The urban legend goes that when The Lumiere Brothers showed their 50 second film, The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station, to a French audience in 1895, there was a deep reaction.The image of a train coming directly at them was so startling that people screamed and went to the back of the room.Though it has been discounted,this story points out the relationship between moving image and audience. A majority of people want to give into the image, to suspend disbelief.
If we are so desirous to give ourselves to the communal dream that is film, how come we hold so tightly to logic? Arguably the great architect of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock referred to this adherence to linear development as the “icebox effect”. It’s the moment when the audience, now at home, goes to fridge and realizes that what they saw has simply crumbled away under scrutiny.
While Hitchcock was devising the perfect McGuffin, there was alternate tact which stemmed from the works of the surrealists. By adopting elliptical structures which refuse to believe in resolution, film could directly intimate shared atmosphere which accesses emotions directly, unburdened by the straitjacket of logic.
Horror is a genre best served by this removal of logic. Restraint is the true backbone of terror: the weight of dread is not in the amount of viscera. In Jason Zinoman’s book,Shock Value, it is mentioned that Dan O’Bannon and John Carpenter believed that showing too much diluted the power you could find in the enigmatic. When the face becomes too clear and the menace too defined, the fear turns into something less powerful. The number of 50s nuclear horror failed by their third act reveal of a poorly devised rubber monster seems to bear this out.
My favorite horror films always have this psychological edge to them which allow for the images and elements to take root in my subconscious long after the film has ended. When I say psychological I am not talking about the gory procedurals which are “scary” because they could happen. I want something based within the minds of the characters within the movie. Movies like Suspiria,, Phantasm, and Let’s Scare Jessica to Death could just as easily be the nightmares of their lead characters.To me, these fictive worlds circle around the sphere of our collective dreams.