Season’s Shriekings

It’s that time of year where all the naughty boys and girls with an unhealthy obsession with the macabre like to settle down next to the fire and watch a festive fright flick. Black Christmas, maybe Gremlins, maybe even a little bit of Silent Night Deadly Night. However looking at the roster for Christmas horror films, it’s a bit limited. Almost entirely populated by either slashers in Santa disguises, or just straight up evil Santas, the time has come to diversify our holiday horrors. Here’s a few suggestions on how to use some of our other favourite horror sub-genres at Christmas.

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While Christmas can be a fairly torturous experience for many of us, with the family obligations, the barbarity of the general public if you work retail this time of year, and the brain-bending misery that is figuring out just what to buy Grandma this year, there’s plenty room for some more visceral torture. How about something transformative, a Christmas tree salesman who makes his own by abducting a guy and surgically attaching more limbs before decorating it with baubles pierced through skin and asphyxiating tinsel.

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Maybe you prefer something a little less medical, and a little more homely. How about a Body Horror focusing on the ultimate pushy Grandma, force-feeding her brood with gut-expanding amounts of gravy, turkey and brussel sprouts. A soundtrack of choking gasps and farts over “I wish it could be christmas everyday” by Wizard, would be enough to turn the stomach of even hardened horror fans.

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While it’s usually the jolly fat man who’s dishing out the punishments in our Christmas horrors, how about a little revenge for the retail workers. A bit of the old Death Wish as a shop assistant abused by Christmas Shoppers is pushed passed the limits of sanity and goes on a home invasion killing spree (You just had to agree to that warranty, we know where you live now…) and using their gifts against them, getting some vigilante justice. Garrotted with jewellery, maimed by electrical goods, there’s plenty room for some imaginative kills.

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Christmas time is a time for children, and while the Evil Children sub-genre could easily run rampant (as it should), my suggestion is slightly different. A bullied child visits a mall Santa and whispers into his ear their Christmas wish. This Santa is the real deal however and grants the kid’s wish. A wish to be stronger. The kid discovers powers beginning to form, telekinetic powers. Basically I’m saying to rip off Carrie. Replace the Prom scene with a school nativity play and go wild.

So those were just a couple ideas to whet your appetite for festive frights. If you want to use any of these ideas, contact me at horror365@ymail.com or through twitter @horror365. If not I might just have to get these under the tree for next year’s christmas.

Christopher Stewart

“King of Creeps”

Live by the rules, Die by the rules

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One unique thing about horror as a genre is that it’s almost always evolving. Horror cinema is so massively populated with dozens of films being released weekly supported by a huge indie scene. Tropes and clichés are often subverted to give all us hungry gore-hounds something to feast upon, something fresh and exciting. If it’s not, then there’s the other side of horror cinema, the scrutiny. More than any other genre, Horror has many meta films that show self-awareness and use that awareness to rip apart all those sub-standard films that clutter up our DVD collections. They show us The Rules of Horror. However, has the time come to break those rules?

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When you think of The Rules, first thing that usually jumps to mind is Wes Craven’s Scream. The Scream franchise was always a send-up of the Slasher genre and it gave us rules like “Never say ‘I’ll be right back’.” The other two rules in that famous scene being Don’t get wasted and Don’t have sex. Those rules are pretty forgiving. If you find yourself in a slasher film scenario I think you could follow those pretty easy. Scream’s commentary on lazy by-the-numbers horror films gave us the tools to criticise any film that wasn’t pushing the envelope.

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Other films that followed such as Cabin in the Woods, and Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon continued to add rules for us to recognise. Particularly in the character archetypes. The Final Girl, AKA The Virgin. The Slut. The Jock. The Stoner. The Brain. This Breakfast Club cast of mashed up social groups to diversify their teen audience regardless of the reality that they’d ever really hang out. These are the standard set that you will see in even some more inventive horror films, and almost all of the bog-standard ones.

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The question I have to ask is; with all these rules that have established their place in the horror genre, are we closing our minds to the interpretation of more creative horror? Most of us know what we’re getting into when we’re getting ready to watch a horror. We know the characters we’re bound to see, what kind of creepy location their going to end up in, and in some cases who’s going to die and what order. If you’ve been to the cinema in the last year to see any horror, the majority of the time I’d be shocked if you were surprised by anything being shown. The usual trend-following has left us with all the same demon possession/haunting films for the last 5 years. Yet those little gems that pop up, that challenge the norm, do we give them the same fighting chance? Do we look at them and expect nothing more that gore, boobs, and a couple of jump-scares? As soon as we’ve decided that a character is a slut or a stoner, will we mentally register them as anything else regardless of character development?

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While I think there are plenty of horror fans out there who are open to change and growth within the genre, there’s also plenty of the other kind out there, loudly declaring their disgust either in the cinema or on their blogs. Declaring that horror ain’t what it used to be without giving a second thought that maybe they’ve missed the point. You won’t be pleasantly surprised by a film if you’re bogged down with pre-determined judgements. I remember watching Wrong Turn 2, going in thinking it was going to be terrible, the idea of setting it during a reality TV show and the usual cast of horror fodder. Turned out to be clever and more importantly different. I want more films like that (Just not necessarily more Wrong Turn films…)

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