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January 30th, 2010 / 4:22 pm
Film

Horror Affect

Been watching a lot of horror movies lately. Seems like there’s a lot to be learned affect-wise in the way certain films can build a space and response in the viewer by simple depictions, sound and color. Though often, these effects, by the end of a film, are dispelled: any inherent blank or fear in buildings or suggestions are explained away by removing masks, using weapons, spilling gore. This, for me, always is simultaneously a relief, because I can get out, but also a supreme disappointment, because then there is nothing left to rub. Specifically, last night I watched a pop horror film, The Strangers, and was actually starting to feel really activated, but then after the fear became murder it was easy to forget. There are, of course, though, horror films that don’t answer the questions, and have the affect, such as The Shining, and other films not quite horror in name but that cause that stir and don’t dispel it by the film’s end, such as Solaris or Invocation of My Demon Brother or Mulholland Drive. I can think of a lot of films like those, but much many less in the “official” horror genre, which seems weird.

What are some horror films that open these doors and leave them open, and also are beautifully made, clean of cheese?

What about books that cause this fear in you, and extend beyond page turners? House of Leaves is a close example, in that it has that affect, and the craft is decent, but I wish the book had had a more thorough edit to pare down the distractors.

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