Friday, October 13, 2023

The Philosophy of Horror: A Symphony of Film Terror

Experimental filmmakers can make anything feel slow and inaccessible. You can see that clearly in this “docu”-essay film. Ostensibly, it is based on Noel Carroll’s monogram explaining the appeal of scary stories and films. We can thank Carroll for his influential critique of Marxist critical theorists, like Lacan and Althusser, but his horror ideas are not fleshed out to any great extent in director-editors Peter Lichter & Bori Mate’s The Philosophy of Horror: A Symphony of Film Terror, which screens at the Spectacle Theater, as part of its Collage Horreur series.

Ironically, the best parts of
Philosophy of Horror are the “Overture” and “Intermission,” which are sort of like audio collages of creepy movie sounds, including dialogue from Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The other sections simply present quotes from Carroll’s treatise that do not clearly relate to the images that follow.

Most of
Philosophy resembles a Bill Morrison film, like Dawson City: Frozen Time. Stills from Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street and the first sequel, Freddy’s Revenge have been defaced and distorted, making them almost unrecognizable (although fans will still know Johnny Depp’s half-shirt when they see it).

In a way, the manipulated footage is still looks creepy, like Buffalo Bill from
Silence of the Lambs went at the film stock with a sharpie marker and a Bic lighter. However, the impact diminishes steadily over the film’s one-hour running time. Regardless, the audio samples and sound design are definitely the most interesting aspects of Philosophy, from a genre fan’s perspective.

Despite the subject matter,
Philosophy of Horror will be better appreciated by patrons of experimental film than horror fans. If you want to watch a horror movie doc, stream In Search of Darkness or find a DVD or old VHS copy of Terror in the Aisles. For those who will appreciate its spartan aesthetic, The Philosophy of Horror: A Symphony of Film Terror screens again Wednesday (10/18) and Saturday (10/28) at the Spectacle.