My Favourite Horror Films

Horror is a genre that I think is difficult to be likable. It purposely puts the idea of supernatural occurrences or danger in the viewer’s mind, which can be more uncomfortable than what viewers are used to. However, it is the one of the most adrenaline-filled genre, disclosing the worst of human behaviour and a possibility of something that the human species still cannot understand. It doesn’t matter whether one believes in the supernatural or not, but to fully enjoy a horror film, I think, it needs to be watched with an open mind and a spirit such that one would want to be scared. A horror film cannot be watched with a group of friends where a few are more than eager to prove that nothing scares them; it needs to be watched with as few numbers as possible and with the lights turned off (unless you are alone, in which case, all the rooms of your entire house need to be lit up during or after the movie). My definition of a horror film, in fact, is very loose. I would consider a chilling science fiction movie also a horror film because it evokes emotions in us which we expect a horror movie to evoke. Here is a list of my favourite horror films, not in any particular order.

Pan’s Labyrinth

This movie cannot be directly characterised as horror. It is, instead, a dark fantasy war film which will definitely scare you with its imaginative characters and enthralling storyline. The film is pretty much from the perspective of young Ofelia, who has come to live with her stepfather along with her pregnant and ill mother. Ofelia’s imagination, or the reality she belongs to, is wild and unpredictable, putting her in the path of danger many times. She encounters monstrous creatures in the process of acquiring immortality, which was predicted by a fairy tale.

Pan's Labyrinth

This is one of favourite fantasy films, especially so because it does not pander to a childish audience in terms of horror. Even though the protagonist is a little girl, Guillermo del Toro, the Spanish director and writer, has not stopped from throwing violent and disturbing images her way, or the audience’s way. It isn’t a sweet and coy film because a child is involved, and it captures the sentiment of war (in which it is set) metaphorically, and yet, very naturally. I have only seen one other of his movies, Crimson Peak. While also a good movie with an enticing story, that movie falls flat when it comes to the horror parts, which seem to be too reliant on special effects, making it almost comedic. Guillermo del Toro has also been involved in the making of Mama which shares more of its characteristics with Crimson Peak in which it also relies heavily on special effects, instead of the subtle but horrifying monsters in Pan’s Labyrinth.

The Loved Ones

This film, in particular, relies on gory dread instead of subtle supernatural events. It also doesn’t have an active supernatural element in it. I would not recommend it to someone who is wary of bloodshed in films, because this movie has many moments which will make you more than just cringe and clutch your own body parts in fear. The characters are uncomplicated and includes a dysfunctional family where a spoilt daughter is obsessed with a boy from her school. Her father enables her psychotic behaviour until Brent is on the brink of death. The events occur in a span of a few days, and the story moves forward rapidly, quickly turning into a gorish nightmare that one wouldn’t even dream on their worst enemy. The best kind of horror films are those without a supernatural element; movies which show that humanity is capable of more terror than ghosts are, especially when put under the right circumstances. The film just increasingly becomes cruel and awful, until a major reveal almost at the end of the film.

Coherence

Coherence is a science fiction thriller that released in 2013, which begins with a group of friends having dinner at one of their homes. I am a huge fan of the shaky camera technique in scary movies, as it makes the story of film seem real and absorbing for the viewer. Blair Witch Project was one of the first films I saw which used this technique, and I am a big fan of the movie, considering the fact that similar storylines were adopted by the Paranormal Activity franchise, and ruined the technique and the idea for me. The entire notion of a shaky camera is to ensure that none of the the major supernatural or scary events are captured on it too obviously, keeping the element of surprise and mystery alive, something which Paranormal Activity goes overboard with.

This film, however, doesn’t.

There isn’t much I can write about the story here without giving away the key elements of the story which are best enjoyed as the film progresses, but the movie does not involve a lot of cheap scares that has become a trope in horror films. If a movie has to make sudden movements in order to scare its viewers, in my opinion, the dread of the movie is kept on trembling grounds.

It follows

The concept and the supernatural entity in the film is the best part about it. The entity is out to kill the protagonist Jaime, since she had a sexual encounter with a person she had been on a date with. Only she could see this entity, and it kept following her with the intention to kill her. The entity is kept mysterious and elusive (like Death in the Final Destination franchise, without the overly dramatic descriptions about it), and we know only what the characters know about it, which is that it is like an infection that you cannot get rid of, and need to pass to be able to get away from its view, and even then, it is only a delay. The entity takes on some abhorrent forms which are definitely terrifying and add to the awfulness of the entity.

However, the story does not dwindle into a cheesy explanation about what this entity is. In my opinion, the best horror films are those that leave enough out to make you wonder what it was that haunted the characters so deceptively. This is also the case with Blair Witch Project (which is one of my favourite films also, considering the fact that it was one of the first films to use the shaky camera technique).

The Others

The lesser you know about the film, the more of a surprise it will be. This movie is unlike the others films that Nicole Kidman has starred in, and it was lovely seeing her in the role of an overprotective and paranoid mother, who will go any lengths to protect her children, especially since her husband never came from war. There is a wonderful twist ending to the movie which you might not see coming, which is why I would recommend watching this movie without reading up about it or even checking it out on IMDb.

Session 9

The Stanford Prison Experiment is a great example of what humans are capable of inflicting upon each other when put under pressure. Session 9 explores this concept under the backdrop of a scary shutdown mental hospital where a group of men arrive for a process of asbestos removal. Each of the men have some evils plaguing them – lack of sleep, heartbreak, and even drugs. In an atmosphere that is strangely eerie (not surprisingly), one of them finds tapes that were stored at the mental hospital regarding a girl with dissociative personality disorder. Clearly, that should be enough to catch your attention. The men spiral out of control, getting paranoid about each other quicker than you can say ‘paranoid’, and even without a possible supernatural force, the movie carries the horror very well.


My definition of a good horror film is one without cheap scares, since I think that it is fairly easy to scare someone when someone on screen appears suddenly and without notice. This is the reason why The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2 would not make my list of the best horror films I’ve seen. What also bothers me about these films is the heavy reliance on religion to solve the issue at hand. However, the films listed above barely rely on cliches in filmmaking and in story-telling, which is why they are few of the best horror films I have seen.

 

Why “Raanjhanaa” is detrimental to Indian society

Summer saw the release of many movies, and one such film was Raanjhanaa which was released on 21st June 2013, and was declared a box office hit soon enough. We see Dhanush, who is an established actor in Tamil cinema, but only had his Bollywood debut with this film, and was appreciated for his performance. His performance was believable, albeit overrated, and considering that he is actually Tamil, he did a wonderful job playing a character that was far from his roots. In fact, it almost undid the abysmal job that Sonam Kapoor did as the lead female character.

Dhanush plays the role of the son of a Tamil priest who has an obsessive attraction towards Zoya (Sonam Kapoor) who is the daughter of a professor, both of who reside in Varanasi (Benares). He apparently falls in love with her as a child, and stays loyal till they both grow old enough. He obsessively tries to talk to her, continuously and clamantly, and even get slapped in the process. Later on in the film, when Zoya reacts unfavourably to Kundan’s love, he threatens to slit his wrists, and claims that the fact that she will cry if she really loves him. And not astonishingly, she does cry, and because of this particular reason, she does realize she loves him. Another unhealthy mindset that this film has very obviously showcased is the fact that Kundan needs to be lauded for his faith in Zoya’s love, and his stubborn demand. There was a reason why the film was a hit, and even more of a reason since Kundan was loved by so many. The whole concept of “roadside romeo”, someone who flirts by being overtly obvious about his love and publicly declaring so, even to the female’s discomfort, has been too popular since a long time now.

Let me stop here to talk about the reality that is “eve-teasing” in India. Eve-teasing is defined as a euphemism for the act of harassing a woman publicly, and the actions range from catcalling to outright groping. Apparently, Indians (and Bangladeshis and Nepalis), do not use the word sexual harassment for groping, but mere “teasing”. The semantics here are as important as any, since it tells us how underrated of a problem people think it is. A girl being harassed in public is something that every girl realises and accepts that they might have to deal with. Not just this, India has been popularised as being a country with sexually inappropriate public in western media, and women are often advised on travel blogs to never travel in India without male company. Whether this declaration of unsafe India is reality or just a racist bias against a non-first-world, non-white nation, we cannot know for sure, but it is definitely a cause for concern. So undermining the issue that is sexual harassment in India is a mistake that we have made again and again, and it begins with calling it eve-”teasing” . Eventually, in the film, Kundan is praised for being loyal to Zoya even when he realised that she wanted his failure, and was the cause of his eventual death. Therefore, there is no doubt that Kundan is the ‘hero’ who is glorified and idealised. His death presses his heroic tragedy even more.

Such characterization and storyline has been ingrained deep into any Indian’s mindset and one does not even notice when one faces it. Jealousy and possessiveness have become emotions that are appreciated and even held against someone if one admits to not feeling them. It is almost as if exclusivity, and by that I mean absolute exclusivity, is the only criteria to get a relationship stable and healthy, which is actually the opposite of what might make a relationship work. Thus, the fact that such movies will have no effect on the audiences is nothing but misinformation. An idea that it also propagates is the idea of a woman having to refuse even during times that they want to agree. It is a very common social belief that a woman is not supposed to be the one to ask a man out, or in the latter stages of a relationship, propose for marriage. Such gender roles are being played into by such movies, and it doesn’t leave for change in society.

This phenomenon of praising love which is obsessive and stalker-like is not just limited to this particular film. It is a fairly common storyline where the male counterpart of a potential romantic venture is insistent and annoys the female counterpart. It will be to the displeasure of many that even “Dilwale dulhaniya le jayenge” played into this drama; we see a young woman trying to show a man that she found his advances, present even though just for comedic importance, too insistent. Other movies that had the similar characterisation of the female not satisfied with how she was being treated and wanted to be left alone was Mohabbatein and Kal Ho Na Ho. One might argue that there wasn’t any serious harm in any of these films, unlike Raanjhanaa, but it cannot be ignored that it plays into the mentality of thinking that a woman will eventually come around. Or that it is the man’s step to try to woo a woman, and even though a woman refuses such advances, that is just what a woman is supposed to do. The audiences of the movie must be encouraged to understand to communicate well; that a no means a no. Of course, it is difficult to trace a cause and effect in such an argument. It can be made clear that movies only reflect what the audiences truly want, not the other way around. Nonetheless, it can also be admitted that regardless of which of the two processes are happening, it is a serious issue that needs to be addressed by the audiences and the filmmakers alike.

Sexual harassment is a tricky concept to evaluate, since to verify how genuine it is can take up lots of resources. Because of this, there isn’t much evidence as to how the sexual harassment incidents have progressed or declined over the years. A study by Thomson Reuters tells us that India is the fourth most dangerous nation in the world for women. This study was done keeping in mind the violence against women, but has no space to consider “light” sexual harassment. But even so, the declining conditions for women in our country is testimony enough that the media is not helping when it is stripping women even of the right to be able to say no and be understood directly. It is time that media, especially cinema, which affects Indian populations much more than it should, gets over the obsession of having female characters who give in to advances that are clearly not well-meant, and the male characters who know no better than to stop.