I don't consider myself an expert in the horror film genre, but I pride myself on at least seeing the classics (Rosemary's Baby, Night of the Hunter, Halloween), the underrated ones (The Wicker Man, The Thing), and movies that normal movie-goers haven't even heard about (Cannibal Holocaust, Mother's Day). I'm a big fan of all forms of horror, from psychological to slasher to thriller to gore to plain, schlocky B-movie thrills. My favorite horror movie of all time is probably Stanley Kubrick's The Shining because it combines so many of these elements: for the blood-happy, there are the ax scenes; for the ghost fanatics, the creepy hotel montages; for that one dude into twin fantasies, there are those two creepy little girls dressed in blue (their picture is too terrifying to post, so if you don't know what I'm talking about, Netflix that shit).
The Shining, to me, is probably the creepiest film I have ever seen. Let's begin with the fact that I grew up in hotels, and then take into consideration my fear of (and fascination with) the paranormal. There's one scene in the movie that I think should go down as one of the scariest in celluloid. Forget Jack Nicholson wandering around in a snowy maze trying to kill his own son -- let's talk about that scene in which a frantic Shelly DuVall is going down the stairs and looks into a room only to see a dapper hotel guest receiving a blowjob from a guy in a bear suit. They both look up from what they're doing and stare at her creepily, neither uttering a single word. It's always the unexplainable and totally bizarre that gets me.
So, it comes as no surprise that I'm a fan of Eli Roth. When I saw Cabin Fever (2002) on cable one night, I was excited because I'd heard so many good things about it. "The Return of the Good Horror Flick!" proclaimed one article, while another declared it was "the new Texas Chainsaw Massacre." Roth's film certainly had an interesting premise: young, horny campers go up to a lake only to contract a flesh-eating virus and die one by one. It was the kind of thing that sounded right up my alley, and the scenes of a teenage girl shaving her legs only to find out she was actually shaving off mounds of flesh were certainly enticing. Plus, Cabin Fever differentiated itself from other teen horror movies because it had some funny, droll elements in it: there are hillbillies, some guy dressed in a bunny suit, some karate-chopping kid, some weird talk about pancakes. It was all over the place. While Cabin Fever didn't live up to my expectations (let's face it, nothing can top Texas Chainsaw Massacre as it is the most perfect horror movie ever made), I kept my eye on Eli Roth. He has the right stuff.
When the Quentin Tarantino-produced Hostel came out a few years later, I knew Roth had arrived. Here was a little film made for a couple million that grossed all its money back and then some. I loved it because of the notion that people can just get lured into these murder-for-profit secret societies and find themselves being tortured by wealthy businessmen, just for kicks. I don't know what that says about me, but all I can say is I was screaming and cheering by the time the movie was over (the ending is deeply satisfying). I have not yet seen the sequel, which is out in theaters today, but I'm sure it'll deliver the goods just the same. I can't wait to see the castration scene!
When people dismiss the horror genre as the most troubled, saying that there is no "perfect" horror movie, I am very confused. What would constitute the "perfect" horror movie? To me, a good horror movie is 1) scary 2) disturbing and 3) one that shows on-screen what you can't see (or won't bring yourself to see) in real life. If it's a gory movie, there should be a good balance between internal and external terror. I don't get off on blood just for blood's sake -- there has to be something deeper and more interesting involved.
It's a shame they're remaking so many good horror movies (The Omen, The Hitcher, Psycho), but some remakes I have really enjoyed, such as Zack Snyder's remake of Dawn of the Dead (2004) -- it was hilarious, beautifully filmed, and fucking bloody and scary as hell. It added a new dimension to the original, which is what a remake, at the very least, should set out to do. All in all, a good time at the movies. And just remember, when somebody slags Eli Roth off for being "all guts and no substance," any horror director worth his salt is there to entertain, and entertain well. Be it Hitchcock, Spielberg, Lynch, or even budding little Roth, they just want to show us a good time.