As you may have gathered from my previous post in which I drooled over the possibility of seeing B-Movie horror actor Bruce Campbell in person, or from the link to the Dead By Dawn horror festival’s website on the right, I’m something of a horror film fan. The genre is an easy target for whining moralisers, culture snobs and the easily terrified/squeamish but I can’t help it. Whether it’s being scared to death by a rusted, unoccupied, twisted child’s wheelchair suddenly jerking to face the screen (The Changeling), a zombie horde being reduced to a reddish-purple soup (Braindead) or simply some incredibly colourful, beautifully shot yet terrifyingly unsettling scenes of violence, misery and pain (Suspiria) there’s just something about the genre that hits the right buttons in my psyche and keeps me coming back.
And for the record it’s not the gore. OK, a good part of it IS the gore, and the cheap scares, and the gut laughs at particularly outlandish scenes but there’s something else. It may be the fact that horror attempts to break taboos and to stretch the boundaries of what is acceptable that it actually gets the mental gears churning. Why did I enjoy that? What does it say about me, the people who made it and the world that accepts/abhors it? Was it really necessary and is that even a valid question?These and other questions are the reason why I seem to have much deeper and more intellectually stimulating conversations about horror films than any others. Just ask my ex…
But just because horror is a wonderfully interesting and exciting genre does not by any stretch of the imagination mean that every example of it is worthy of praise. Unfortunately my beloved genre is also responsible for some of the worst crimes against celluloid in all history (the only genre more pernicious being the dreaded rom-com). This afternoon I was subjected to one such film, Scarce, which spurred me to write this post, it was just that bad.
Basic synopsis as follows. Obnoxious American teens, snowy wilderness, inhospitable locals, accident, suddenly hunted by sadistic, cannibalistic, serial-killing locals. Bloodshed, torture and plotholes ensue. Yes, that old chestnut.
From the outset it was obvious that this was going to be a turkey – stinted dialogue, shoddy shot composition, massive overuse of the words ‘dude’, ‘fuck’ and ‘shit’, that sort of thing. It degenerated from a derivative hillbilly-rampage flick to a particularly poor example of the sub-genre which the Daily Mail, in their usual blind hysteria, christened ‘torture porn’. Lots of screaming, lots of blood, lots of pain, no real point to any of it except to make drunk folk and American frat-boys say ‘dude’, ‘fuck’ and ‘shit’ a lot.
Several times through the course of this slog (I was trying to read but kept getting distracted by screams) I thought to myself “Why do they bother?” And I didn’t mean it in an offhand way, I actually want to know. What possessed some collection of film enthusiasts, probably perfectly well-meaning, to get together and write this dreck? Could they not tell from the outset that it was a dull, derivative and desperate piece of lowest-common-denominator crap? I just don’t get it.
But suddenly it all made sense. At one point, close to the predictably grim and pointless finale, there was a gratuitous FX shot where the camera stares through a hole which has just been blown through one of the protagonists’ bodies into the eyes of the victim who created said hole, smoking shotgun and all. Watching this scene it came to me, a sudden revelation. The entire film, the whole enterprise surrounding it, all came into being because of this single shot. My mind recreated the scene in a flash, three or four film students sitting drunkenly in a dark corner of a bar around closing time when one of them pipes up, “Duuude, how cool would it be if, like, there waas this shot were, like, some guy’s got a hole blown RIGHT FREAKIN’ THROUGH HIM with a big-ass shotgun or something and, like, you can totally see through the hole to the dude who shot him. Wouldn’t that be fucking AWESOME?!?!”. And from such a simple and innocuous brainfart the four innocents hastily attempt to craft a film around that already pilfered premise, all in an attempt to get that one scene committed to celluloid.
Does that sound at all plausible? More plausible than any other explanation I can come up with…