By: Cristina Tye
Last night I came across this article on Rotten Tomatoes. It was titled “Best Horror Movies by Year since 1920,” and had 10 pages worth of information detailing what movie was chosen for every year since 1920 and scored. This article cited the percentage value given on Rotten Tomatoes for the movie, an adjusted score in percentages detailing any variations of reviews, a critic’s consensus review, a synopsis, whose starring in each movie, and who directed it. This particularized article sparked my curiosity. Although I have not seen every horror movie, especially every horror movie ranked #1 on the list, I have seen some. So, I decided to provide an analysis for two of the movies on the list detailing the mechanisms used to cause horror in each.
Winner for the year 2014: The Babadook. Rated 98% on Rotten Tomatoes with a critic’s consensus emphasizing how The Babadook relies on “real horror rather than cheap jump scares—and boasts a heartfelt, genuinely moving story to boot.” Although I personally disliked this movie, the story did boast several scary attributes and received five-star reviews. According to Carroll’s taxonomy, the Babadook is considered horrific metonymy given the Babadook is described as a human with a pale face, top hat, and pointed fingers who torments his victims after the reading of his book. The main character, Amelia, believes he is a human force, as she runs to the police believing she is being stalked by a mysterious man. The Babadook demonstrates his power and influence as he infiltrates character’s minds, planting gruesome thoughts. He also exemplifies supernatural capabilities through opening and closing of doors, mysterious items planted in food, streaming of thoughts and voices, and the resemblance of the destroyed Babadook book. The mechanisms of horrific metonymy and paranormal activity scares the viewer, causes mayhem on the screen, and creates a depressed mood. Additionally, the ending of the Babadook possessing Amelia and her eventual escape from him, represents a frame story, as the Babadook represents the story of grief within the context. Although I do not give The Babadook a five-star rating, I will admit this movie creates lasting horror and a sense of loss within the audience.
Winner for the year 2002: The Ring. Rated 72% on Rotten Tomatoes with a critic’s consensus review stating “with a little gore and a lot of creepy visuals, The Ring gets under your skins, thanks to director Gore Verbinski’s haunting sense of atmosphere and an impassioned performance from Naomi Watts.” In my opinion, I could not agree more that The Ring, with a combination of fearful pop ups, scary visuals, and dark horror, created a traumatizing film. Samara, the monster, represents a fusion monster, as she is a young girl dead, but still alive and haunting the people who watch her cursed videotape. Given her terrifying appearance, Samara seems haunted by demonic forces with supernatural capabilities in an unbalanced frame. This especially scares the audience, as Samara is able to turn on TVs with black and white static, blur human faces photographed, and move around freely in the air. Also, The Ring did a phenomenal job at using real-world situations to its advantage to scare the viewer. The fuzzy TV is common on TVs (during this time), as well as the idea of falling down a well. Implementing real-world possible horrors with supernatural capabilities and a fusion monster was genius by the producer. The scary attributes in this movie support real-world horror and a frightening film. And, the horror most definitely got to me.
Although I only analyzed 2 out of almost 100 horror films, each winning movie for the year was effective in scaring its viewer through classified monsters and other horrifying mechanisms. The goal of a horror movie is to invoke alarm, shock, or fear within its viewers.
Types of horror can change each year, so I look forward to seeing new mechanisms created to scare viewers. In my opinion, any movie that incorporates pop-up creepy monsters is the true winner of fear.