Enough with the Cheap Scares Already

Last night I watched the director’s cut of the movie 1408


Now, I loved the Stephen King short story which I first heard read by the author on the Blood and Smoke audio cd. Creepy. I particularly enjoyed the tale’s almost self-aware quality, the nod to haunted stories and a shift into another realm with a very different kind of haunted room. The unease compounds as the character becomes gradually disconnected from reality when strange and disturbing things occur in the room–evidenced by his increasingly cryptic messages on his mini recorder. What can I say? It worked for me, and worked well.

Now the movie is blood of a different color. Don’t get me wrong. It had moments I admire. The whole radio playing the song “We’ve Only Just Begun” was an exceedingly nice touch. The rest…didn’t flip my switches. Too much stuff I’d seen before, and it felt largely uninspired. Now the King story had an intense focus on the feverish quality of the light, a theme carried on throughout, but this element was largely missing from the movie. Also, the movie didn’t seem to handle the cryptic/creepy nature of the mini recorder anywhere near as effectively…or the build up about the history of the room. C’mon, half the fun of haunted stories is the history.

But let me (finally) get to the main thing that irked me about the movie: those cheap-ass, ham-fisted,   over-used slam cuts aka fast cuts to something “unexpected.” In 1408 it’s, shockingly, some slash-hacker wanna-be killer with a knife who never manages to kill anything and doesn’t really play a role in the plot. You know the routine. Movie gets very quiet. Tight focus on the character on-screen. CUT TO CLOSE UP OF KILLER AND/OR CAT AND/OR DEAD BODY AND BLAST SOUND TO STARTLE AUDIENCE!!!

And yes, that last sentence had to be written in all caps because it is JUST THAT SHOCKING! I won’t even go into the raw power three exclamation marks bring to the table.

Enough with those cheap startle scares. They make me flinch sometimes, yeah, but that’s usually because the sound is so damn loud. I flinch when grenades go off, too. That doesn’t make grenades scary–well, actually, it does. But I’m wandering off topic…

 I want more intelligent horror–something that scares me. Or perhaps I just crave more effective horror.

Next up in the Netflix queue are Diary of the Dead and Quarantine. Because, to be honest, all zombies must die.


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