. It had been sitting there for about two hours and finally security had called in the bomb squad. The streets were cordoned off and a group of brave men wearing protective vests was now approaching the suspicious case.

Where's the robot I wondered? Surely they're going to bust out the robot!

But no, instead they send one of the guys with the vests over to take a couple of x-rays of the tool case. Then he tied a string to the handle, looped it around the "walk" sign on the corner lamp post and brought the other end back to where his pals were waiting behind a large concrete pillar. One, two, three -- YOINK! They jerked the case up into the air. It flung open, revealing no bomb or even any tools inside, and hung there dangling from the lamp post. Those of us at the window were kind of disappointed. Not that we wanted a bomb to go off, but it did seem a little anti-climactic and totally low-tech. At least the streets would be cleared in time for us to get to lunch.

Maybe the world has gotten so horrifying that we need a jolt of blood-gutting mayhem now and then just to feel alive. The steady, familiar, day-to-day threat of being vaporized by the ubiquitous specter of "terrorism" has become downright comfortable. Last week, on the anniversary of September 11th, Los Angeles was issued a terrorist threat warning. On the 12th we all went to work as usual, nobody seemed particularly nervous or vigilant. Around noon I was talking to my cell phone company about upgrading to a better phone, when those annoying guys from security broke in over the intercom and announced a massive power shutdown. They were so loud I had to hang up the phone. They told us to stay in our offices and await further instruction.

I waited around for about twenty minutes but then I got really hungry so I went to the elevator lobby to see if the elevators were running. Apparently they keep one going in case of emergencies like low blood sugar. I went over to the food court where all the lights were off, but my pal at the sandwich place let me have a bowl of turkey chili. I sat and ate my chili near the window so I could read my book. It was kind of hard to read though, with the alarm beeping all the time and the intercom crackling with incomprehensible announcements about things like "emergency power" and "exits" and "evacuation." I wandered back to my building and found that it had apparently been evacuated. Fortunately the guard let me go upstairs to get my car keys so I could join the thousands of other idiots trying to navigate the hellish maze of L.A. traffic with the added benefit of no traffic lights.

I guess the bowl of turkey chili made me sleepy, because when I got home I took about a two hour nap. When I woke up the crisis was over so I made a sandwich and watched some TV. The next day everyone was talking about the big blackout and how they got home and how sore their legs were from walking down all those stairs (suckers!) By Wednesday it was pretty much forgotten. Just yesterday I was in someone's office when we heard several sharp, echoing POP-POP-POPs, that sounded an awful lot like artillery fire. We craned our necks to see where the sound had come from but couldn't tell. A few minutes later a blizzard of multicolored bits fluttered by the window. Apparently the sound we'd hear had been confetti cannons. Just another false alarm.

Maybe all these false alarms are getting on our nerves and we need to have something happen for catharsis sake. In that case, why not go see a really scary movie and scream your guts out when the killer pops out from behind the shower curtain.

At any rate I don't think it's a healthy sign when people need to be frightened out of their wits just to be entertained. But it's good for the movie industry -- horror movies are cheap and they rake in the cash. With any luck, my buddy's movie will be giving people recurring nightmares and influencing potential homicidal maniacs by next summer.

Me, I'm sticking to comedy.


HWD

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