A few minutes with Lewis Bond’s first video essay, “Let’s Discuss Horror,” above, was all it took to scupper my careful avoidance of certain film franchises—Saw, Hostel, The Human Centipede…
Bond’s cinematic preoccupations usually come with far fewer exploding heads. Later entries on his Channel Criswell Youtube channel explore such Criterion Collection-worthy topics as “Colour in Storytelling,” “The French New Wave,” and “Stanley Kubrick.”
Clearly, he cares about the horror genre, as well as the more rarified stuff. He opines that horror movies have lost their capacity to scare. The industry’s quest for ever more transgressive shocks and gore (many of which are on display above) has left viewers desensitized. Bond likens the phenomenon to hitting a brick wall and “trying to break it down by adding more bricks.”
Part of the problem, Bond suggests, is an industry onus to deliver wall-to-wall depravity, the grosser, the better. Torture porn may have cornered a sizable piece of the market, but lack of foreplay is killing the suspense. Slow builds such as Danny Torrence’s endless Big Wheel rides past Room 237 or Rosemary’s uneasy pregnancy are a thing of the past. Today’s filmmakers have the meat hooks out from the get go.
When audiences become inured to the non-stop buffet of bursting entrails and the rotting zombies who feast on them, filmmakers grow even more reliant on jump scares. These pop-go-the-weasel moments invariably get a rise out of me, but Bond, like most horror purists, views them with disdain. Too easy.
“Let’s Discuss Horror” contains a plethora of them, but they seem silly, divorced from the narrative and the requisite scary music.
(Speaking of which, “Tubular Bells” underscores a good portion of Bond’s breezy narration.)
Whenever Bond makes a point with a longer scene from more celebrated fare such as JAWS, Don’t Look Now, or Audition, he includes a clickable link that will deposit viewers on the other side of spoilers. Depending on your saturation point, you may find yourself wishing those links would drop you off in Linus’ pumpkin patch.
Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Her play Zamboni Godot is opening in New York City in March 2017. Follow her @AyunHalliday.