Posted by Greg Ferrara on October 29, 2014
Whenever someone asks me “What’s your favorite genre,” it seems like an odd question. It seems odd because my favorite genres often don’t match up with my favorite movies. The movies I consider personal favorites spread across a wide spectrum of genres. I often list movies I write about here as personal favorites, and they are, but the movies I bring up here lean more towards the universally praised while the movies I consider my favorites cover the good, bad, and the ugly all at once. My favorites are classics, and masterpieces, and duds, and awful stinking bombs too, covering every genre in the book. And yet when someone asks, “What’s your favorite genre,” even though I have no more favorites in it than any other genre, I say, “Science fiction,” without fail. Then I’ll add, “Horror, too. Science fiction and horror.” Why do I keep doing that?
A lot of my love for science fiction and horror goes back to childhood and can be chalked up to nostalgia. I harbor no illusions that Logan’s Run is a fine piece of filmmaking, but I love it all the same. It’s a favorite, in spite of itself. I’ve owned it on VHS and DVD and streaming. I know it’s lacking in more than a dozen ways, but it’s a favorite and favorites often defy our very own taste. Besides, I saw Logan’s Run in 1976 when it opened and that factors in importantly to my feelings towards it now. I also saw At the Earth’s Core that very same year and, again, no misguided delusions here that that’s a great movie but damned if I don’t love it. Same goes for horror. I saw Terror Train on cable more than a few times and even though it’s become a favorite, don’t expect to ever see me defend it as good. It’s not. In fact, it’s pretty damn bad. But it’s got a train and, hey, I’m a sucker for trains in movies.
All of that is all well and good and we all know that our favorites don’t always line up with what we consider good art. But here’s the thing that makes listing sci-fi and horror as my favorite genres particularly odd: I don’t really watch them with any consistency or frequency. I’ll watch damn near any drama or comedy or action film out there but with horror and sci-fi, I avoid them if I think they’re going to be bad. In my early years, described in my favorites above, I watched any and all sci-fi/horror. Then that stopped and I became much more selective. They became my favorite genres to the point that I didn’t want to spoil my good will towards them by seeing so much crap that I almost stopped watching them altogether. So in the last decade, I’ve only seen a handful of sci-fi/horror movies, despite their being everywhere. I’ll hear about a Moon, or a Looper, or a Snowpiercer, and I’ll watch them suspecting I’ll like them based on their positive reception. In all three cases, I did like them. Many others I give a pass to, which is a shame because I might end up liking any one of them quite a bit. For God’s sake, I love Logan’s Run!
Horror’s even worse. I skip most horror out there because I love so many great horror films from the thirties through the seventies, and love so few from the eighties on, that I am always suspicious that any horror film I see now will leave me bitterly disappointed. But again, Terror Train. If I can like that thing, who knows what else I might like. Still, I avoid. I watch any and everything from all the other genres but for sci-fi and horror, I curate madly. I’ll usually give in if there’s enough buzz about something but even then there’s no guarantee. I watched The Woman in Black because Hammer was involved and read some decent reviews of it but when I was done watching it I kind of wished I hadn’t. It was fine, had a nice stylish appearance, but felt more like an endless series of jump scares than anything else. Some people think jump scares define horror. I do not. A jump scare to me is like a game of peekaboo with a child. Once, twice, maybe. By the third and fourth and fifth you just want it to end. There’s no depth, no substance, no feeling of building towards something. A part of me feels like if you really get into jump scares then… well, just see the peekaboo analogy.
And so, in this October month when horror is on the lips of all who speak about movies, I end up watching the same old horror films I’ve watched for decades, rather than trying on something new for size. Already this month I’ve watched The Pit and the Pendulum, Twice-Told Tales, and Tales of Terror, all three with Vincent Price, and all three longstanding, personal favorites. I have multiple Universal classics at my disposal that I have also dipped into as well, and the classic Hammer catalog including the Hammer television show, Hammer House of Horror. The only new thing I decided to watch was season four of American Horror Story: Freakshow. So far… [shrugs and makes "eh" sound]. It’s got some good things going for it but also a lot of built-in kitsch and winking at the difference in social and sexual mores between the fifties and now. We’ll see how the rest of the season goes. Outside of that, though, it will all be classic horror for me, or just plain old nostalgic crap. I don’t plan on seeing anything else new in sci-fi or horror for a while, at least until next year probably. Why? Because I love it so much. Isn’t it obvious?
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