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Rated: 0.00/5 | Votes: 1 | Views: 163 |Submitted: 11/13/09

Axe to Grind #1

"Of Hell and Horror"

by A.J. Hakari

Let me tell you about the worst movie I've ever seen. 

Now I'm not about to drop some stock answer like Battlefield Earth or Plan 9. I've devoted too much of my life to being a cinephile to go with the grain. My selection is one that can only be made after numerous bad decisions and countless days scouring every video store in a 20-mile radius.

So what is this affront to the very gods of cinema? Dark Harvest 2: The Maize.

A little history. The first Dark Harvest is the definition of nondescript. Slasher flick about a killer scarecrow. Awful, but it's flushed from the subconscious as quickly as it's shat in. No biggie. Then came Dark Harvest 2, which promised more of the same and failed to deliver even on that. I'll save the full brunt of my hatred for another occasion, but if you can imagine peering into the saddlebag of one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (preferably Pestilence), this is what you'd find staring back before you melt into goo, Raiders-style. As wretched and pathetic a movie as I've ever seen.

A year later, Dark Harvest 3 was released, and I couldn't have rented it faster if it came with a free Baconator dispenser.

This brings me to my thesis (and the reason you chose to gander at this article before my acid flashbacks took over): why would I do such a thing to myself? Aside from morbid curiosity and to see whether it could match its predecessor in ineptitude (short answer: you bet your ass), why would I put myself through a sequel to arguably the worst film in history?

Believe it or not, this isn't the first time I've pondered these queries. I've done so often during my tour of duty as a horror fan, a game to which I arrived fairly late (let's just say Thinner was the scariest thing I'd seen until high school). I see tons of flicks to begin with, but horror tends to pop up the most often. It also has the least impressive track record of any genre, yet its frequency in my movie-watching habits remains unwavering.

Let's face it: most horror movies suck. Really hard. But you're not likely to find many gorehounds who'll admit this. For every discerning horror buff who strives for actual quality or tact in their festival of fear, there are five dozen fanboys who are in it for the blood and tits. Is it really that much to expect a little effort beyond measuring how much karo syrup gets splashed across the screen? Apparently so, for recent flicks such as [Rec] and Frontier(s), heralded to no end by the horror community, were met mostly with yawns from yours truly. Am I a jaded cynic who's set my standards too high? Perhaps. I can think of very few films that've honest to God scared me, while the rest have had me slightly on edge at best.

The key, however, is that I don't give up hope. Not every movie I see will scare the living shit out of me, so I look for other aspects to judge. Do they have a sense of humor about themselves? Are there more intellectual themes at work? Are the characters more than just chainsaw fodder? Horror has as much potential to entertain and provoke discussion as any other genre out there, yet the surplus of crap overshadows the few glistening apples worth paying heed to. When mainstream America sees horror, they think of Blood Gnome before they do The Changeling.

And this, dear readers, is why I remain hopelessly devoted to horror. I know what it's like to be the underdog, to be counted out more often than not, both situations horror is no stranger to. It gets a bad rap, and it needs someone to stand up for it. I may be strict, and the genre often does things I'm not proud of (which reminds me, cool it with the torture porn -- do you want to end up like Captivity?), but as someone who's written about horror at length academically and given presentations on the subject, I like to think I give it the thought and consideration it deserves. This isn't to say horror can't work as flat-out entertainment (Slither is and always will be an absolute blast), but where some see May as some girl going apeshit on her friends and neighbors, I see it as her twisted but heartbreaking search for a true friend.

Horror is based on the idea of seeing what one's been forbidden to see. It's all about delving beneath society's surface, witnessing firsthand the occasional and often brutal blemishes lurking underneath a facade of idealism. As fantastic as its stories can be, horror helps its audience achieve a more rounded view of humanity than any Sandra Bullock romcom ever will.

The truth is there -- you just have to sift through the occasional severed head to find it.

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