Horror Film Faves

Along with pumpkin carving and dorm decorating, the Halloween tradition of indulging in favored horror films is popular at SFUAD. However, Paranormal Activity and Insidious won’t be found among this student body of artists. The students interviewed at SFUAD revealed an appreciation for classic horror films, and many offered up their own reasons for finding value in movies such as Psycho, Rosemary’s Baby, and The Shining.

“I’m not into the mainstream horror films because I just feel like everything is gimmicky,” says Graphic Design major Caleb Ortega. “I think those films serve mainly as an easy adrenaline rush and I’m just not interested in it. The Shining actually fits into a genre of horror that is really thoughtful, it’s really planned out. The horror aspect comes more from the eeriness of detail.”

Ortega went on to discuss the visual aspects of the film. He finds its visual intricacy particularly enticing as a visual artist. “All the visuals in this film are done intentionally,” Ortega says. “I don’t think there is a lot in the film that is overlooked. Every detail is planned for the purpose of that shot and the purpose of that shot. As a graphic designer, I feel they were very successful in making the setting authentic but shifting enough elements to throw you off subconsciously.”

Ortega’s Graphic Design peer Brandon Schmidt is also a horror fan who has specific tastes within the genre of horror. Schmidt enjoys watching horror films close to Halloween, but feels they will be horrible nine times out of ten. Nonetheless, Schmidt makes an effort to seek out the exception to the rule. He looks for movies that showcase good storytelling and genuine human emotion. This is why he gravitates toward Psycho as a reference point for good horror.

Graphic Design student Brandon Schmidt with his favorite horror film, Psycho. Photo by Kyleigh Carter.

Graphic Design student Brandon Schmidt with his favorite horror film, Psycho. Photo by Kyleigh Carter.

Psycho is special for obviously its historical importance in the genre,” Schmidt says, “but as a person that sort of watches and experiences modern horror where we’re kind of stuck in a pattern, Psycho continues to stand out. Alfred Hitchcock had a very distinct style when it came to his movies. The sense of ‘less is more’ enhances the horror genre in a way that a lot of people have become numb to in horror films now, where it’s such an excess of violence or brutality or the amount of what’s shown or used to show people. It’s all extremes right now, and this film continues to stand apart for its simplicity.

Still, there are some on campus who have faith in both the genre itself and the films that are being produced. Creative Writing majors Jen Hanson and Marina Woollven, both of whom have studied screen writing find the genre unique in the way it approaches storytelling, and find value in some of the more recent films that have emerged.

“I love it [horror]” Hanson says. “I feel like horror films allow the audience, whoever is watching it, to be scared in a contained way. You know you’re going to be scared for one reason or another. It’s all within the context of this container, and I like that because I don’t like pranks, I don’t like being scared but I love being scared when I’m watching a horror film, because I know it’s real at least within that small container.”

Among the films that encompass this container best, Hanson lists The Descent, a film about a group of women who go spelunking during a reunion in the woods and encounter ancient monsters within the caves they explore. Hanson admires the film for its treatment of women, and the way it feels like a new story which does not recycle any old horror tropes. She admires the zombie apocalypse parody Shaun of The Dead for its similar examination of the horror genre.

Creative Writing student Jen Hanson with one of her favorite films, Shaun of The Dead. Photo by Kyleigh Carter.

Creative Writing student Jen Hanson with one of her favorite films, Shaun of The Dead. Photo by Kyleigh Carter.

“It takes all the cliches of horror and revisits them so it’s like a farce, which is wonderful,” Hanson says.

Woollven sees horror as extremely universal, even more so than love stories. She sees fairy tales as horror stories, and notes that every culture includes some sort of monster in its mythology.

“I think horror is useful because it’s instinctive,” Woollven says. “We all can relate to a fear of something, or the suspicion that something very bad can happen. If not monsters, then a deranged serial killer at the very least.

What’s possible through it? Well this might be an lazy answer but I honestly think anything is possible with horror. The genre is so wide, so liberal, full of potential, that we can really take any aspect and inspect it though the lens of ‘ok but what if this was scary? Ok, but what if that person wasn’t a person?’ Vampires help communicate sexuality, zombies build community, ghosts communicate grief and challenge personal strength, slashers can be hilarious or an exploration of human desperation and sadism, demons are a question of faith and guilt or even liberation, depending on who you ask. Rosemary’s Baby was a way to communicate the anxiety of pregnancy, motherhood, and marriage, all through satanism and demon babies.”

Woollven cites the popular TV show, American Horror Story as a piece of film that uses a horror setting but focuses on human relationships. One film with which she is particularly impressed with is last year’s It Follows. The film is about a young girl’s attempt to deal with a monster that only she can see and which walks slowly but will always follow her no matter how far she runs. The film deals with sexual themes in a way that many students feel is new to the horror genre, opening a new door for the type of commentary that is possible in horror films. Film student Max Marriner runs “Movie Night at The Screen,” where recent notable movies are shown every Thursday night. Although he is not a fan of horror, Marriner elected to show It Follows tomorrow night due to popular demand. 

Max Marriner in his anticipation of Watching 'It Follows.' Photo by Kyleigh Carter.

Max Marriner in his anticipation of Watching ‘It Follows.’ Photo by Kyleigh Carter.

“In a time when the term ‘sex positive’ is in discussion, I think a movie like this is certainly important in our culture because we’re becoming a lot more open to sexuality and I think a film like It Follows is a good example of where we’re going,” Marriner says. “It’s going to go places, unlike say a romance genre film or a comedy. This content can go into a horror genre.”

Whether they are horror films from a previous decade or one from the last 10 years, there is a wide variety of options in this genre for students to enjoy on Halloween and the time that surrounds the holiday. Many of the titles discussed in this article are available for checkout at Fogelson library.