According to Yahoo, the top 10 searches for paranormal phenomenon were: Ghosts, Bigfoot, Dragons, Chupacabra, Aliens, Mermaids, Fairies, Vampires, Loch Ness Monster, and Shape Shifter. I wonder: is that an accurate portrayal of what most interested people last year? I’d have to say ghosts are the scariest member of that elite group. I was an insomniac kid, and one night I came to the realization that ghosts are dead people. They wouldn’t look like Casper; they would look like old, decomposing corpses. The image of a glowing, floating corpse with tattered clothes floating in the doorway to my bedroom kept me up the remainder of the night.
I wouldn’t say I have a dark personality. Perhaps it is my undying optimism that permits me to enjoy scary stories. They spook me, but I keep returning to them. Curiosity killed the cat, and I want to know why.
February has brought us not one but two excellent scary movies. The first is the remake of Friday the 13th. In 2009, it isn’t enough to have a bunch of camp counselors hunted down, one by one. The makers of this “reboot” have given us a stew comprised of some of the best moments from the first few Friday the 13th films. For those of you yet to see the film, just know that the end of the original movie is now the beginning of this one. That’s right: the climax in 1980 is now merely a prologue. You know it’s going to be good when the first kill happens before the title credit appears.
Happily, they got the tone right. Jason Voorhees rarely runs, doesn’t speak, and pops up behind his victims no matter how far or how fast they flee. The teenagers are now twentysomethings, but they’re just as stupid as their predecessors. Smoking pot, having sex, speaking the Lord’s name in vain: they’re asking for trouble. Jason is the Morality Police, and he wields a large Blade of Justice to mow down the sinners.
My only complaint about Friday the 13th is the same one I have for most horror and action movies today. The filmmakers won’t allow any shot to last for longer than 2 seconds. At the risk of sounding like a geezer, I can’t stand to look at a series of images flashing in my face for 90 minutes. It’s fatiguing. Why not let the suspense build a little before the payoff? Think of the scene in The Shining, when Dick Hallorann arrives at the Overlook in hopes of saving Wendy and Danny. He walks down a long corridor, yelling into the cavernous, empty hotel. Just as he reaches the end, Jack jumps out from behind a pillar and hacks him to death with an ax. Think about this: Jack must have been waiting there for a long, long time. Waiting for just the right moment to make his move. We are allowed to ponder this horrifying thought. Now, with hyper-editing, we cannot ponder the intricacies of horror. We’re forced to keep up, barely registering one kill before we see the next one.
Not all scary movies are filled with death. Some have no body count at all. Coraline is one of those movies.
Coraline is a work of art. There is no better way to describe it. I found myself not following the story so much as simply watching the images on the screen. The stop-motion animation is more refined than Nightmare Before Christmas. The sets are more elaborate, the characters fuller. This is not in any way disparaging Nightmare; Henry Selick directed both movies and this just shows his progression.
If I was reticent about giving away too much plot of Friday the 13th, I’m completely against talking about Coraline. It’s best to see it for yourself.
Coraline, like the best scary movies, doesn’t hit you over the head with it. It presents situations that aren’t overtly horrific, but after you leave the theater you think to yourself, “that was really creepy.” That’s how it got a PG rating: it’s what it doesn’t show that spooks you. Oh, and there are ghosts. Friday the 13th doesn’t have ghosts.
Who knew that February, the month that brings us Valentine’s Day and Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, could also bring two of the best scary movies I’ve seen in a long time?