Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Regan McNeil VS Emily Rose

A while ago I read one of the most horrifying, controversial works of literature known to mankind. No, it isn't Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand (but you were close if you guessed it!), but The Exorcist, by William Peter Blatty.

The novel, though written in short, sharp sentences that string together to create some of the weirdest structured paragraphs I've ever seen in my life, is hands down one of the most immersing reads I've had in a while (first up being The Omen, by David Seltzer, and last being Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer).

One thing about the book that sort of confused me is that ... well, I found myself laughing more times than I was probably supposed to; the dialogue is just so cleverly penned. But what startled me the most after finishing the read was that never once during the novel was I frightened. Not even remotely disturbed (and if you want disturbing, get the book from your public library and read page 215).

So, upon constantly hearing that The Exorcist's film adaptation is a heavy-handed blow to the horror genre, making the media claim it to be "the scariest movie of all time", my curiosity immeditaly piqued.

Truth be told, a good three or four years ago I tried to watch The Exorcist when it was playing on TV one Halloween night. I flicked the TV on just as Chris McNeil was passing through the kitchen, and the face of Pazuzu, the demon, showed up against the stove's range hood. I jumped. Pretty high. And went to flick the light on just as the Pazuzu's statue face appeared on screen for a quick flash, sending me flying for the TV remote.

"hi asl??"

I don't do well with things that pop up without warning. I think "jump" scares in horror movies are cheap low blows to make up for dodgy writing and directing, and I think the internet "Screamers" you see on Ebaum's World are about the same.

I had a copy of The Exorcist's 2000 rerelease entitiled "The Version You've Never Seen", that I picked up at the Hock Shop a while back, and was really too afraid to watch it, solely based on the experience I had previously. But after reading the book all the way through and absolutely loving it, I decided to suck up my fear and go through with the inevitable.

The opening credits roll...



And then two hours later, the end credits roll.
I blink, turn off the DVD player, recline against the couch and think to myself,
"What the hell was I so worried about?"

The movie left the exact impression the book did. I was thoroughly entertained, but not at all frightened.

An interesting little notion popped into my head at that very moment. Either I am extraordinarily desensitized, or people scare much too easily. And it isn't just this movie I've had this feeling with, either.

Now, I realize that horror movies don't age very well unless you were around when they were first released, but something like The Exorcist, which to this day, leaves a mark on people, even young people who weren't alive around its initial release, should have at least left me just a little disturbed, right? I mean, I'm a devout, God-loving Christian. Shouldn't I be scared out of my mind because according to my faith, I believe in stuff like this?

"Your mother waits tables at IHOP, Karras!!"

Not to get all nostalgic again, but compared to the malevolent piles of goat bile known as horror movies of today, I'm glad I have stuff like The Exorcist to keep me in tune with what at least used to scare the wits out of people without the needlessly heavy reliance on CGI that the new millennium seems to stick to, and unoriginal jump scares that really don't do much for the intelligent viewer, because there was nothing in the atmosphere to amplify the need, or even warrant for such a thing.

I think the reason The Exorcist was so frightening, and still is for a lot of people, is because of the film makers' use of toying with the audiences' minds, and the fact that exorcisms and possession are actual documented events.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose, for example, is like the contemporary world's answer to the pathetic slew of "horror" movies we've received over the past twelve, thirteen years. In fact, while talking to my friend about The Exorcist, she honestly thought Emily Rose was a remake.

"What do you mean my lines don't deliver??"

Then again, thinking about it, horror movies have more of an impact in the theatre. The theatre, where it's dark, you're closed in by strangers, and you can't do anything but stare ahead at the panoramic screen with loud surround sound thundering in your ears.

I saw the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in theatre, and it scared the hell out of me. And then when I bought it on home video and watched it on a smaller screen with pathetic mono sound, the effect was lost on me; it wasn't the same.

But... There have been movies that have absolutely kept me up on night when I've seen them on the small screen. People can debate from sun up to sun rise about the credibility of the paranormal and extra terrestrials, but the fact remains: the mere idea, regardless, scares the bejesus out of people - especially when they're on film.

And that's why I think Japanese horror movies, especially modern ones like Ju-On and Ringu, work so well. Not only do they pit the viewers against this world of paranormal activity, but amplifies it to the max, due to the lack of CGI effects.

Again, not to make accusations of "Man, the modern age sucks compared to when I was a kid", but when it comes to films, I think the point is actually valid this time around. Yes, we can do so many great things with CGI technology, but it's to the point where film makers don't even need sets anymore; they just plop the actors in front of a green screen.

Nothing is better than the real deal. Tom Savini once said, "Special effects is literally magic." And you know what else is magic? Maple syrup. The genuine stuff, too. Not that processed factory crap. Mmm... I could go for some right now, actually.

"Maple syrup is the sh*t, Karras!
Just ask Det. Kinderman!"

Though, I guess I really didn't figure why I wasn't a victim of "The scariest movie ever made". Maybe I really am desensitized, but I know when I've seen a good movie. And The Exorcist was a great movie. It's just a shame that precision film making in general has been shot in the dark by Mister Money-Bags.

I know I've mentioned this site before, but once again, if you're into horror, both old and new, check out The House of Horrors. It's a fantastic horror movie site, with interviews, behind the scenes, and even coroner reports for our favourite slasher villains!

1 comment:

  1. Way to show the only parts of the movie that have actually had me worried at night... Those shots and the part where she crab-walks down the stairs.
    I'm very glad that you enjoyed the book as well. It's one of those rare horror novels that can actually go down as literature. What terrifies the shit out of us about these books and movies is that it forces us to look at the unknown forces possibly at play in our living spaces. Heck I'm not even of religious leanings like you are but I still acknowledge and avoid these unexplainable things. The phenomena can be experienced or at least identified by anyone (spiritual or not) and that's what makes it more believable by all and scarier.
    Back to the movie. Who needs CGI when you have a kid who is willing to talk to a priest or doctor character like that? This is the beauty of a lot of older movies: no wringing hands over what's PC, let's just have a kid use the almighty C-word! Are we ever going to see something so realistic and shocking again? We can see some Japanese child-ghosts crawling and meowing around but nothing can be as threatening to me as Pazuzu using a pubescent girl to defy anatomical possibilities and cause the death of clergy.
    I'm truly happy that you've chosen to write about this movie because nothing else can effect me like it. I think I can say that I'm a fan of what horror movies have to offer us and there have been many scenes that will make me uncomfortable, but this is the only movie I will actually hesitate to watch out of need for sleep later in the night.
    I won't get started on that goddam TCM remake as the whole night shouldn't be taken. And Linda Blair should go a bit easier on Karras there. Tell more about Emily Rose as I've never so much as wanted to see a preview for it!