Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Startle me!

Something I've realized, after seeing the new Resident Evil film, even if it's not so much specifically about that: there's quite a range of films in the "horror" genre. Some of them achieve this horror by reaching deep into the human psyche, capitalizing on fears and anxieties we may not have realized we had, applying subtle technique to gradually build up a sensation that will truly stick with an audience. Others just take cheap parlor tricks, putting in dark room after dark room, always using the same quick music, always suddenly tossing something into the camera frame to startle us, time after time. We might as well call them "startle" flicks.

Could even make it a section at movie stores. Comedy. Drama. Startle.

There's no deeper feeling, no deeper meaning or realization to it. It's just a temporary adrenaline rush. Once you walk out the theater, nothing's changed. Nothing for me to wonder or worry about. No revelations. The basic adrenaline rush is over, and that's all I got out of it.

Such simple tricks may work once or twice. Used appropriately, they could certainly be part of a masterpiece. But if there's nothing to back them up, they only become tiresome and obvious. The craft of a film shouldn't be obvious -- if a movie doesn't stay a step or two ahead of the audience, it's in trouble. I don't want to have time to decide whether some gore and blood was put in for the sole purpose of grossing me out; it'll be obvious enough whether it has a purpose, but the fact that I have time to think about it means the content of the movie is getting too thin.

Work in layers. Stay ahead of the audience. Give us the right sorts of information so that we can get a rough understanding, the first time through, but make sure there's enough there for us to think about and watch again and again, and then you'll have something that might be more worth those millions of funding.

That, and people who talk in theaters are damned annoying.