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Paul_finch (Paul_finch)
Username: Paul_finch

Registered: 11-2009
Posted From: 92.9.142.11
Posted on Friday, August 27, 2010 - 03:14 pm:   

The thread on EDEN LAKE has got me thinking.

Personally, I'm very discomforted to see modern British horror movies centred around chavs and chav culture. Up until now I've assumed this is purely a personal thing (possibly owing to my police background). However, I'm now wondering - over here in the UK we thoroughly enjoy movies in which American lowlives are the main villains. Films like DELIVERANCE, SOUTHERN COMFORT, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, HILLS HAVE EYES etc are not likely to disturb us in the long term, because they're set in another world from ours which basically doesn't seem real. Funnily enough, when I spoke to an American author at World Horror in Seattle in 2001, she said the same thing because the movie perception of US backwoods and bayou communities were also far from reality. However, she did admit that movies concerning LA gang culture frightened her a lot.

So ... are there areas where perhaps horror shouldn't go when it's purely wearing its 'entertainment' hat? I know that good horror instructs as well as entertains; that it has a duty as a genre to perceive the world and comment without trying to avoid difficult questions ... but is it okay for horrors and thrillers, even though they inevitably deal with some of the darkest and most controversial subject-matter, to wallow self-indulgently in the sort of human degradation that all too often occurs in real life?

I know there's no simple 'yes' or 'no' answer to this. But it's something that is increasingly turning me off British movies at the present time. HARRY BROWN was lauded by many, but I found that its bleakness and betrayals, its routine lawlessness and immorality, and its overall sense of complete hopelessness for those caught up in the sordid mess was very discomforting (mainly because it reminded me so much of the Salford I used to work in). Though I admired the quality of the film - not its fascist subtext, I have to say - I didn't enjoy it at all.

Is it just me, or are current trends in British horror (and thrillers, I suppose) running the risk of being too nihilistic?
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, August 27, 2010 - 03:28 pm:   

is it okay for horrors and thrillers, even though they inevitably deal with some of the darkest and most controversial subject-matter, to wallow self-indulgently in the sort of human degradation that all too often occurs in real life?

Not unless they tackle the horror head on and go out of their way to discomfort us as much as they touch our emotions and our intellects... as Pier Paolo Pasolini did with gruelling aplomb in 'Salo' & Peter Mullan [synchronicty alert] did magnificently in 'The Magdalene Sisters' - two of my favourite "true life" horror films.
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Protodroid (Protodroid)
Username: Protodroid

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 147.252.230.148
Posted on Friday, August 27, 2010 - 05:42 pm:   

"Is it just me, or are current trends in British horror (and thrillers, I suppose) running the risk of being too nihilistic?"

It's not just you, Paul. As I mentioned on another thread about extreme cinema, I beleve that too many film-makers are content to exploit a controversial topic without providing further insight that might propel the debate on it. It's like walking out of an operating theatre without bothering to sew the patient up.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.176.105.55
Posted on Friday, August 27, 2010 - 05:53 pm:   

Does every film need to provide insight or provoke debate? Is it not good enough for them to just entertain us?
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Protodroid (Protodroid)
Username: Protodroid

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 147.252.230.148
Posted on Friday, August 27, 2010 - 06:10 pm:   

I think it might be best to re-read Paul's point carefully to avoid misunderstandings.
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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 78.22.237.21
Posted on Friday, August 27, 2010 - 08:09 pm:   

Harry Brown nihilistic? Perhaps, but let's not forget the same was said about Get Carter! upon its release in 1971. And that film is considered (quite rightly) a masterpiece if not the best British film ever nowadays.
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Paul_finch (Paul_finch)
Username: Paul_finch

Registered: 11-2009
Posted From: 92.9.142.11
Posted on Saturday, August 28, 2010 - 02:41 am:   

Sorry, but I feel that GET CARTER bears no comparison at all with HARRY BROWN.

I thought that GET CARTER, while it pushed the envelope in terms of sleazy thrillers, was still a rattling good, coherent story, very well told and filled with believable people and convincing situations, and that it never lost its moral compass - the villain was a villain, but there were things that even he would balk at. And he still got his comeuppance.

GET CARTER was grim (for southerners maybe, though the world it depicts is the world I grew up in, so I've no problems there). It was also violent and explicity sexual, though no more so than THE SWEENEY would be a couple of years later. But it did not embrace the sadistic darkness the way HARRY BROWN did. It's too easy, I think, to create the most repulsive baddies ever and then say "here they are, they're so bad that we can do whatever we want to them, and this is the whole purpose of the film".

Don't get me wrong. I sympathised with the hero in HARRY BROWN, and I briefly (drunkenly) loved it when he killed the hoodlums - who wouldn't want to see those kinds of verminous criminals executed? - but let's be honest, it was a pretty black and white portrayal of life in the slums, and ultimately a fairly empty experience.

I still stand by what I said about HARRY BROWN - that it was very competently made. But if it had starred Jason Statham rather than Michael Caine, I'm sure it would now be reviled. On the other hand, if GET CARTER had starred a young Terrance Stamp or Malcolm MacDowell, it might not be taken quite as seriously, but it would still be worth watching.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 91.110.244.104
Posted on Saturday, August 28, 2010 - 10:54 am:   

Interesting that shortly after the ConDem government came to power on the crest of a 'crime wave' hysteria built up over several years, including The Sun's 'broken Britain' campaign (which was referenced in Tory election materials), a major study established that the crime rate had fallen by 40% between the start and the end of the Labour government. David Cameron's only comment was "The crime rate is still too high."

A major aspect of the tabloid-fuelled "We can't go on like this" hysteria was the demonisation of 'chavs' as some kind of degenerate, evil, subhuman type. Chavs are a particular youth cult, like skinheads, rude boys or scallies. They are white rap fans whose language, clothing and gestures reflect their musical taste. That's all. Their popular identification with crime and violence says more about the tabloids than about them. And yes, I do live among chavs. And yes, some of them are criminally inclined. So are various other people around here who are not chavs. I may or may not feel safe around chavs depending on what they are like as people and what is going on. I certainly don't feel I have stepped into a pit of exceptional degeneracy when I see a white guy in a baseball cap and track suit. Some of the Birmingham pubs that ban chavs are full of pretty terrifying people.

Paul, I appreciate your point is about the way horror films use a criminal or violent underclass as a short cut to portraits of monstrosity it cuts down on make-up and prosthetics costs for a start. It's also easy to claim that such a film is making a 'social statement'. I think a genuinely nihilistic horror film could be really interesting, but I'm not sure I've ever seen one. I'm all in favour of quite specific social or political messages in horror, but I'm in a minority there. What we don't really need is more and more vicious exploitation movies that claim to have a message when their agenda is wholly voyeuristic. But that's not a new situation.

(And no, I'm not arguing for censorship of said films just saying we deserve better.)
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Frank (Frank)
Username: Frank

Registered: 09-2008
Posted From: 85.222.86.21
Posted on Saturday, August 28, 2010 - 11:12 am:   

Paul - I wholeheartedly agree with your comments about Harry Brown. I found large parts of it to be quite offensive. It really wasn't much above The Death Wish series in terms of impact and message. Only Michael Caine's performance elevated it beyond its tawdry premise. I think perhaps they thought they were making the British version of Gran Torino. BTW: Nice to see Eastwood has just completed a supernatural thriller called Hereafter, and that De Caprio is the lead in his Edgar J Hoover biopic.

Joel - I share your sentiments down to the hilt. As I've said before, it's more than just 'chavs' tearing up town centre's on a Friday and Saturday night. Rather a basic add-on to what you've said, but I do understand where you're coming from.
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Protodroid (Protodroid)
Username: Protodroid

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.79.42.159
Posted on Saturday, August 28, 2010 - 11:51 am:   

"...who wouldn't want to see those kinds of verminous criminals executed?"

Me.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Saturday, August 28, 2010 - 03:07 pm:   

Don't mind me. Just passing through......(strolls off, hands in pockets, whistling a jaunty little tune).
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Paul_finch (Paul_finch)
Username: Paul_finch

Registered: 11-2009
Posted From: 92.9.142.11
Posted on Wednesday, September 01, 2010 - 12:20 am:   

We can now add 'F' to the list of new Brit horror movies in which teenagers act like murderous, verminous scum.

The irony is ... for all my pontificating, I liked the trailer (on bloody-disgusting.com), so I'll probably check it out.

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