Monday, June 20, 2011
If you’ve seen enough horror movies, you’ll notice that they’ve become increasingly stale nowadays. Sometimes it feels like the characters on screen know when they’re about to get whacked by the psycho killer in the woods, and even they can’t fool the audience. How stupid do some of these movie directors believe the average American viewer has become? The following bag of tricks are currently destroying modern horror cinema:
1.) The Peek-a-boo, I See You
This is the moment when the director cleverly places the actor (usually some blond that can’t stop crying) into the right third of the screen. The camera pans in slowly and the creepy music starts playing. Then suddenly the killer’s face pops out the shadows directly behind the sobbing blonde. Since it would make too much sense for the killer to hack his victim instantly, (as killers in the real world are prone to do, don’t ask me but I know) the director always gives the heroine a few seconds to realize that some psycho is behind her before she runs screaming down the hallway. This leads to my next boneheaded Hollywood gaff.
2.) The Hide and Seek
I don’t understand the obsession with childhood games with these directors. My theory is that in order to be considered for directing a horror movie you must prove you have an infantilism fetish. No wonder Hitchcock wore those huge pants; he was hiding a diaper underneath.
The Hide and Seek usually occurs right after, and sometimes before, the “Peek-a-boo, I see you.” Invariably, the killer walks slower than molasses while the heroine barrels away like an Olympic sprinter. By the time one wonders why she doesn’t just run straight home or to the nearest police station, the heroine is already stuffing herself into some hiding spot like an oven, walk-in freezer, or meat packing plant.
3.) The Alley Oop
This is also known as the “false alarm.” This is the scene where the heroine is stumbling around trying to find one of her friends. She thinks she hears a noise and turns her head. Then, just as she rounds a corner she crashes into a body in the shadows. Oh no! Then the camera angles around and we see it’s just her boyfriend with a silly grin. Whew. That’s the set-up. The spike comes when suddenly the killer jumps out of nowhere and the audience is forced to accept that although he had all the time in the world to slay the heroine when she was alone he chose not to for the sake of drama.
4.) The Scooby-doo
I have to credit the creators of Scooby-doo for making perhaps the best animated horror spoof ever. But sometimes I swear I’ve watched scenes that look like they were actually stolen from the cartoon.
The “Scooby-doo” is your prototypical chase scene. The only thing more obnoxious than watching out of shape actors stumble across the scene is how the camera jerks around to make us feel like we’re in the moment.
5.) The Ingenious “Let’s Split Up” Game Plan
In all fairness, the character who suggests this is usually the drunken frat boy with popped collars who gets slashed first anyway. Even though all the actors might be in a single house, the idea that they need to form three search parties to search all of 10 rooms somehow makes perfect sense to them.
6.) The Deadly Wee-wee
This is almost always a given in any horror flick. Some moron goes off alone to do his business and gets brained by a pick-ax/shot with an arrow/eaten by the woods, etc. It’s such a freebie for the director it amounts to artistic welfare.
7.) The Lazarus
I think it’s fair to say that ever since Michael Myers survived getting plugged with six .357 rounds at the end of Halloween, the horror genre has slid disastrously downhill. There’s a new rule in Hollywood. Killers can’t die until they’ve appeared in enough annoying sequels to cause suicide pacts even among the most diehard fans.
Nothing short of a nuclear explosion seems to stop your modern day madman. Even then we’d still be treated to seeing the killer’s hand twitch among the radioactive rubble to let us know he’s still alive right before the credits roll.
8.) The Great Escape
This is when the whole freaking police department has the killer cornered on a ledge or in a hole somewhere and he still gets away among a barrage of bullets. We’re meant to believe that, like the “Lazarus” trick, the psycho is somehow invincible. Yet when he attacks the heroine moments later she just knees him in the groin to get away.
9.) The Famous Coitus Interruptus
It seems like all people have time for in horror movies is having sex and walking into dark rooms. At some point the high school quarterback and his doe-eyed cheerleader get it on in a lake, or a bed, or a bed in a lake. Then thwack! A machete through the chest. I’ve always admired that subtle Hollywood finger wagging at premarital relations, but the redundancy of the scene is a crime as well.
10.) The Overly Creative Murder
This isn’t so much a scene as it is a symptom of the sad state of today’s movies. People can’t be killed by simple butcher knives or axes anymore. It has to involve hydrochloric acid, cryogenic freezing compounds, or the use of some ancient weapon. The method of the murder isn’t what’s particularly troublesome, it’s that there is too much emphasis placed on the special effects required to make the scene.
So there you have it. I just saved Hollywood possibly millions of dollars they would have wasted in useless focus groups and board meetings about how to make a better horror movie. All any director needs to do is read my guide, and do the opposite of everything above. When you start seeing flicks that actually scare the pants off you, you’ll know who to thank.
The Lost Art of Hollerin’
Hollerin’ is considered by some to be the earliest form of communication between humans. It is a traditional form of communication used in rural areas before the days of telecommunications to convey long-distance messages. Evidence of hollerin’, or derivations thereof such as yodeling or hunting cries, exists worldwide among many early peoples and is still be practiced in certain societies of the modern world. In one form or another, the holler has been found to exist in Europe, Africa and Asia as well as the US. Each culture used or uses hollers differently, although almost all cultures have specific hollers meant to convey warning or distress. Otherwise hollers exist for virtually any communicative purpose imaginable -- greetings, general information, pleasure, work, etc. The hollers featured at the National Hollerin’ Contest typically fall into one of four categories: distress, functional, communicative or pleasure.
Within the US, particularly the Southeast, folklore researchers have found the practice of hollerin’ to be present primarily among traditionally black communities. Although hollerin’ is rarely found to have survived in white communities, many folklorist believe it to have once been widespread throughout the region and practiced by both whites and blacks alike. Oddly, in Sampson County, North Carolina, the reverse of the norm is true; while hollerin’ has continued to live on in white localities, there is little or no evidence of its existence among the black population.
Although similarities abound -- particularly in sound, hollerin’ as defined by the Spivey’s Corner contest, is not the same thing as yodeling or other farm or hunting calling. Rather, it is viewed, at least by Sampson County natives, as an art form to be taken seriously. Its roots, however, can be traced back to the men working on rafts in the 1700s, when logs were transported from Sampson County via its many rivers and streams to Wilmington. The loggers operating the rafts hollered back and forth to one another about their rafts so that they wouldn’t run into each other, or so that if stuck, others would come to their aid. The tradition has survived since its colonial origins.
The “trademark” holler of Sampson County, NC is one considered unique because of its virtuoso rendering. This holler “consists primarily of rapid shifts between natural and falsetto voice within a limited gapped scale” and the typical melodic movement “consists simply of alterations between the first, third and fifth of the scale” so that the voice is “employed almost as a musical instrument.”
Types of Hollers
The hollers native to Sampson County can be classified in one of the following groups:
Distress hollers: In many ways, hollers were essential in rural communities; they notified others within hearing range of imminent danger or brought assistance to otherwise isolated farmers when needed. In the past, locals say, hollers have helped locate lost children, saved drowning men, and even ended house fires. “There was just as much a need of hollerin’ as there was of eatin’ at that day and time,” says 1971 Hollerin’ Champion, Leonard Emanuel. Distress hollers are typified by a falsetto tone and sense of urgency.
Functional hollers: These are the hollers used in day-to-day life on the farm or in the field. Each farmer or rancher had his own distinctive hollers to bring in this hogs, cattle, sheep or dogs. This was particularly useful when farmers’ animals grazed common land. A farmer could round up his hogs with his unique holler without disturbing any of his neighbors’ hogs. This is also the type of holler used each morning to let nearby farmers know that one was up and about, as well as by women to call home their families from the fields at the end of the day.
Examples of The Different Types of Hollers'
Communicative hollers: “Howdy neighbor” is the main purpose of these cries. Ermon Godwin explains: “A man working alone in a field might holler just to hear a reassuring answer from his neighbor in the next field a mile or two away” (Ermon and Bizzell, p.3). Women also frequently used this form of holler. Example.
Expressive hollers: Some hollers are voiced purely for pleasure’s sake -- they are known as expressive hollers. Often, this is a hollered version of a popular tune or melody and serves no purpose other than of entertainment. Many of the contest champions have won using expressive hollers, particularly in recent years. Even North Carolina's Agriculture Commissioner Jim Graham gets into the act with a hollerin' impression of a mule. You won't believe the Duet, but my favorite is the Quartet rendition of "Amazing Grace."
History ofThe National Hollerin’ Contest (1969-present)
Every year, on the third Saturday of June, in an otherwise sleepy borough of southeastern North Carolina known as Spivey’s Corner (population 49), some 5,000-10,000 folks gather from far and wide to take part in the festivities and entertainment in the day-long extravaganza known as the National Hollerin’ Contest.
You may have heard of the contest -- since its inception in 1969, the contest has garnered attention and fame throughout both the country and the world. The contest and its winners have been featured on television shows such as The Tonight Show and Late Night with David Letterman, in magazines with worldwide circulations such as Stars and Stripes and Sports Illustrated, and have even been the subject of documentary films, featured on The Voice of America, and mentioned in television sports commentaries.
Responsible for the publicity surrounding the unique event is one of the contest’s founders and self- described “master promoter,” Ermon H. Godwin. The contest began almost 30 years ago in 1969, when on a weekly radio broadcast with fellow contest founder and area resident John Thomas, Godwin jokingly suggested reviving the “lost art” of hollerin’ by holding a contest, the proceeds from which would benefit the Spivey’s Corner Volunteer Fire Department. The first contest flooded the town (then population 48) with participants and observers, including the mainstream press. The day’s events featured not only the promised hollerin’ contest, but other contests, pageants and games as well, such as a biggest bell pepper contest, a watermelon roll and a square-dancing jamboree. Over the years the publicity efforts surrounding the contest have been unusual, if not down-right wacky: past invitees to the contest include former US president Ronald Reagan, the Shah of Iran, the 1984 Olympic Festival, the 1985 Super Bowl, and the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier.
Since the first contest, the annual event has become a summer ritual for many. Contestants convene in Spivey’s Corner on the Midway High School football field from around the world, although only one hollerin’ champion has hailed from outside Sampson County (H.H. Oliver, ‘70 champion, who hails from neighboring Wayne County). Currently, the day’s events feature five contests: the Whistlin’ Contest, the Conch Shell and Fox Horn Blowin’ Contest, the Junior Hollerin’ Contest, the Ladies Callin’ Contest and, of course, the National Hollerin’ Contest. (A separate “calling contest” [wives called their husbands in from the fields] was created for women hollerers in 1976 so the main contest is a men-only event.)
So When Is the Hollerin' Contest?
The National Hollerin' Contest traditionally takes place the third Saturday in June. The definitive source for current Hollerin' Contest information is at http://www.hollerincontest.com/scvfd/