[Seeing has how we’re on the brink of October, I thought it was time to reconvene the
Midnight Society Strange Kid Roundtable and what better way to bring it back than with a conversation about monsters! This week we’re joined by Michael Corbett, Brittney-Jade Colangelo, Kristy Jett and John Cozzoli. We asked our roundtable participants to choose who (or what) they felt best represented the horror genre for the new millenium… here’s what they said.]
Sam (Trick ‘R Treat)
MICHAEL CORBETT: I’m changing the question, because the answer to the actual question is kind of depressing. The 80’s had Jason and Freddy and Michael, the 90’s had Ghostface and that guy in the raincoat that was really mad at Jennifer Love Hewitt. The new millennium however, is not so lucky. The honest answer to the original question is Jigsaw from the Saw franchise, and I’m not okay with that. Saw was a brilliant film, Saw 2 was an acceptable film and from there the series descended into a nonsensical mess that went on for far too long. I’d love to say the ghost from Paranormal Activity is the new icon, but I can’t accept an icon you can’t see. Plus, the series seems to be following in Saw’s footsteps, which is a huge disappointment.
So instead, I’ll be answering the question: Who should be the de facto horror movie icon for the new millennium? The answer to that one is simple: Sam, the nefarious little trick-r-treater from the ridiculously under-appreciated film Trick ‘R Treat. Sam is the living embodiment of the Halloween spirit and he delights in mayhem the night brings with it. If you haven’t heard of Sam or Trick ‘R Treat, it’s because Warner Brothers got scared off by the Saw franchise and never gave the film a theatrical release. Apparently people aren’t capable of seeing two movies in October. Warner robbed us of not just the best Halloween film in decades, but also our next great horror icon. I’ll happily give Sam all the praise he deserves, and never got from the studios. If you haven’t seen Trick ‘R Treat, get on it, Halloween is just around the corner.
BRITTNEY-JADE COLANGELO: While it pains me to admit that the face of one of my most hated horror franchises is the de facto monster of the new millennium, I cannot deny the importance and impact that John Kramer aka Jigsaw of the SAW series has had on horror films. The latter films in the franchise have been less than positively acclaimed from critics, but the SAW series is undoubtedly what started the recent obsession with gore and torture porn horror films. Horror films no longer rely on actual scare tactics, but rather gross out scenarios and over the top gore.
Even if modern horror films aren’t within the bounds of a “torture porn” film, they still have extremely graphic death/gore scenes to feed the hounding desires of modern audiences. We’ve all become far too desensitized and the SAW franchise was the first of its kind to bring this extreme showcase of violence to a modern audience. SAW films were filled with unique and elaborate kills, something that had never been done for mainstream horror films. Whether or not the series has been quality is completely irrelevant, as the box office numbers prove that the audience of the new millennium craves all things gore.
Leslie Vernon (Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon)
KRISTY JETT: To me, at this point in the game when the brilliance of Michael, Freddy and Jason has all but been forgotten in the face of the new slashers and horrid sequels that multiply as quickly as a wet Gremlin there is no other villain who surpasses Leslie Vernon. Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon came out of nowhere and helped to reinvent the genre we all hold so dearly. I find the film to be the greatest deconstructionist horror film of the last decade plus. Leslie Vernon himself has the wit, comedy and charm of a Dream Master-era Freddy, with looks that compete with Patrick Bateman. He allows us to peer behind the curtain, or behind the mask as it were and still saves back enough to surprise us at the end of it all.
If there’s one slasher/villain people should train their eyes to, it’s him. If you watch the films that have come out since his inception you can see traces of him everywhere. Leslie Vernon is the greatest horror villain to come out of the mid-2000s, and he should be the one to take his rightful place atop the horror throne come 2013…
JOHN COZZOLI: My quick reaction was “zombie,” but that’s too easy. Too obvious. There’s more underneath all that festering flesh, something else going on in the whole zombie dynamic in popular culture. So I started thinking more about the real monster that’s cleverly hiding within the zombie’s shambling corpse, and buried in every other monstrous creature we fear (or laugh at these days) to some degree.
That monster would be us.
Joe and Jane People. Through every culture, every horror meme, and every folktale, the monster of the story can’t be a monster without us, and often becomes more “monstrous” because of us. We’re the missing link, the monster of monsters, the blueprint to follow when Jason and Freddy start tearing it up, or vampires turn vegetarian, or when demons start possessing. We’re the alpha to every monster’s omega.
More scholarly works on horror would probably label this that mysterious “Other.” But I think there’s more to it. Social influences, personality influences, and biological influences congeal to produce the thing that’s not so strange to us anymore because its traits are our traits, and we fear it most because it can be alien and familiar at the same time. I never liked using the term “Other” because it implies we have no collective ownership in the monster-making, and the Other is someone or something acting outside the philosophical, religious, or societal rules. But here’s the kicker: it isn’t. It’s acting within those rules as we define them and as we live them.
Zombies, vampires, werewolves, serial killers, mutated offspring, they’re clear examples of how we ourselves become the monsters we fear the most. Even Frankenstein, made up of various parts of people, provides a clue as to who the de facto horror movie monster or villain is for this day and age. It’s us, maybe all dressed up for killing and terrorizing, but still plain old you and me being the best monsters who victimize ourselves.