A little while ago I asked in various gamer haunts for a list of horror films. I was interested to see what was foremost in peoples’ mind when thinking about horror. Obviously in my mind was Fright Night, and what kind of game would appeal based on film trends. In rough order of popularity:
The Thing, Ringu, Blair Witch Project, Dark Water, Event Horizon, Alien, Aliens, Nightmare on Elm St, Silent Hill, The Exorcist, The Mist, [Rec], Candyman, Cat People, Dog Soldiers, Frailty, The Descent, The Ghost and the Darkness, Haloween (remake), The Hitcher, House on Haunted Hill (remake), Let the Right One In, Near Dark, The Omen, One Missed Call, The Others, Paranormal Activity, Poltergeist, Scream 2, The Shining, Triangle, Whistle & I’ll Come To You, 28 Days Later
I’ve not seen all of these movies previously. Since collating the list I’ve been perusing TradeMe and picking up those that appear.
I don’t want to read too much into this list, but I think it is interesting. Slashers and monsters seem fairly represented; Vampires and Zombies however, get one film each. “Miscellaneous spirit” however seems to me to dominate this list – a genre that isn’t much treated in roleplaying games at all.
Vampires must surely be omitted because of their recent invasion of the cinema and televisual mainstreams. Anita Blake and Buffy have figuratively slain Vampires as a legitimate form of horror, giving rise to the “urban fantasy” genre of Meyer and Harris.
Zombies though, strike me as oddly absent given their enduring popularity and their strong presence in the last decade. I suppose that there are two factors which make them less appealing as a source of horror. The first is that they are completely predictable. They have a very limited range of activities: a careful and well-prepared group should survive indefinitely, eventually falling prey to accidents and treachery as much as the official menace. The second reason is that they are undeniably nihilistic. 28 Days Later breaks both of these zombie codes: the fast and vicious zombies are scary in and of themselves in a way that Romero’s are not. And the film ends on a note of hope, compared to the usual grim scenario of a total and actual apocalypse.