Sunday, October 20, 2013

30 Days of Halloween - Day 19: Scott Derrickson

Aside from Day 7, I haven't talked much about movies.  My main engagement with horror and monsters is through literature.  But I was introduced to the genre largely through film when I was a kid growing up in Indianapolis in the 1980s.  In particular, every Friday night there was a horror movie double feature on channel 4 hosted by our own local Sammy Terry, who punctuated the sometimes hokey, sometimes terrifying movies with corny jokes and faux dread.  The show aired classics and modern movies, B-movies and slick big budget features, everything from Godzilla and giant spiders and alien blobs to werewolves, vampires, bee people, and swarms of rats.  I was besotted.  I looked forward to Friday nights with glee - even though half the time I scared myself silly!

These days I still love film in general, but movies that specifically set out to be of the horror genre are very hit and miss for me.  Many of them I find too clichéd and cheesy.  Many I find to be too sick and twisted.  But there's lots of good stuff too, of course.

Scott Derrickson is a horror movie director who seems to be coming to prominence and who also happens to be a Christian.  So naturally I'm watching his career with keen interest.  He seems to want to take on theological themes directly and I'm pleased to see that.  I've only so far seen The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) and this year's Sinister.  Both have a nice cinematography to them that's got some actual grain and texture rather than the slick flat style I see in films like Insidious (2011).  Both also feature a sort of investigative or procedural type of storyline that actually helps at once to give breathing space between terrifying scenes of the supernatural and also showcases a tension between a 'rational' view of life and a view that involves acceptance of the paranormal.

It's not totally my kind of horror - demonic possessions and ghosts and ritual killings are not as interesting to me as visceral monsters of various kinds (e.g. Day 5 and Day 15).  But the general impinging of the supernatural on our everyday reality that Derrickson's films feature is definitely an area of great interest and excitement for me.

The only thing I find disappointing theologically is that when it comes to manifestations of the supernatural he tends to focus exclusively on the demonic and evil.  You can see from a number of  posts in this series (e.g. Day 4 and Day 17) that I'm equally interested in the Horror of the Holy.  I would love to see Derrickson take that on at some point.

I just this past hour finished watching Sinister for the first time and I wanted to write this while my heart was still leaping at my rib cage.  It's not the scariest thing I've ever seen, but it's up there.  The Super 8mm camera footage that is a main plot feature of the film is exquisitely crafted and also portrays scenes of utter horror with an effectiveness that is rare.  It moved into some 'sick and twisted' territory that I'm not so keen on (especially with ... SLIGHT SPOILER ... ... ... child actors).  The film also had an excellent soundtrack - creepy and vibey all in one.  On the other hand, there were a few very cheesy make-up choices that let down the the otherwise excellent horror atmosphere and special effects.  It tried to have some heart as well and to deal with big life issues like personal ambition vs. family.  These were handled aptly but were not especially poignant for me.

It was a solid work and definitely had a few of the most memorable moments of horror I've taken in. Derrickson is slated to direct adaptations of a Stephen King story and a Bible story, so I'm looking forward to seeing what he does with those.