Today I'm looking at horror films. I can't bring much to the table on this one, because I see so very few of them. Since becoming a family man, the films we go to see are very much suited to a child-friendly perspective and so I have to think back to stuff I watched in my single days or things I catch late at night when everyone else has gone to bed.
The last film I watched that had me truly shaking on the way home (this will show how rarely I go to the cinema and how little modern horror I watch) was Event Horizon. I found its use of jump cuts very effective at immediately raising the heart rate, and its slow unfolding of the true horror of the rescue crew's predicament gnawed away at my nerves. There were some rather corny bits but the combination of the aforementioned elements and its ambiguous ending meant that I was jittery and jumpy on the way home and for sometime afterwards.
Other than that, it's hard to think of other films that have chilled or scared me to a similar extent. The appearances of the skeletal Death in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and The Navigator send a shiver right through me but the rest of the films hold little terror for me.
So what is it about the cinema that makes it a more powerful, more affecting experience than reading or watching television? Is is that perhaps we find ourselves a truly captive audience whilst at the cinema? Sitting in the darkness, devoid of any other sensory distraction, we cannot turn off if we think it's going to get too much, nor - unless we want to make a spectacle of ourselves - can we get up and walk away. There is also the factor of the cost of the ticket if we do so - cinema isn't cheap these days. The huge screen, with its visual impact magnified and the much louder sound levels mean that the senses are rivetted and overwhelmed. If you go on your own, there is not even the sense of another human to whom to turn for comfort or escape.
Of course, not all of us watch horror movies at the cinema. Home viewing makes up a sizeable proportion of the occasions on which such films are watched. The impact of these may well be slightly lessened, since there will be the option of escape, others to talk to and contextualise the experience. There is no option to pause a cinema film while you go and get a beer and some pretzels.
Regardless of where we watch horror films, I'm opening the floor to you all to share your cinematic terrors with me. Is it modern splatterpunk or old-style chillers that send shivers down your spine? Do you find sitting in a cinema more evocative and atmospheric than sitting on the couch with the remote in your hand in case it gets a bit too scary?
Over to you...