When Horror Becomes Humorous

Posted: October 31, 2013 by jperritt in Uncategorized

Birds film posterHalloween has accomplished a great deal for our culture. It’s given us another holiday that reinforces unhealthy eating, a holiday that praises prostitute-ish attire, and a holiday that gives most everyone a reason to feed that innate fear which lies within.

While people love to dress up and scare one another in neighborhoods and haunted houses, receiving scares from the silver screen is also a common tradition for many. Hollywood has discovered this and typically slates a frightening flick to capitalize on this holiday. One example is the “torture-porn” film, Saw, and its recurring installments released each year on Halloween. Because of this, much of the horror franchise has resigned itself to produce these over-the-top graphic gore/sexualized films to feed the audience what they want. As a result, Saw (and films in this category) make many classic horror films look like Saturday morning cartoons.

For example, my wife and I recently watched Hitchcock’s classic “horror” film, The Birds. Hitchcock is easily one of my favorite directors of all time and The Birds only confirmed that. His attention to detail, signature cameos, quirky humor and his ability to build tension is unmatched – he was truly ahead of his time.

That being said, I couldn’t help but laugh at various scenes throughout the film. While I appreciated Hitchcock taking something every day and ordinary – like a bird – and turning it into terror, I couldn’t help but laugh because of the notable progression the cinema has made. The attacking birds are so far removed from the horrors depicted today. So much so, one could make a good argument that some previously labeled ‘horror’ films no longer belong in that genre. There are no doubt some classic horror films like, Psycho, The Shinning and The Exorcist, that will continue to frighten audiences no matter the age. However, films like The Birds can almost be cataloged in the comedy genre (I said, almost).

Now, I understand that film-making magic plays a major part in this.  If one were to revamp Hitchcock’s attacking birds today, they would look much more realistic and the gore would be increased, so it’s not the concept that’s flawed.  It’s not even the original film-making that’s flawed.  It’s the fact that movie production has improved over time.  And, this type of creativity should be praised among Christians.  A recent example of accomplishments in film comes from  the sci-fi movie, Gravity.  This film is now the benchmark for all future sci-fi films.  Every film of its kind will now be compared to Gravity, because it’s authenticity was amazing.

So apart from developments in cinema, why was a movie that was once labeled horror so humorous?

Well, movies are a depiction of the human heart.  Directors and screenwriters create a story and depict it onscreen, but the concept, the story and the final product are all a display of someone’s heart.  Therefore, I do not think people are becoming more depraved over time.  I also don’t think we’ve become desensitized and now long for something darker.  Not at all.  Mankind has always been depraved.  I think what we’re witnessing is a level of film-making that more accurately captures what’s been present in man’s heart since Genesis 3.

There is no doubt that films were a bit tamer several decades ago than now.  And, we also know movies over time have continued to push the proverbial envelope further and further.  However, we must not forget that the human heart has always been full of horrors.  Maybe films will continue to portray those horrors in a progressively accurate light.  Maybe mankind will start taking a deeper look at their hearts.  And, maybe we will look at the horrors of our heart with less levity and more gravity, less humor and more humility.




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