Visions of horror’s past overshadow its future

What ever happened to the original and thrilling ideas that filled the horror films of 1980s, such as a box that can open the gates of hell (Hellraiser’s Lament Configuration), a filthy child murderer out for revenge in your dreams (Freddy Krueger) and a dog that likes the taste of your blood (Cujo)?

The ideas overrunning the modern horror market would be more acceptable if filmmakers took the risk of presenting a decent interpretation that doesn’t come off calculated and, simply put, as a waste of film.

Ghost Ship was supposed to be last fall’s scariest thrill ride but was lost in the hype surrounding a certain Japanese import, The Ring.

Composed entirely of horror genre clichés, Ghost Ship starts with a promising opening sequence, which unwisely becomes the centerpiece of the film.

The Ghost Ship DVD should remind viewers of how “new millennium” horror doesn’t compare with horror of the early 1950s and its resurgence in the ’70s and ’80s.

Examples of this new type of horror are a videotape that can kill (The Ring), a Web site that commits murder (feardotcom) and a fisherman out for vengeance against a couple of kids who innocently hit him with a car and then tossed his body into a lake (I Know What You Did Last Summer).

Since 1999’s The Sixth Sense won over audiences and critics, creepy kids with visions has become a modern horror staple. Movies like Signs and The Ring have shamelessly bought into this trend by casting similar characters in their films.

The problem is that studios are so concerned with making a profit, they will gleefully slap a PG-13 rating by cutting out a key element, gore.

The Sixth Sense, The Others and Darkness Falls traded in their chance of becoming horror staples for the big box-office payout. The fact that the public considers suspense thrillers like The Sixth Sense or Signs as gems in the genre is a complete slap in the face to the filmmakers who created Freddy, Michael (Myers) and Jason.

Take a closer look:

The Sixth Sense‘s Haley Joel Osment is a normal kid with a slight psychological problem when seen after Linda Blair’s haunting portrayal of a possessed girl in The Exorcist.

The Ring is a tale of a little girl who, unfortunately, is stuck in a well, compared to the vision of hell created in Clive Barker’s Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II.

Ghost Ship is simply a pleasure cruise with cocktails and bikinis, after watching silent stalker Michael Myers slaughter young unsuspecting babysitters in Halloween.

Even well-known characters such as Michael Myers and Jason have become commercial shells of what they were.

In fact, the two silent slashers have become nothing more than comedic relief in their latest efforts, Jason X and Halloween: Resurrection, rather than the terrifying icons of the past two decades.

The late 1970s and ’80s delivered an abundance of horror icons that have yet to be eclipsed: From Freddy Krueger to Pinhead to the nearly identical Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees. This is something the 1990s and new millennium horror have lacked in producing.

Candyman, The Leprechaun and From Dusk ‘Til Dawn were all the ill-conceived creations of 1990s horror, which began mildly successful box office franchises that soon found themselves as straight-to-video thrillers.

Before you run out and spend $19.99 on Ghost Ship or The Ring maybe you should stop by the local Wal-Mart and pick up a copy of A Nightmare On Elm Street, Child’s Play or Hellraiser, most of which are easily found for the low price of $9.99.

You save money and get a history lesson in what it takes to become a horror classic.

Contact Pablo Saldanaat