Sunday, April 14, 2024

Nightcap 4/14/23 I hate jump scares*, Drive in season approaches.

One of the top 3 loudest audience screams was at this moment and it wasn't a jump scare

I got into a couple of discussions about jump scares in horror films. It seems many people think that is what horror is all about. Clearly they are watching the wrong sort of horror films.

In trying to explain my position to the people on line  I came to realize that most horror filmmakers today just build films that simply are rollercoasters that peak in a series of jump scares.  In these films there is no real narrative tension, there is just waiting until someone jumps out and says "BOO" at maximum volume. I have nothing against jump scares, I mean an occasional one is fine but I prefer the dread and unease that a good horror film builds to being scared because the sound designer turns the volume up. 

So many of the smaller horror films are just jump scares and no real terror.  It's a series  wind up and release cycles, nothing that you take home with you. I think part of the reason for this is that so many people today learned what horror is by watching slasher films. Things like Friday the 13th and the films that copied those films are just a series sequences of waiting for Jason to jump out. There is no real fun in that after a point, just waiting for the new cool way to kill someone (An aside: the other crappy horror trend is films like the later Nightmare on Elm Street and Saw films where the horror isn't from the story but simply from the horror of the new deus ex machina death. However that is another essay for another time.)

To me the real horror is film where a mood is created, where jump scares are at a minimum and the shrieks are from unexpected turns like in The Exorcist (say the head spinning around), Insidious (the black demon just standing in the background-see above), Psycho (Norman's mother's face over his), Brooklyn 45 (when the locket moves) or in a sudden or unexpected turn that changes things say in Silence of the Lambs (Hannibal's escape), or The Wailing (where the film flips in the final half hour). Then there are films like Inerasable, which creates a horrible mood that builds to the end and is never released (I didn't sleep the night I saw it). 

Within the films that aren't just jump scare factories we get interesting discussions of society and humanity. We get examinations of who we are and where we are going in ways that normal films can't explore. I mean this is why horror novels like Frankenstein and Dracula and Dr Jekyll or Dorian Gray still resonate after centuries have passed or in films why Larry Talbot still breaks our hearts and John Carpenter's the Thing is finding bigger audiences every year.

I doubt that many films that are just jump scares or an excuse for cool effects will last. 


Drive  in season has started. Across the country many drive ins have already started showing films. I know this weekend there screening of DAWN IF THE DEAD for its 40th anniversary.

In two weeks the big deals are happening in Pennsylvania- The Mahoning Drive in begins there season of genre features with WILLIE WONKA and THE WIZARD OF OZ. (Details here). After that it's going to be Muppets and Monsters and Zombies (all the Romero Zombie films Memorial Day Weekend) and Kevin Bacon. If you are in driving distance I suggest to checking the schedule and going.

In Vandergrift PA the Riverside Drive In(website here) is going to be hosting  the spring version of the Drive-In Monster-rama. it's two nights of four horror films. More importantly it's two nights with great people. I will be there and you you should be to.

Tickets are selling fast. They can be had here. For more detail also check the Facebook page.


I may be a film writer and a member of a critics group but I am going to be leaving some films off my dance card.

I will not be seeing the new Joker film because I disliked the original film so much.

I will not be seeing SPEAK NO EVIL because as good as the original film is I never want to go to that dark place again- and if this film isn’t good I will be arguing that its not as good as the original.

I am not running out to see CIVIL WAR because I am up and down on Alex Garland’s films and because his lack of clear reasoning is going to make me crazy.


More New Releases this week, more ND NF films and finally Fantaspoa films.

*-most of the time

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