Posts Tagged ‘movies’

(The delightful people at Man Crates [mancrates.com], where you can get an array of manly kits and sets in wooden crates, ammo cans, or tactical bags [including zombie survival!], asked me what I would need to survive a Halloween movie. I stepped it up and went for the full horror franchise.)

So you lived through a horror movie. Congratulations. So have 1-3 people in almost every horror movie ever from the awful to the awesome. If you are going to prove you have true Halloween and horror chops, you have to make through an entire horror franchise, or in the least to the closing film (until they reboot it 10 to 20 years later).

Surviving a horror franchise is not for the faint of heart. At a minimum, it would require scraping through at least three full length films. If you are aiming to live up to Laurie in the Halloween movies or Sidney in the Scream series, you are going to have to condition, prepare, and (most importantly) fight.

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Cardio

Not unlike Zombieland, the #1 rule is cardio. Because you are going to be running your ass off, movie after movie, up misadvised staircase to tripping in a field. You need to be in top physical condition to sprint and run and hide from the serial killer at your heels, who will always walk faster than you can run without fail.

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Take it easy now, though. A horror movie franchise is a marathon not a sprint. You cannot go blowing your whole cardio load on the first chase sequence; you are sure to end up dead before the next reel that way. Work on your interval training so that you can sprint away in an emergency but always keep running through script after script.

Helpful supplies: Workout DVDs, heart rate monitor

Hydration

Closely linked to cardio, you need to take care of your body, and most importantly, you need to hydrate. Could you really run through a minimum of three films, consistently stumbling at the most inopportune moment, hurdling the bodies of your fallen castmates without so much of a swig of water? Sure, the movies make it look like their characters can do it, but the smart know better. Hydrate, snack, definitely sleep between features. In short, keep your body in peak physical condition.

Helpful supplies: Hydration pack or water bottles, iodine tablets for filtration in a pinch

Sin Avoidance

We all know the old paradigm for horror movies: Those who have sex die; those who drink or use drugs die. Basically, those who sin are guaranteed a death scene. Granted, those commandments have largely been evolved from since Scream called out the genre on their existence. However, you might as well be safe because you are going to need all the help you can get. Not to mention, sins like sex, drinking, or drugs can deplete the muscles and dehydrate you or weaken your mind, all making you a much easier target. You may be able to sneak out of one horror movie with these infractions, but they are bound to catch up to you in a whole franchise.

Helpful supplies: Bible or other code of conduct (depending on who is defining “sin” in the series)

Survival Skills

When you think horror movie, you might think big-breasted woman running (falling) stupidly as she flees a slow-walking killer. Yeah, those victims all die. Those victims do not even get to see the first set of credits roll by. Sure, those characters have their place, nameably dying before you to keep you alive, but you need to do better. You need to develop some survival skills.
Think You’re Next. Sure, that’s not a horror franchise (yet), but if anyone would survive a long-standing horror franchise, it would be Erin. If it is a tactic that could help you survive the apocalypse, there is a good chance it could help you survive a horror franchise. Plus, you never know what the set will be in the next film. Adapt and overcome!

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The ability to hide or camouflage yourself is paramount. Running and cardio are great and necessary, but how monotonous would it be if that was all you did for multiple movies? You also need to be able to evade and avoid. Punctuate your sprints with an ultimately unsuccessful hide in a closet. Sure, it did not work, but at least you caught your breath as you deafened the audience with your panting.

Strategy is also key. You do not just want to be running around in a panic, running up stairs or jumping into rooms with no secondary exit. Think! Think beyond your primal fight or flight instincts and actually make decisions that will keep you alive. Maybe practice some yoga or meditation to learn how to control your physical body and still think clearly in high stress (death and murder) situations.

Helpful supplies: Meditation for Dummies book, black clothing, sound shoes

Sound Communications

The best way to knock off victims in a horror movie is to isolate them. Of course the phone line is going to be cut; of course there is no cell signal; naturally the power has gone out. If you want to reach the outside world and rescue, you are going to need sound communications means that traverse these obstacles.

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It would not be a bad idea to cultivate a personal relationship with some sort of law enforcement character. Someone who might miss you if you disappeared, someone who might exchange walkie talkies with you. Yes, this poor bastard will get snuffed out along the way for helping you, but hey, he might just save your life once before that happens. Since you have to survive multiple times, you have to take your life saving where you can get it.

Helpful supplies: Satellite phone, walkie talkies

Personal Connection

The only way anyone is going to even remotely entertain the idea of letting you claw your way through a horror franchise is if you have a personal connection to the killer. The audiences need the drama. Plus, why else would we buy that this killer keeps coming after you movie after movie?

Take our examples of Laurie and Syndey. In the Halloween movies, Laurie is Michael Myers’s sister. Sure, she does not always know that. And sure, she vanishes for part of the franchise, but any Halloween fan pretends those movies never happened anyway. In the Scream movies, even though the killer is vanquished at the end of every film (spoiler alert!), a new killer or killer emerges in the next installment, and they are all, in some way, connected to Sidney. A boyfriend, a brother, a copycat, a cousin.

If you want to be valuable enough to be written into multiple endings, you better make yourself indispensable to your adversary.

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Helpful supplies: Memento from relationship with the killer (just to remind everyone why you are indispensable)

Ultimate Faceoff

While the running and evading and hiding is necessary for the first few movies, every horror franchise eventually culminates in an ultimate faceoff between the persistent survivor and the killer. Some protagonists may survive multiple movies just to finally be defeated at this glorious moment, but you are not trying just to make it to the last movie; you are trying to live to see the final credits of that final film (again, until the reboot). You better be prepared for this ultimate faceoff.

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It may happen in each movie of the franchise. You may think you have killed the killer over and over. Whether it happens once or three or five times, you eventually will have to man up and fight the killer face to face.

By the conclusion of the franchise, the killer will have become stronger and more impervious to death with each movie. You will also get beat to hell a little more each time you escape. You may have been stabbed multiple times by this point. You need to rehabilitate your body. In your off film time, indulge in some physical therapy and some self-defense or martial arts classes. For all your running and cardio, at this point, you are going to need to be able to fight.

The fight is only over when the killer is dead (or at least when you and the audience are sneakily convinced the killer is dead). Since this killer has survived just as many horror movies as you have, you are going to have to bring out the big guns (ironically, a gun almost never works). You need to rely on your survival skills to provide you with a weapon to finally put down your killer. (If it is a gun, remember, head shot.) Perhaps a baseball bat with nails through the end? Maybe a vehicle and a large cement wall? Get creative.

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Helpful supplies: Weapon of choice or opportunity

Surviving a horror franchise takes an unteachable blending of charisma and interest, physical condition and preparation, and a sound mind (not to mention current genre trends and dumb luck). If you prepare enough, you might just be able to join the ranks of those blood soaked survivors who lived through not just one horror movie but an entire series.

What do you need to survive?

I have already shared my thoughts on our culture’s current fixation and mainstreaming of the horror genre. A natural extension of this is our culture’s near obsession with all things apocalyptic.

The horror and apocalypse genres easily blur and mingle, mostly because the apocalypse is the worst thing that most people can imagine. The apocalypse, in any of its varied forms, also nearly always includes a whole menagerie of horrors. It does not have to include a knife-wielding serial killer to be considered a member of the horror family.

I am no exception to this. My first book, Savages, is entirely centered around an apocalyptic scenario. I found this topic fascinating for the same reason I think we as a culture and a species fixate on it.

Humans, as a whole, are almost always somehow focused on our own demise. We have writing about it since there were cave paintings; we invented religion to explain it. We all know it’s going to end somehow, and an apocalypse no doubt seems the most grandiose. What is really more terrifying and fascinating than the abrupt end to absolutely everything we know?

Beyond this inherent morbidity in us, I am drawn to the psychology of the survivors, what happens to people who lose everything and manage to continue on. Due to my own personal beliefs on the savagery of humans (for another blog post, I assure you), I believe something like the apocalypse reverts us back to our natural and base instincts. When falling from a society as advanced and convenienced as ours,  this is a drastic and near unfathomable change. It’s no different than the change required in desperation or war, yet the apocalypse equalizes all humans involved.

I do believe that the more socially tense or politically unstable our culture, the more we tend to gravitate towards this apocalyptic media. The post-apocalyptic obsession is art manifesting our deepest fears about our current reality. Is the apocalypse really happening now? Probably not. But with the issues we face, we can see the path down that road more easily; it seems like a more realistic scenario.

We like to flirt with that fire, get close enough to the heat of that idea while still being able to tell ourselves it’s all fiction and just for entertainment.

Why do you think we are all binging on movies, television, books, video games about the end times?

Horror Threshold

Posted: June 24, 2014 in horror
Tags: , , ,

My horror threshold. I never actually gave it much thought. I have been infatuated with the horror genre since my teens, and I have seen (and sought out) some truly depraved media. The most disturbing movie I have ever seen (The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things) is not even what I would consider horror.

Yet an online associate told me about a movie (A Serbian Film) that I had never seen or heard of that got me thinking about what my horror threshold might be–where I would draw the line between horror as disturbing entertainment and legitimate, unappealing depravity.

This associate told me the movie included someone having sex with a newborn baby. Instantly, there was my threshold! For all the obscure, graphic, and mentally traumatizing horror I have sought out, I had absolutely no desire to see this movie. I did not even really want to think about the fact that it existed.

Children. Children are my personal horror threshold.

If there is a freaky possessed child or a stoic kid on a murderous rampage, I’m fine; I’m good with it; please continue… However, if the horror is directed at the child, particularly a baby, I’m out. I might be able to tolerate some light suggestion with no visual, but largely, I want no part of it.

Horror involving children is a biological aversion for me, even more so after I became a mother. I imagine it is for many people.

So that is my line. Horror threshold here!

I am also not exceptionally fond of rape horror. The inclusion in a plot or the suggestion of it does not necessarily bother me, even a brief scene. However, when the scene is gratuitously graphic or lengthy, I feel my threshold approaching.

When I foolishly watched the remake of Last House on the Left while I was in Iraq (worst venue choice on my part), the rape scene seemed neverending. Yet when I watched it later, it is not horrifically long or graphic for the genre. It stabbed at my legitimate fear of getting raped in theater.

Like children, graphic rape horror is biologically upsetting to me. I can tolerate rape horror to a higher degree because it involves adults, not children. In either case, not my first choice for trauma and fear. Give me a deeply psychological serial killer any day.

Everyone is different, so everyone’s horror thresholds are distinct, even for the most versed aficionados in the genre. I have written torture pieces that have upset my dearest friends; I have written pieces my own husband refuses to read.

So what is your horror threshold?

I remember when zombies were Romero. I remember when vampires were Anne Rice. I remember when werewolves were barely on the radar. Nothing sparkled in the sun; no tweens lusted over the dark creatures. I remember when being a horror lover made you a goth in high school or a gore whore as an adult.

This is no longer exactly true.

Pure and raw horror will never really be mainstream; that is part of what defines it as a genre. Deeply disturbing will never been normal because then, by definition, it cannot be disturbing. However, this diluted, stylized horror has seemed to take over recently.

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The Walking Dead has turned zombies into an utter phenomena. Twilight has brought the screaming teenage masses to vampires and werewolves (if you can even call them that). Hannibal, and TV shows of the like, have brought gore to network television. Serial killers and supernatural creatures and blood are no longer in the shadows. It seems like they are everywhere now.

As long-standing horror lovers, this cultural development is a double-edged sword. On one side, what we love is saturating the market now, easily accessed and pursued. We can see new (and rather well done) stories of Hannibal Lecter or Norman Bates in shows airing weekly. We can find zombie clothes, backpacks, whatever in the mall rather than some obscure, overpriced store online. There are more horroresque movies than we have time to attend.

Yet, on the other side, the genre can seem tainted. A key component of horror is being outside the status quo, ripping out of the box to be upsetting or traumatizing. For horror to fit inside the mainstream, the mainstream has become more tolerant of violence and gore, more amiable to fear; however, horror has become more pretty and appealing in turn. To a degree, it has been neutered.

Personally, I love the cultural shift. And I hate it. I enjoy the influx of media in my particular twisted flavor while I lament the perversion of the perverted to something placid for the masses.

Love it and/or hate it, it is what it is. There will always be a place for pure horror on the outskirts of our culture; there will always be a line that the mainstream will be too scared to cross. Even if the majority has adopted the idea behind the genre, purists will be out there keeping the darkness black and frightful.

The apocalypse has gone mainstream. The end of the world manifested in a myriad of scenarios has infiltrated the many forms of the media—books, movies, cable and network television. Right now, it is simply everywhere.

Where zombies used to be at the fringe of horror, they are now their own genre and pop culture phenomena. Where you used to keep some bottled water and canned food in case of emergency, preparation and survivalism have become publicized arts.

This apocalyptic focus is a fascinating cultural fixation. For those of us who have been lurking in horror and the like for years, we now find our interests readily available and flourishing under all the attention. However, despite the avalanche of awareness, there seem to be some real life details that the apocalyptic media glosses over or neglects.

Some of the dirty details get left out. Mundane, daily concerns we would like to pretend we do not have to deal with. Those annoying little realities that will not just be alleviated by the end times. As a woman, three specific examples come immediately to mind.

#1 Periods. Menstruation is a reality most women cannot escape, no matter how much we may wish we could. How in the hell are these surviving women dealing with their periods? Clearly, they did not stop menstruating because a zombie ate their husband or the power suddenly went out. It is safe to assume tampons and pads would not be readily available, and even if they were, how much real estate could these women sacrifice in their nomadic bags to tote them around?

I cannot see any woman just bleeding down her leg (and have not seen it in any movie or show). Not to mention the sanitary considerations this would bring up, blood leaves a trail—both in sight and smell. In most cases, survivors are nomadic and often evading some form of threat. Whether that danger is zombies, other survivors, or (more mundanely) a bear, they would not want that pungent of a trace left leading right to them every 28 days.

Maybe they have gone colonial and are using folded pieces of cloth, if they could acquire enough cloth. However they are coping with the monthly, how are they disposing of the method? Bury it? Burn it? It could be any of the methods used to eliminate shit as a tracker, which I was made intimately familiar with from the stories of my coworkers in Iraq.

Whatever these women would have to do, no one is telling.

#2 Birth Control. This is not all that separate from menstruation. After all, pregnancy is a direct result of the same cycle. And by the same token as assuming tampons would quickly become scarce and nonexistent, condoms are probably not just lying around everywhere. The same would apply for birth control pills, and all medically administered methods (IUD, Depo-Provera, and the like) would naturally be gone with the doctors who would have provided them.

So birth control is out the window, beyond natural methods like pulling out or the “rhythm method” (neither highly effective). People are going to continue to have sex, apocalypse or not, maybe even more so in the face of their demise. Apocalyptic media surely includes plenty of sex between characters. Sometimes there is even pregnancy. However, it is rarely addressed how they would avoid getting pregnant.

Walking Dead did make an exception and included two instances of pregnancy tests miraculously spared and available being used. When Laurie finds out she is pregnant (with a child she eventually has) and when Maggie is confirming that she is not pregnant. Laurie’s pregnancy was a significant plot point, but Maggie’s test was merely a raw and real detail to thicken the authenticity of the show.

#3 Shaving. I will preface this one by acknowledging that Hollywood in particular has to make things pretty. Movies and television have an inescapable visual element. Just like there would no longer makeup or curling irons after the apocalypse yet the characters are still startlingly groomed and sexy; there would not be frequent showers or time with a razor. I understand why this particular aesthetic detail is purposefully ignored and contradicted.

Nonetheless, this applies to both men and women. If the story takes place two years, seven years, decades after the fall of civilization, why does everyone not look like Tarzan? Do they all have a razor and clippers packed efficiently with their magical tampons and birth control pills? When people are scrounging for food, it is very unlikely they are concerned with keeping their hair trimmed short and shaving their legs.

Not many people want to watch a movie with a zombie-slaughtering heroine with French plumes of armpit hair, yet that does not alter the reality of it. Hair will keep growing; women will continue to be fertile and still have their periods.

Shaving does not affect much from a survivalistic standpoint; what difference would it actually make as to whether a survivor makes it or not? A screaming newborn or a trail of blood, on the other hand, would impact the chances of surviving whatever apocalypse in which the character might be trudging. Pregnancy weakens the woman, limits her activity and possibly mobility or ability to flee. A baby makes very clear and constant noise. Blood leaves a trail to follow.

Maybe it does not matter. Maybe these details are deliberately omitted for entertainment value. That is perfectly reasonable, yet I cannot help but notice as I indulge from the buffet of apocalyptic media options.

The questions become:
Apocalyptic fans, would these details make the movies/TV shows/books more realistic or entertaining; are they necessary?
Preppers and survivalists, how would you deal with these realities after the world ended?