Thursday, March 10, 2005

Computer Animation Will be the Death of the Horror Movie

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't have anything against computer animation--in many movies it works. Though I can't really think of any right now--heh heh.

But when it comes to horror movies, computer animation is a big wet limp noodle.

The amazing thing about horror movies is that the mind is what fills in a huge amount of the fear that makes these movies a success. And thankfully, many of the most successful horror movie filmmakers are AWARE of this and have thus abided by the rule "less is more." They are aware that all they have to do is HINT at something that shakes us to our very core, and our brains will fearfully and tremblingly fill in the rest.

The original The Haunting is one such example, especially in comparison to its garbagey, scum-sucking god-awful remake.

In the original The Haunting, little to nothing scary is shown. Instead, the viewer finds themselves in the position of the main characters, trapped in a room where a loud pounding noise is moving up and down the hallway, unable to see or really KNOW what terrifying entity is making this noise, watching in horror from the eyes of the characters as the doorknob slowly turns and something tries to get in.

In the remake they show too much, making the movie more silly than creepy by having statues in the walls come to life, the house physically attack the main character, etc:

And herein lies the problem. Certain filmmakers get way too geeked out at the prospect of having computer animation at their disposal and end up focusing not so much on how to make the movie as creepy as possible but how to use computer animation as much and as "cleverly" as possible. They decide not to test the limits of our fears, but to test the limits of their computer animation skills, which, more often than not, results in clunky, completely unscary moments--i.e. the transformation scene in the recent werewolf movie Cursed, pretty much the whole remake of The Haunting. The list of recent horror flicks that have succumbed to this goes on and on.

Greanted, I enjoy the occasional over-the-top horror movie--ones that are replete with as much gore and blood and gruesomeness as possible (think of the explosive pus scenes from The Evil Dead or the splatter-fest lawnmower massacre of Dead Alive).

But even the success of these movies is not contingent upon computer animation. It rests on good old fashioned special effects--fake blood, fake pus, fake amputated body-parts.

And even so, for ANY movie to be a truly successful horror film (even something as border-line campy as The Evil Dead, the original of which still creeps me out mightily every time I watch it), the filmmaker has to have that understanding of what it is that makes humans fearful--not so much what IS seen as what elaborate imaginings the mind concocts in the absence of such.

The mind is an amazing thing. It can leave us reeling hours after watching something scary, make us jump at the slightest of noises, concoct elaborate visions of people creeping around the shadowy corners of our apartments. More modern horror filmmakers need to start remembering this and returning to their horror movie roots instead of tumbling into the land of computer animated flops, that way we can stop sitting through the likes of The Haunting (1999). Please, horror filmmakers. I beg you.


At 9:17 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Though I know you are not a fan of it, I would argue that the movie "The Others" was a perfect example of the type of movie you feel is lacking in modern horror. In that movie, other than a bit of fog, there were literally no special effects. Things moved, but out of the camera's eye. There we noises, but they were on other floors, in other rooms. You never, until the very end, got a chance to see the source of everything.

As for the computer effects..I wonder what today's horror movie fans think. By that, I mean the fans that are 8-12, the ages either of us were when we got into horror movies. For me, at least, the movies I saw at that age were filled with fx which are lacking in today's movies. The gallons of fake blood, the rubber hands, etc. So, I wonder if when the kids today get older, will they bemoan how high-quality computer fx have stolen the life from *their* horror movies? Of course, I agree with you completely about the "less is more" theory, just playing Devil's Advocate here.

At 10:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I actually agree with you about THE OTHERS. I thought it was a good movie EXCEPT for (SPOILER!) the lame Sixth-Sense-ish twist of an ending. You are right--they did a nice job with the "less is more" kinda thing. And it woulda been damn good 'cept for the stupid ending. Damn them.

At 12:51 PM, Blogger Genevieve said...

While I totally agree that bad animation can ruin a movie, I think it all comes down to the quality of the computer effects. Like a lot of things they're best when they are seamless and not noticible, like the scene in (I think) Saving Private Ryan (haven't seen the movie, saw a presentation from a guy from Industrial Light and Magic) where everyone's landing on the beach at Normandy. Only the main actors in the foreground and the beach itself are photogrphically filmed, the rest is created digitally, but the viewer doesn't know. Tho I know I will lure the wrath of Adam with this, to me a place where the suspension of disbelief doesn't work is in the scene in Lord of the Rings where they're fighting a giant (again, haven't seen the movie, just this scene) and it looks like it has no weight to it because of poor texture usage, etc and so it just looks like guys wrestling an animated figure.


Post a Comment

<< Home