A friend recently posted on my facebook page that we need a great new horror villian. Someone like Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees or Freddy Krueger. Then they good-naturedly asked me to get on it. I laughed and took it as a compliment that I could take on such a weighty task, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that we didn’t just need a new villain. I mean, Jigsaw was cool, but even still, has not attained the status of the 80’s greats. What we needed was something else...
Knowing my horror film history, I see a pattern that’s repeating itself. In the 1930’s and early 1940‘s, Universal (and Fox) gave us some of the all time great monsters. In the 1950’s the shift moved from the singular monster as antagonist to pointing the finger at ourselves as villians, what with science run amok, nuclear war a reality, and the paranoia of the cold war around us everywhere. We, ourselves, were the new monster.
The modern paradigm for us is that the 1980’s = the 1930’s. Here was the emegence of some outstandinc iconic monsters, all born of our worst fears. But then in the 1990’s the sequels took the icons into the realm of parody (much like the 1940’s when classics like Dracula, the Wolfman and Frankenstein shared the screen with Abott and Costello).
And then our equivalent of the cold war occured. 9/11 changed it all. Changed what was scary. Changed what we fear, who whe fear and how we fear. Instead of paranoia of some monstrous outside force, we were now frightened of what we could become. Torture porn and all the controversy surrounding it illustrates this wonderfully.
How evil are we willing to become, to stay good? That seems to have been the question in the horror world for the past decade. But now as we move toward a more fantastical, paranormal kind of horror, we seem to be grasping for answers. 9/11 is less frightening now as time dulls our memories and senses, and we look to the future for our fears now.
What are we doing to the planet? What’s it going to do to us? What’s next? How will the horrors of overpopulation play themselves out over the next 100 years? Will we figure it out or will this be the end for us? As Americans, what’s it going to be like, not being the greatest world power?
And since science and politics either give us a grim view, or a drasticaly conflicted one, we turn to magic and the paranormal to satisy our fears. Like early man who looked at the moon and fabricated legends to explain the great glowing sphere, now we, looking to our future, are fabricating our own legends. Although our form is dark and apocolyptic.
We’re fantasizing, as a world culture, about the end of the world, but in magical terms-- zombie apocolypses, vampire apocolypses, mysterious diseases which reduce 99% of us to a beastial animal state. Horrible, mass -scale fantasies of self mutilation and death. If we were a teenager, we’d be a cutter, quietly hurting ourselves to feel something.
But back to the point of needing a new boogeyman. A new physical embodiment of our fear. I think that more than needing the next slasher icon, what we truly need is the next big horror actor.
Continuing my comparison of the 30’s to the 80’s and the 90’s & 00’s to the 50’s, I think what we really need is the emergence of a Hammer Horror kind of phenomenon. A reinvention of horror with incredibly talented actors, writers and directors. And even with a shoe string budget, they will be able to terrify us again.
I look at actors like Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee and I’m in absolute AWE of their talent and commitment to the genre.
We don’t need a new boogeyman. We need new actors to play them. We don’t have guys like that right now. What we have are mostly actors from mainstream who slum it in our neighborhood, or worse yet, deign to grace our presense and camp it up for a while before getting back to legitimate film.
But what we really need is not a new boogeyman at all, but an incredibly talented actor to play him.
We’re looking for the new face of horror, and sadly we haven’t found him (or her) yet. But when we do, we’ll know them, because they’ll embody everything we fear and hope, all at once.
Peter Cushing once said, “If I played Hamlet, they’d call it a horror film.”
He was that intertwined with his beloved genre that he’d become inextricable.
That’s what we need. We need that guy.
Gaudium Per Atrox.