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This summer, one of my chums discouraged watching horror movies because "opening your mind to that kind of stuff can be dangerous."
Sure, watching Kathy Bates smash James Caan's ankles with a sledgehammer in "Misery"when I was 10 was traumatizing. I'm still afraid of sledgehammers. And Kathy Bates. And romance novels.
Granted, some people might have good reasons to stay away from horror. It might bring back unpleasant memories or inspire one to decapitate his roommate. But these exceptions are rare, and I suspect that most avoiders of horror films are big scaredy-cats.
As a free-thinking, confident, mature and (dare I say?) attractive twenty-something, I find that horror is very much the same as any other genre: some films are carelessly thrown together while others are thoughtfully molded into meaningful stories full of beauty and truth.
Here are five examples of recent films that transcend the clichés of an unfortunately misunderstood genre:
The Cabin in the Woods(Drew Goddard, 2012)
Five impossibly good-looking teenagers set off for a fun weekend in an isolated cabin in the forest. They unknowingly summon an army of zombies and must find a way to escape before they are killed. Sound familiar? But things take a turn when the audiences comes to understand that all aspects of the cabin, including the zombie invasion, are being monitored and controlled by a lab of technicians following detailed instructions from powerful and ancient spirits. Does that sound familiar?
It Follows(David Robert Mitchell, 2014)
Have you ever felt like death is following you around, just waiting for the right time to pounce? If so, then "It Follows"is perfect for you. After a date with her boyfriend Hugh, college student Jay learns that a creature is slowly following her with the intent to kill her. The creature can take any form, including those of Jay's loved ones. Jay must find a way to destroy the creature or pass it on to someone else.
Drag Me to Hell (Sam Raimi, 2009)
I hatedthis movie when I first watched it. But after seeing Raimi's "Evil Dead" series, my ears perked and I said, "Oh! I get it now." A horror satire,"Drag Me to Hell"pokes fun at horror clichés and capitalizes on Raimi's campy and gory style. Christine, a bank loan officer, learns that she is haunted by an entity that will, as the title suggests, drag her down to hell if she fails to destroy it. For those who are skeptical, I should mention that there is a scene with a talking goat, which might appeal to a select audience.
The Babadook (Jennifer Kent, 2014)
One of last year's best films is Jennifer Kent's "The Babadook," the story of Amelia, a single mother struggling to raise her rebellious son Samuel. When she reads him a terrifying picture book featuring a frightening creature called the Babadook, she comes to find that she and Samuel are haunted by the same creature. The audience later realizes that the Babadook signifies Amelia's repressed hatred for her son, seeking to destroy Amelia and her relationship with Samuel. No other film better embodies the theme of a mother's coexisting love and loathing for her children.
Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2007)
One of my favorite films is Tomas Alfredson's "Let the Right One In,"a Swedish movie about 12-year-old Oskar, who meets a girl his own age called Eli, whom he later discovers to be a vampire. An unconventional love story and vampire movie, "Let the Right One In"explores the themes of childhood friendship and loneliness. The film is beautifully acted and shot, reminding us that there was a time when vampire stories weren't all terrible.
Honorable mentions include James Wan's "The Conjuring," Neil Marshall's "The Descent," Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza's "[REC]" and Edgar Wright's "Shaun of the Dead." And let's not forget the most terrifying film in cinematic history: "E.T."