Ever since I was a child, I’ve been drawn to the creepier side of things. Nothing to call a therapist over (luckily, no one ever found Poochie-and it was just that one time…). In all seriousness, for whatever reasons, I enjoy the genre of horror. I like to read it, watch it, draw it. I’m not squeamish and I don’t jump easily. I just get a strange and giddy thrill when I realize I’m watching horror done well – the way some people feel about kittens or a gleaming sunset…Thus! you are now reading the voyage piece of Bloody Beautiful: Horror as Art, a lovely vehicle for me to share some of the most bloody beautiful moments in TV, movies and video games.
The overarching question is: when does something cross over from ordinary into extraordinary, into art? It’s subjective, of course, but there are still some general criteria that can be applied without much bias. For example, many campy cult classic slasher flicks deserve their place in horror cinema fandom, but most were not what I’d call “filmed with an eye for creativity.” However there is, and always has been, an undercurrent of brilliantly dark writers and artists and musicians. Their work frighten you not with a scream, but because they tell truths that most people don’t want to attribute to humanity.
Good horror is an emotionally charged glimpse into our own primal darkness, frequently with a not-so-subtle nod to the Venn diagram intersection of man and monster. It must, for even a moment, make you empathize ( or at least understand) the villain’s motivations in the context of their worldview. Horror need not be repulsive or disgusting to be effective. When not used gratuitously, blood and guts are certainly welcome, and often necessary. To elevate a piece, though, it must be not only eerie or macabre , but also beautiful. This opens up a whole new genre of gorgeously gory and bloody beautiful that often goes unrecognized.
There is, admittedly, a missing link. No matter how it’s presented, I expect that some people just wouldn’t find striking beauty in a white-clad couple trailing their blood across a ballroom as they waltz. So, the attraction seems to be at least partly based in a person’s character and experiences. Some people like spooky shadows. Some people like My Little Pony. Some people like spooky ponies…and so on. The bottom line is that horror can be as meaningful and artistic as any other genre, though it’s not typically thought of as such.
The maiden voyage of this column, features the movie Silence of the Lambs. The film won the 1991 Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay: only the third film in history to win all five major awards. It’s also the first “horror” film to win Best Picture and the third ever to be nominated. Anthony Hopkins was exquisitely cast, and distinguished himself in a wholly different manner than in his past roles. Safe to say, it’s the general consensus that this is an epic film.
If you have not seen Silence of the Lambs, the rest of this article CONTAINS SPOILERS.
That said, this article’s BLOODY BEAUTIFUL spotlight goes to…..
….this striking image from the amazing sequence in which Hannibal escapes from prison. The flayed prison guard, suspended crucifixion-style, glowing from rays of light that seem to emanate from his body, has become one of the most iconic images in cinema and horror.
Do yourself a favor and watch the full scene. It’s a treat if you haven’t seen it in a while. WARNING: REEEEAAAALLY GRAPHIC VIOLENCE
A Bach aria floats from the cassette player. Hannibal appears almost angelically peaceful, enraptured. His face and stark white clothing are spattered with bright red blood. Layers of depth, fear and meaning are conveyed with raw finesse, through the perfectly edited execution of these gruesome visuals.
It’s a brutal series of scenes, and difficult to watch the unflinching violence. However, look past the fact that you just watched someone’s face get bitten. Really look at what the filmmakers did. A conscious choice was made to juxtaposition Hannibal’s brutal actions with angelic classical music, It’s unnerving and mesmerizing at the same time, and a highly effective device in evoking an uncomfortable fascination from the viewer. Our brains struggle to reconcile a Bach aria with a disturbing act of violence, and the result is disorienting and scintillating at the same time. Hannibal’s expression hints that the music is calming him, as well, a small insight into the character of the sophisticated killer with high class tastes (no pun intended).
The Silence of the Lambs is teeming with epic horror moments, and in my opinion, is one of the best horror films of all time. Aside from it’s gorgeous filming, it’s also just really scary. I remember being in the theater when Hannibal takes the guard’s skinned face from his own, and the whole audience gasped. THAT is good horror.
So tune in next time for another installment of Bloody Beautiful, and fell free to leave me some suggestions in the comments section! I’d love to have a reader’s list of recommendations to add to future articles!