Zombies, ghosts, vampires, Satan, exorcism. None of these scare me. They don’t exist, so they’re not scary. That simple. I love a good horror but probably more for the dark humor. Sometimes even the over-the-top gore is so ridiculous it can be nothing other than funny. But you just don’t know what you’re going to get sometimes; you might end up watching one of those execrable Scream movies or a rubbish remake like the Hills Have Eyes. Not only are they not scary, and not entertaining, they can be pretty annoying. The characters in Scream are as irritating as the extras in Billy Piper’s first music video.
So. If you asked me to name a genuinely scary horror movie, the first on my list would be “A Soft Touch”, (One of the shorts in The Acid House, by Danny Boyle and based on the Irvine Welsh book of the same title.)
Johnny is the soft touch, a cowardly pleb who gets shacked up with a life-sucking wench, and inherits her nutcase family after a sawn-off-shotgun wedding. They’re all scary monsters but the biggest fiend arrives in the form of new neighbor Larry; another lowlife nutjob who sizes up johnny’s softiness right off, gleeful at the prospect of taking the piss proper. With the equivalent of a horror heroine running back upstairs, you have to peak through your fingers as Johnny keeps going back for punishment rather than standing up for himself. The ending really is the stuff of nightmares, a far worse prospect than waking up in a coffin, or getting bitten by the head vampire.
Last night, I watched Eden Lake, which goes straight to the top of my charts of genuinely scarey movies. The premise isn’t new; some nice people go away and encounter some not so nice people, then things start to go wrong, that’s the general plot for hundreds of horror movies. But I find a lot of these films just that bit too other-worldly (American) to be genuinely frightening. It takes a film set a bit closer to home, with recognisable monsters, to make it feel authentic to me. And there’s nothing scarier then a teenager with a Stanley knife in his pocket and little activity between his ears, let alone a conscience. This is the happy slap generation, an age when someone can make their parents proud by urinating on a girl having a fit just to put it on youtube. So the horror we’re faced with in Eden Lake is all too plausible and very very scary.
(If you’re a This Is England fan, two of the guys are in this too, Thomas Turgoose has a small enough part, but one of the other guys, James Burrows is completely unrecognisable without the skinhead. I recognised the voice and the swagger long before making out the face. )