Not So Innocent

     There was a time when scary did not mean gory or super violent. For example, take this semester's film, The Innocents, or Psycho, or the old Dracula and Frankenstein films. What do all of these films have in common? All of these films featured minimal or little gore and all can be considered some of the scariest films ever made, or at least some of the best made horror films.

     The Innocents, directed by Jack Clayton in 1961 and based on Henry James's 1898 The Turn of the Screw, featured no gore whatsoever. There is no blood in the film, only the sense of something evil. The film goes down as one of the scariest I have ever seen. It was simply disturbing and made me uneasy all the way through. Why cannot modern film makers learn this lesson? Does the gore and excessive violence really make Friday the 13th or Scream any better? I would say it does nothing to make these films scary. These films seem to get more gory the longer the series continue, but why? Has anyone ever really been scared by these films? I love the Friday the 13th series, but not because I find it scary. It is just fun camp to watch, and the gore, at times, is indeed an added bonus. I would, however, much prefer these films scare me more often than gross me out.

     Another modern horror film, Species, instead relies on excessive sex to sell. Why? It has almost become cliché for horror films and sex to go together. So while in The Innocents the sex is alluded to, now we get it shoved in our faces. Let us face it; there is nothing artistic about its use in these films, it is just as gory and excessive as the blood and guts.

     The last good horror film I saw at the theatre was Wes Craven's New Nightmare. What made it so good? One, there was no sex or nudity, or at least none that I recall. Second, the gore was kept to a minimal. What gore that does exist in the film is kept to a minimal. What effect does this have? Whenever gore does appear it provides a shock. The film is much scarier and much more shocking because of this.

     All this relates back to The Innocents. The film features only allusions to sex, and no gore to speak of, yet I find it to be a classic horror film. In fact, in a special issue of Newsweek which discussed the AFI's 100 greatest films of all-time, the editors of Newsweek selected The Innocents as one of their personal favorite horror flicks. Scary does not always mean gore, and gore does not always mean scary. Learn it, movie makers.

Justin Young

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