Posts Tagged ‘formulaic’
In order for a horror film to be affecting it must accomplish an array of feats that manipulate its audience in a way that steers it toward a desired end, which is usually one of disenfranchisement, disgust, dismay, or paranoia. But one key element to effective horror that goes largely unmentioned is the importance of pity. When a horror film does not take seriously this pivotal aspect, or neglects it altogether, what usually results is a campy flick that allows, if not promotes an audience to react with disinterest or laughter instead of shock, terror, or other sorts of psychological distress. In order to properly convey the importance of a scary movie’s ability to make an audience pity we must first examine precisely what pity is and how it works to assist a movie’s efforts to jar its viewers. From doing this we can hopefully discover the major faults of modern American horror, and see what needs to be done to revive it.
A very interesting article in the Village Voice, written by Eric Hynes, examines what he dubs the “Eight Tired Themes of Nicholas Sparks’ Love-Stories.” The topic of the article comes up of course due to this weekend’s release of the Miley Cyrus vehicle The Last Song, which is the last film based from Sparks’ novels. Such themes in Sparks’ work that Hynes identifies include a preference of setting (North Carolina), belief in God (Christian but not too Christian), and penchant for letter-writing (which Hynes claims connects Sparks’ works with the epistolary women’s novels of the 18th century). The entire article, though, is not so much a listing of Sparks’ consistencies in writing (things like the motifs listed above can be chalked up to being elements which help define Sparks as an auteur – to use a film term). Instead it functions to claim for an existence of formula, and that this formula does not coincide greatly with the melodramatic love stories of yesteryear (Douglas Sirk is brought up at one point).
The subject of melodrama is acknowledge by Hynes, but not really focused on. Sparks’ books are clearly melodramatic, and sell themselves for being as such. But, if one of Hynes’ main goals was to argue how Sparks’ developed dramatic formula differs from the famed and well-regarded Douglas Sirk films of yesteryear, then perhaps it would have been better had that subject been explored in greater detail. As it is, the claim is somewhat tucked away.
One major discrepancy that is proposed is that while the characters in Sirk’s films grapple with inner demons or desires, which are problems that are difficult to resolve, the characters in Sparks’ novels only battle with issues outside of their control (hurricanes, cancer, etc.). And perhaps because the conflicts are rooted in circumstance, the characters are “remarkably accepting of the cruelties of fate.” What’s really being pointed out here, I would argue, is that while Sirk’s melodramas sometimes dealt with outside influences like social roles and prejudices (All That Heaven Allows), those concerns were directly related to bigger issues like personal identity. Sparks’ books, and thus the movies based off them, do not delve deeply into overly-personal matters but instead incorporate characters written broadly enough so as to make them as identifiable as possible.
We encourage you to read the entirety of Hynes’ article, as it beyond what is discussed above it includes numerous interesting topics, subjects and tidbits. (We would also like to say that we recognize that Hynes’ wasn’t trying to offer an exhaustive examination, as the format of the article didn’t allow it to become a venue for a laborious argument. Do keep that in mind.)