In addition to writing this movie blog, I am one of the film critics for the Examiner online, specializing in writing about horror. And I was going to write my year end review of the best in horror, but right now it’s hard to think of fictional ones when the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting is stuck in my mind. Made-up scares can’t compete with such a real life nightmare.
The tragedy in Connecticut on Friday eclipses any frights infiltrated by the likes of a vampire, werewolf or bogeyman. Horror movies aren’t everyone’s cup o’ tea, but they’re designed to be entertaining even if they make us cower. What happened in that school is terror beyond the imagination. Freddy Krueger’s warped mind could not conjure a worse narrative. And the real life devastation of what happened in Connecticut is more palpable than any alien attack or creature from a black lagoon. Movie horror seems almost quaint in comparison, even the goriest of torture porn like the SAW and HOSTEL franchises pales next to it.
The horror movies that have always stuck with me the most are those where the villain is man, not a made-up monster. Showing the evils lurking inside of mere mortals terrifies me more than a dozen James Cameron ALIENS. (And it’s why most of the best frights I’ve experienced have come from the more mortal characters: http://exm.nr/LIlegL) And the murderer at Sandy Hook reminds me of some of those cold, brutal monsters like Anton Chigurh in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN or John Doe from SEVEN. But their over-the-top crimes in those fictional works cannot compete with what Adam Lanza did this past week, mowing down children and their teachers with his semi-automatic weapons.
When I was young, I saw the TV-movie HELTER SKELTER about the Tate-LaBianca killings perpetrated by the Charles Manson cult. It shook me to my core and gave me nightmares for weeks. Years later, in my adult years, the real crime scene photos of those events in 1969 Los Angeles were released and the reality of them was far more disturbing than Hollywood’s dramatization. I realized then that the HELTER SKELTER filmmakers edited the portrayal of the murders of Sharon Tate and her friends to be impactful, yet the scenes didn’t linger on the violence. However, when I viewed the actual crime scene pictures, my eyes were not able to avert the worst parts. The same is now true with those awful images coming out of Connecticut. I just hope that the crime scene photos from this tragedy do not go public.
What I do hope becomes public is some action that will work to truly curb these all too frequent events from happening. Would new legislation banning assault weapons be such an endangerment to the NRA’s principles or their interpretation of the 2nd amendment? I don’t think so. Why anyone other than the military needs to ever get their hands on a semi-automatic or automatic weapon is beyond me. I also hope that Sandy Hook and all the other mass killing tragedies of the past few years inspire legislators to support research into deeper studies of mental illness, rage and depression. And that this latest event gets politicians to stop griping about funding proper healthcare in the coming year.
I also hope that the entertainment world examines its predilection to glamorize violence and its excesses. Amusement is one thing, but everything from horror movies to thrillers to action pictures to video games has gone way overboard with the bloodletting. Is it helping to make us immune to such real life killings? It’s got to be one of the reasons our nation has done so little to amp up confronting violence after Columbine, the shooting of Representative Gabriel Giffords and others in Arizona, and the Cineplex shooting in Colorado just this past summer. Killing and violence has its place in drama, but a bit of discretion and taste is sorely needed these days.
There were many things worth lauding on the screen this year in the genre of horror. The incredible animated horror fable FRANKENWEENIE is just one of them. (My rave review is here: http://exm.nr/R2OeSi) And I will be writing about the thrills of that film and other 2012 horror highlights for the Examiner very soon. (As well as examining the best in film overall here @ The Establishing Shot in the next weeks.) But this latest real life horror is one that I wish I didn’t have to think about or be compelled to write about. Let’s hope that with some true imagination and accountability, our nation rises to the occasion and does something truly positive to keep fact from overwhelming fiction when it comes to the horrors that haunt us.