Why Gore Is Ruining The Horror Movie Industry

Posted: July 9, 2013 in Reflections, Scary Stuff, Writing
Tags: , , , ,

I’m never sure how popular these posts analyzing the horror industry (books or movies) are. But I am a horror writer, so I’m going to take a moment out of your day to let you know that gore is ruining the horror movies we’re seeing these days, and I hope you don’t roll your eyes and say this guy is either loony or one of those angry, self-righteous preachers who feels he knows everything and anyone who disagrees is an idiot who can’t grasp genius.

I’m more the former than the latter, which is very much like Sheldon Cooper.

Horror movies have one aim: to scare people. And they’ve done that in several ways. Usually it involved a monster or a ghost. Rarely did it involve excess amounts of blood, organs and severed limbs that were separated from the bodies in all manner of freaky ways (never had a problem with pushing the boundaries of sexuality, though). The movies that did employ those three I just listed were usually slasher films, and those were very difficult to pull successfully off to begin with. And when they did succeed, it usually led to many low-budget sequels.

But in 2004 a little movie known as Saw came out. And while its sequels could definitely be called slashers, the original was much more than that, a horror, a mystery, and a thriller all wrapped up into one neat little horror film. And if you haven’t seen the film, believe me, it was gory for its time. Bloody bodies and stumps and God knows what else. And it was a box office smash, breaking all sorts of records and winning all sorts of rewards. And so were its sequels, which always raked in several times their very low budgets. And ever since, more horror films have been utilizing gore in order to scare people silly.

Just one problem: gore is a turn-off. Studies show that people are disgusted by bloody scenes, such as car crash scenes or scenes from massacres. So why would you make it the main feature of your horror flick, if it just turns people off? I’m not sure. I really don’t understand the logic of Hollywood executives and filmmakers, except that it involves a modicum of profit-seeking. But I’ve seen too many movies that have used too much gore, Evil Dead being the most obvious example in my mind. And they’ve done badly when they could’ve been better.

Luckily for Hollywood, there are ways to still use gore without being excessive. Ever watch the movie Carrie? For those of you who haven’t seen the movie or read the book (and if you haven’t I feel so sorry for you), a telekinetic girl gets pranked at prom and gets covered in blood. There’s the gore. Now imagine that girl causing havoc with her powers, all while covered in blood and still wearing her burgundy dress. That’s scary, right? But not because of the gore. No. It’s the girl with the telekinetic powers going on a rampage! But the blood all over her does add to the terror.

Adds to the terror. Adds.

And it’s the same with Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Say what you want about that movie, but with the hotel’s twisting and turning layout, chairs disappearing between shots, and the changing of carpet patterns within seconds serves to create a sense of unreality, a sense that you can’t grasp the situation, and that’s pretty damn scary in itself. The bloody elevator and the man with the split head just adds to it all.

So if you’re going to use gore, use it as a spice to your true object of terror, a frosting on the cake, an accentuation (I’m running out of adjectives, but you get the point, right?). Using gore to add to the terror is okay, but as a main thrill it just doesn’t work as often as it should.

Of course, I’d prefer that gore not used at all. Take a look at movies such as Paranormal Activity, the original Amityville Horror, or The Haunting in Connecticut, which use no gore at all, but rely on surprise, build-up of suspense, and a spooky sense of things-not-as-they-seem. Add in some special effects, and it’s scary as hell. Little gore, and it’s barely noticeable when you see all the other stuff that’s going on.

And they are the scariest movies I’ve ever seen. Freaks me out! And that’s not easy.

So Hollywood, if you’re reading this, please don’t think I’m trying to tell you how to do your jobs. But I do think that a smaller emphasis on the gore and more use of actual creepy angles, a sense of unreality, and just being scary would do some amazing things for your movies. After all, the upcoming movie The Conjuring looks like it doesn’t use any gore at all, and it’s already expected to do really well, if the reviews and the trailers are anything to go by.

Just a suggestion.

  1. I thought you were going to talk about Former Vice-President Al Gore.

  2. Mati Serrano says:

    The Shining was a suspense-filled and mysterious ride.
    Loved it.

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