Monday,23 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1173, (21 - 27 November 2013)
Monday,23 October, 2017
Issue 1173, (21 - 27 November 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Escape from horror to horror

It has been said that, “we have lived before and died, and this is Hell.” It certainly feels like it. How sweetly pathetic are our lives — could Hell be worse? In our dolorous existence lurks much beauty, but far more horror.

We in Egypt have been stupefied by such bloody acts of baseness as we thought could never exist on the face of God’s earth. Still smarting from our opened wounds perpetrated by a merciless rule of the Monstrous Brotherhood, the end of the tunnel remains quite remote.

Although we, the people, had the courage and determination to remove a tyrannical government, we are still overwhelmed by the number of the dead and maimed we count on a daily basis. The MB surrogates and other fragmented groups are intent on extending our nightmare, and the tears of mournful mothers, still sear our hearts.

Regretfully, society rests on force, not justice. Consider the forcing of Obamacare on a rejecting American public. Justice, elusive and mercurial, is administered by force… not only here but everywhere. Force demands respect and sadly it becomes the foundation of society.

Justice is neither humane nor reasonable and indeed blind, perceiving no flashes of intelligence.

Misere de misere! This is the life we live!

Whichever way we look we are struck by the suffering caused by the blind stupidity of justice — unfair, unreasonable and unjust.

Survival, however, is a powerful instinct and so we live, seeking some relief to carry on. The creation of the film industry over a century ago provided major relief for a stressed public, a pleasurable means of escapism from a sorrowful reality.

Here comes the mockery and mordancy of human nature. The first film that was ever made by French film pioneer Georges Melies, Le Manoir de Diable (1890), was a two-minute horror excursion into the world of vampires. It proved to be such an enchanting experience, that the “horror genre” became the dominant product during the industry’s early years. It remains a primary favourite among producers and viewers.

What is it about “horror films” that draws us to the theatre again and again? We gasp, we scream, we clutch on to our companion, we close our eyes, and yet we return for one more pleasurable shiver down our spine.

This is the time of year when film entertains our basest instincts with horrifying gore, monsters, Satanism, insanity, ghosts, vampires and the most recent rave… zombies.

Psychologists believe the thrill calls up primal behaviour, mainly in males, “to assess threat levels”. The desire for a good thrill lies in our DNA, which may be linked to human evolution. Our fascination is genetic, so they say. Our genes are still adapted to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle filled with threats and danger. Horror teaches us to give vent to our fears. This is what Alfred Hitchcock claimed he made his chilling films for. It is the fictional form of escapism, the thrill of the unknown. How rapidly we seek comfort in such escapist fare during times of turbulence and unrest.

Are you in search of such relief? Much horror awaits you this season, hopefully only on the screens. The advancement of visual effects technology enables filmmakers to pull off an even more realistic dose of spooky joyrides for aficionados.

With director Brad Bird of Pixar fame, you are out to discover an even creepier “Frankenstein”, far stranger than author Mary Shelley ever imagined. Aaron Eckhart, otherwise a heartthrob, assumes the role of the legendary monster.

Arnold Schwarzenneger is back as the father whose daughter is turning into… a zombie.

Brad Pitt must have taken a fancy to such grizzly fare, as he appears in two horror films this season. The Dark Knight, by eminent director Ridley Scott — director of such films as Gladiator — brings us the nature of evil and the dark side of force. He has assembled an extraordinary cast with Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem… and yes, Pitt. Pitt’s other horror outing is World War Z, directed by Marc Forster, where he assumes the role of a former UN investigator who must travel the world to stop a zombie-like pandemic. The film premiered at the Moscow International Film Festival and has already grossed $540 million. A sequel of course is in process.

If you have not yet had enough of “hobbits”, take heart. Bilbo Baggins is back in Middle-Earth, battling huge bloody dragons and fire-breathing reptiles. Director Peter Jackson seems to relish JRR Tolkien’s creation with a childlike delight. He brings parts two and three of his Hobbit epic in The Desolation of Smaug and There and Back Again.

In the early days, they turned beasts into men and men into beasts, an exercise which persists in reality. They roamed hilltop castles, inhabited gloomy laboratories and decaying old mansions. Locales may have changed somewhat, but the thrills and chills of such productions as The Ex-Dead, The Last Exorcism, Pacific Rim, You’re Next are even creepier than The Shining, Psycho and The Exorcist.

If by exploring their dark side, humans escape to horror films from the horror of their lives, so be it! If it helps purge the dread of the unknown, so saddening beyond solace, then they serve a useful function at least for some. If the catharsis of watching a horror film is a manner by which some deal with real fear, as psychologists claim, then we say, bring them on!

Others shake their heads and wonder, whatever happened to Mary Poppins?

 

“No form of art goes beyond ordinary consciousness as film does, straight to our emotions, deep into the twilight room of the soul.”

Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007)

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