Horror for Horror’s Sake

Not a happy coupleI’ve written about the sado-porn thing before, and I’m sure I’ll write about it again … but as these movies go, “The Hills Have Eyes II” is a particularly unpleasant exercise in empty torture.

Here’s my Metro review.

At the risk of sounding old and farty — and I honestly believe I’m neither just yet — what’s the appeal of these movies? They’re not scary, or aesthetically interesting; they just line up the idiot victims and let the bad guys pick them off one by one. And as an extra dollop of cruelty, this one throws in the threat of monster rape … way to go, Mr. Craven.

I mean, I can’t seriously make an argument for the enduring quality of the splatter movies I watched as a teenager — including the original “Hills Have Eyes Part II”, to which this movie bears almost no resemblance — but a few of them actually worked as horror, using the aesthetics of film to create tense and suspenseful movies with characters you hoped you’d see survive.

This new wave of splatter — stuff like “Hostel” and “Turistas” and especially the “Saw” films — just exists to celebrate the mechanics of slaughter, as graphically as possible. There’s no sense of play, no sense of joy, no sense of artistry; it’s product, pure and simple.

The only recent release I can pull up as contrast is Alexandre Aja’s “Haute Tension”, an elegant and giddily stylish salute to 1970s horror films which — even if the final flourish had you curling your lip in a dismissive sneer — is undoubtedly a work of cinema. It’s alive and engaged from the first shot to the last, with a level of psychological depth and narrative momentum entirely absent from the sado-porn genre.

Aja’s reward for building a genuine thriller? He got to make last year’s “Hills Have Eyes” remake, which has neither depth nor momentum. But it established another hot horror property, which supersedes every other concern.

Score one for the machine.

2 thoughts on “Horror for Horror’s Sake”

  1. God that sounds depressing. Personally, I have a problem with people who want to watch graphic sexual violence against women as entertainment.

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