Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, April 26, 2007

By Ahsan Sajid

There's a deep divide between fans who enjoy horror movies. Between those who refuse to sit for 100 minutes to watch a flurry of special effects that they pass off as a film, and those who cannot sit for 100 seconds without a computerised effect on screen. While there are ardent supporters of both sides, with some waiting to see what gore effect gets tossed next on the silver screen and some waiting for a back-to-the-classics movement, it's only logical to ask ourselves the question…

Have special effects really ruined horror?
We know that special effects were present from the earliest days of horror movies. Movies like The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Frankenstein, Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde sent their audiences home screaming their heads off with their makeup creations.

The 40's gave rise to sequels and remakes while the 50's fused together horror and science fiction. In the 60s there was a rebirth of horror films with a much wider audience and colour cinema. Movies had to compete for an audience now. This saw the rise of sex and violence in horror films, which have evolved into our modern slasher flicks of skimpily clad girls getting butchered; or a group of teenagers that most surely consists of a jock, a popular girl, a geek, a thug and a token black guy.

In 1973 The Exorcist changed the landscape of both horror movies and special effects forever. While some of the makeup effects were previously seen on screen, never were they seen on an 'A' film before. In the wake of The Exorcist, the 70s provided us with Alien, Carrie, Dawn of the Dead, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Jaws and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

The films were from a new era of horror films. An era of sophisticated effects, with no emphasis on the screenplay (forgive my saying so).

The 80's. Blood. Gore. Mutilation. Movies with killer-on-the-loose-and-young-sexually-active-teenagers. Friday the 13th and A Nightmare On Elm Street were the first low grade B films released by major studios.

They knocked out everything else in the box-office competition with various forms of decapitations, disembowlings and dismemberments. The 80's provided the biggest cult classics. Even movies like Evil Dead still have a huge cult following.

Which brings us to the late 90s. Silence of the Lambs presented some of the scariest moments on the silver screen. However, how many films in total can you name that have the capability to scare, and not disgust? So, have special effects ruined horror? In their own way they have, coupled with the adolescent fancies of moviegoers, and the Big Man behind the desk in the studio who needed to buy more cars. Horror was pretty much ruined when the question 'Did it scare you?' turned to 'Did it gross you out?'

However, true to its genre, horror films will be resurrected. There are shining lights in the form of some Japanese films. There's Rob Zombie who created two modern cult classics using only the special effects available in the 70s. And hopefully, more are to come. But these movies will have to fight computer-generated effects because computers can create anything we dare to dream of in two-dimension reality and the process is getting cheaper by the day.

Seriously. Have you watched (or re-watched) The Exorcist lately? It's a good movie. Even three decades later. What movie released today will have the same long life span?

By Osama Rahman

As I replaced the tobacco in my cigarette with the dried leaf from the "forbidden" plant, I lit up and inhaled deeply. I held the smoke in, until I felt my lungs inflate. Feeling nothing, I slowly exhaled, letting my vision grow hazy as the smoke soared towards the skies. I repeated the process and inhaled deeper, forcing the smoke to go as deep as possible. Soon, I felt weak and I yearned for a place to lie down.

My recollections of the events that followed still remain. I remember preparing for my journey back home. As I stumbled down the streets, I felt prying eyes trained on me, I felt like I was being violated. I returned every pair of eyes with the same cool glance. I was determined to not let anyone know that I had momentarily lost control of my senses.

The latter part of my journey was filled with intense feelings of anxiety and insecurity, where I felt some one was out to get me. I was paranoid and would suddenly break out into a run. Finally after what seemed like an eternity, I found a rickshaw to take me home. I almost fell asleep on the rickshaw and I remember gripping the handle of the rickshaw's hood quite tightly, so that I would not fall off.

To this day, I do not remember what fare I gave the rickshaw puller or which route I took to come home. At home, I could not look my family members in the eye, because my eyes were so blood shot. I was still paranoid and my heart kept palpitating. My hands shook, and as I lay down and closed my eyes, my muscles refused to move any further.

Reminiscing about that day, I fail to draw back some of the things that might have happened. Some aspects of my experience are still shrouded by a veil of mist in which I spent my moments, dazed. Yet, thanks to the continuous hammering in my head, where I was sure my head would burst open, I firmly decided that my first experience would be my last. But at times, a mixture of maniacal depression and elation summons me to re-visit the forbidden world of a deadly yet craved world of euphoria. My biggest test of will power is to not give in to the summons, because if I do, I will have lost control of my senses, my sanity and eventually my very existence.



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