I think Capsule Reviews - January Doldrums Edition by Bill Ryan captures a number of things that are important to me, whether he exactly intended it or not.
There are two things... two of the things I've traditionally enjoyed more than anything else... that I can't get interested in at all of late. Horror and movie writing.
In the post linked, Bill writes, "I'm becoming more and more convinced that if horror fans fear anything, it's change."
Horror fandom is a dull, humorless lot, that practically defines itself by its disdain for imagination.
Presumably most horror fans were originally drawn to the medium by early experiences that startled and frightened us with unexpected shocks and creative turns that fired our imaginations and fueled our nightmares.
Somehow after becoming a fan, one starts to codify the things they like. How much of the horrors should be explained, whether the horrors could exist in our world, how much humor should be included, etc.
Most horror fans - myself included, I know - not only have some mental Mad Monster Party hodge-podge living in their brain, cobbled together from "rules" they've created from the things that happened to scare them as a child and notions they've built up from overthinking everything about the genre. Any attempt to piece together any of even the most well-considered and intelligent of these - so my own certainly not included - would stumble pathetically on a lack of room for imagination as well as internal contradiction.
Horror needs room to move around and breath. It needs to stumble clumsily about.
House of 1000 Corpses and House of the Devil seem to me to be the House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula, which is to say nothing about the value of any of these as entertainment, but simply that all four are reflexive and concious of what the audience wants or what the moviemakers believe the audience wants.
In the age of the Internet, fan "rules" have been codified, people believe they're not idiotic (by definition), that they make sense and even that they're right.
Look, I'm sitting here having read Bill's post that I linked and his earlier review of Halloween II, in which he writes, "Explanations are for simpletons, and it's frankly beyond me why Zombie is convinced the opposite is true."
And I agree with every fabric of my being.
I picture everyone who ever explained to me that some horror movie was scary because "it could really happen" and I want to scream and force them to watch a Lucio Fulci or J-Horror marathon.
And I think I remain right. Whereas I believe horror needs some connection to what we can imagine as immediate, our primitive animal fears, I think understanding is the opposite of fear, too. Ask Joseph Goebbels, or any other politician who has led a campaign of war against another country, for that matter. It's easy to get people to fear (and, as such, hate) something or someone they don't understand and nearly impossible to do the same with something or someone they do understand.
I type, wanting to write more on this, to further codify my beliefs on this, but all the while seeing that I am part of the problem.
You see, I'm sure Bill's thoughts are on the money as to why he felt like he did about Halloween II, and may very well apply to how I will feel or a majority of viewers felt to that specific movie.
Yet I'm even surer that the most important thing a horror movie (or story) needs is the ability to do what I'm not expecting. And codifying a bunch of rules of what is or isn't "good" horror or, even worse, what is or isn't "scary" puts a box around what a movie should or shouldn't do and makes it easy for me, as an experienced horror fan, to expect everything that might reasonably be done inside that box.
Someone could probably study on the psychology of horror's biggest advocates stripping away it's most important tool. That shall not be me, though.
I'm just a guy who is sitting and feeling perplexed.