Sunday, January 08, 2006


Defending The Creek

I heard about this story pretty much as it happened, around Christmas Day, but owing to how busy I have been, I haven't gotten around to it until now.

A couple of months back, I had occasion to write about and review 'Wolf Creek', which I was impressed with, being a strong genre horror film which really did its best to terrorise the audience. On Christmas Day, presumably out of irony, it was released Stateside, to almost total critical dismay. One critic walked out, and Roger Ebert gave it a zero star review. I didn't think too much of it at the time - people have different tastes. For instance, around the same time, Ebert, who is perhaps the best film reviewer that there is, nonetheless gave 'Cheaper By The Dozen 2' a three star review, despite the fact it's a total clunk.

However, Paul then linked to this piece by Cinematical, which asks an interesting question: why is it that a lot of American critics like commercial, jokey slasher flicks of the sort released every Halloween, yet dislike, and question morally, films in which the possiblity of death is most certainly not one played for laughs? The piece was so good, I want to quote extensively from it:

'. . .my question is this: why does it cause less dismay for these critics to sit through comedies like the Friday the 13th and Scream films, which make sight gags of slashed-up bodies, heads crushed like walnuts and popped-out eyeballs? Consider this tidbit from Ebert's review of a recent Michael Myers film: "There is a scene in the movie where a kid drops a corkscrew down a garbage disposal.....I am thinking, if this kid doesn't lose his hand, I want my money back." No dismay there. The key stylistic change between that film and Wolf Creek is that in Wolf Creek, death is not played for laughs. The characters are not glaring stereotypes, and the audience is primed to take their potential torture and death seriously. The director wants you to be legitimately scared or to cry, as some people around me in the theater were doing, when the carnage begins. So, why is that no longer a legitimate aim of horror cinema? Why is writer/director Greg McLean being castigated for doing his job effectively?'

'Victims in a typical American slasher film will stumble around in the dark for a while, opening closets and backing into darkened rooms until they finally get a knife in the back. Then it's on to the next one. There are always at least four or five characters lined up to be butchered in such films, probably to avoid a fixation on one particular victim and the natural discomfort that crops up when we are asked to focus on one character's suffering. American slasher victims are also aggressively devoid of any personality, so much so that their eventual retirement from the story is a non-event. They didn't exist before and they don't exist after. Wolf Creek, probably by being foreign-made, is refreshingly free of these studio-enforced conventions. Its characters are very slight, but they don't actively fight our attempts to see them as plausible human beings. They don't speak in one-liners. What you get is a film that is ninety percent chase-and-escape and ten percent vomit-inducing violence. It makes an honest attempt to scare us, which is no more morally reprehensible than a comedy that tries to make us laugh. I wish the critics who have been so quick to upbraid the makers of this film would do a better job of explaining what makes it so much more unpalatable to them than the typical plate of slasher piffle dished out every summer.'

I'm actually genuinely interested now - why?

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?