Thursday, May 25, 2006

Bad Taste

Tonight, Kerrie watched Wolf Creek while I wrote on my laptop. I didn't pay enough attention to follow the plot, but I can tell you it's a horrible movie — if for no other reason than the fact that for at least a half-hour, the only "dialogue" I heard consisted of a girl sobbing uncontrollably.

Horror movies have been the latest fad. In the '90s, it was horror satire; recently, filmmakers have gone back to trying to scare audiences. In most cases, directors interpret "scary" to mean either "startling" (sudden noises) or "shocking" (creative torture). Both are cheap and lazy, and the resulting films suck broken glass.

I took a screenwriting class once where the teacher explained two approaches to drama: suspense, where the audience knows what the characters don't; and surprise, where the characters know what the audience doesn't. The trick of writing horror films is to walk between those raindrops.

I watched Saw. The killer had no discernible motivation, and the plot consisted of conceiving imaginative ways to commit murder. It's exactly the sort of film that I would have made when I was eleven. I guarantee, any script chosen at random from last year's Nicholl Fellowship quarterfinalists would be an improvement. This was like that.

I can't imagine the Wolf Creek script was longer than 36 pages. "Girl sobs. Gunshot. More sobbing. Cut to killer." That's not a story. It's a fetish — next to which, The Shaggy Dog looks like Hitchcock.


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