Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Subtle, Real Subtle... Actually No

I just watched the movie "Paranormal Activity" for the first time on Monday. It is a slow burning film with subtle horror for the most part, as far as horror movie goes. It is very inline with movies like "What Lies Beneath" as much it is similar to "The Blair Witch Project" and "Cloverfield" in their strict documentary style with less than stable camera shots (though P.A. is much smoother with the camera) and lack of soundtrack or score unless such sounds are rooted in the scene. After watching the movie I was struck with the idea for this Hump Day Horror. This mostly applies to movies but it could also be to used for novels and creating scenarios for role-playing games. Subtle is good, but sometimes, or rather there reaches a point where, it's time to take off the gloves and go for the blatant. It can be a fine balancing act to decide when and where to do either.

Looking through the discussions for a movie like Paranormal Activity at the different sites illustrates the vast differences between people expectation of what is scary. There is a disappointment with the scare levels, with, in essence, the film's reality as it pertains to how paranormal happenings occur. There is also the old incorrect stand-by that one person's preference overrides everyone else's. This is all a part of that balance in its own subtle ways, but isn't exactly my point. I was watching the movie and thinking how I like subtle, but I like it to pay off too. While I enjoy these slow little movies as I call them I like the in your face horrors more. That does not preclude subtle. This is especially true if the subtle parts stick with you and provides ongoing horror after the movie or book or game session is over.

The point is that subtle is fine, subtle is great. It's a needed part of good layering. It can bind action to themes. It can be a by-product of deep thinking peeking through, things only hinted at, hiding in the fringes of a subject matter. That is the way much of the world works and that approximation in fiction adds realism, grounds the fantastical, and as previously stated provides something to mull over, debate about and savour after the fact. The benefit of subtlety and layering is the strength it adds to a work upon repeat reading or viewing. It also widens the audience. Everyone gets something out of it. It's like the grown up or horror equivalent to animated comedies with obvious jokes for the children and the savvier, mature or more intellectual humour--or requiring foreknowledge such as with in-jokes--for the parents watching the feature with them.

Mood: bifurcated.
Music: Dragula by Rob Zombie and La Mer by Nine Inch Nails.

Rob Zombie: Hellbilly Deluxe
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Nine Inch Nails: The Fragile
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