Maybe I'm getting old, but increasingly I find modern movies leave me cold. Particularly contemporary horror films. I fear that I'm in danger of turning into one of those fusty old film critics, whose books I used to read when I first became interested in horror films, who are always bemoaning how crass and crude modern day genre films are in comparison to their predecessors. Back in those days you could still find the likes of Carlos Clarens and Dennis Gifford dismissing the Hammer films of the 1950s and 1960s, instead extolling the virtues of the Universal monster series of the 1930s and 1940s, or the Val Lewton's RKO pictures of the 1940s. Personally, I always found this stance incomprehensible, personally speaking, I can enjoy both the Universals and the Hammers equally. You just have to judge them in their original contexts. Nevertheless, as we get older, we tend to idealise the past and view it through rose-tinted spectacles, resolutely insisting that it everything about it was so much better than the way they are now. It's all part of the inevitable yearning for our lost youths we all fall into sooner or later. Consequently, there was entire generation of film critics who insisted that even those threadbare old Monogram and PRC poverty row pot-boilers were superior to the later Hammer and AIP productions, which they most patently aren't.
All of which brings me, eventually, back to my original point - my reaction to modern horror films. The other day I finally got around to watching Hostel
, a horror flick from a couple of years ago that quite a few friends and acquaintances had rated. To be frank, I wasn't impressed. The whole thing came over as merely unpleasant, rather than being horrific. However, unlike the critics who preferred Monogram to Hammer, it wasn't the level of blood and gore which put me off of this new-fangled horror. Indeed, I was mildly surprised at how little explicit gore there was in Hostel
. No, my problems with it centred around its poorly structured plot, which stumbled along in fits and starts, often with no logical development between consecutive scenes. Consequently, it completely lacked any suspense, atmosphere or element of surprise. When a complete lack of sympathetic characters is added to this, the end result is a dull and unclear narrative which seemed much longer than its actual running time. Now, to be fair, poor plotting, perfunctory characterisation and an absence of narrative logic need not be a handicap to enjoying a film. Prior to watching Hostel
, I'd watched a trio of old Universal horrors: Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman
, Werewolf of London
and She-Wolf of London
. None of these can be said to have entirely coherent plots or realistic characterisations, but they do have a lot of atmosphere, a certain degree of suspense and, above all, an air of absolute lunacy, which makes them curiously enjoyable.
In the case of Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman
, the entertainment value is enhanced by drastic pre-release editing, which contrives to produce a truly lunatic performance by Bela Lugosi as the Monster, which only makes sense if you know that he's meant to be blind for most of the picture. Sadly, the editing removed all references to this. The Werewolf of London
, must be the only lycanthrope who puts on his hat, coat and scarf before he goes out and commits his terrible depredations. By contrast, she-wolf>
is somewhat less entertaining, due to many of the same faults that marred Hostel
for me - poor plotting, unsympathetic characters and a lack of suspense. It is partially redeemed by some atmospheric sequences and good production values. All of which, I hope, goes to show that those old classic horrors can be just as flawed as their modern equivalents. The difference being that they're somehow still enjoyable. Which isn't to say that all modern horror films leave me cold - Dog Soldiers
, for instance, which I also recently saw, was, I thought, highly enjoyable, for mainly the same reasons I still find the older films entertaining - atmosphere, sympathetic characters and a sense of the absurd. So, hopefully I haven't turned into Denis Gifford yet
Labels: Musings From the Mind of Doc Sleaze, Nostalgic Naughtiness