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The movie horror genre is changing...

I have returned, in the past couple of hours, from the local Odeon cinema. On their big-screen, the screen upon which I hope to view the Harry Potter film in only a few hours' time, I watched the latest Nicole Kidman flick, The Others.

Calling The Others a Nicole Kidman flick is probably the worst description to give of the film. For me, the real star was Eric Sykes, who oozed charisma and comedy in his every action. In addition, far from being the usual Hollywood show piece, this film substituted special effects and action with well-crafted characters and well-honed moments of suspense. The performances from all players were outstanding, especially the children, who played their parts earnestly.

I'll admit it. I jumped several times during the film, though none of the imagery was itself particularly disturbing. The film makers generally avoided glamour as well, though a brief love-scene, with Ms Kidman and her character's husband, did start with a gratuitous glimpse of the aforementioned lady in her 1940's nylon stockings... the scene ended about there as well, so don't start thinking that the film should have been rated higher than its 12 certification.

So The Others was a riveting, atmospheric film which worked well because it did not have the trappings of the gut-wrenching and graphic blockbuster horror movies we've come to expect. I recently saw A Nightmare on Elm Street again, and found it to be particularly lame, despite being exceedingly disturbed by it when it first came out. The Exorcist was also fairly limp, when I saw it recently. So, the fact that I was gripped by the simpler devices in Ms Kidman's most recent release is most interesting. I think that filmmakers may be realising that suspense is significantly more timeless than explicitly horrific images. One can build up a tolerance to moviemakers' visions of what is upsetting to the eye, but you cannot hide from the fear of the unseen; films like The Others would work almost as well on radio, since the aim is to compel the viewer to imagine what might be lurking in the darkest corners.

Looking at the other horror film I saw recently, Jeepers Creepers, I notice a similar pattern. The film appeared to go nowhere. Long scenes of character interplay built up the characters and the tension, but seemed to be a prelude to some special effects grand finale, in which the monster gets very scary and the hero eventually beats him to a pulp. Jeepers Creepers, however, challenged that formula, and made you realise that it was more interesting to see the characters' reactions to events, than sit that in anticipation of a series of awe-inspiring special effects. Jeepers Creepers has an ending which I would never have expected of a Hollywood release.

So, I think we may be seeing a rebirth of the classic horror genre. As an occasional cinema visitor, I look forward to seeing more films that captivate and make you think. 

09 November 2001
Ashley Frieze