Saturday, 2 June 2012

Too Young To Die

As you know, I love everything in the world, with the exception of three things. One of those things that I love is horror films.

Last year I wrote a blog about media representations of young people. Kind of. It was more just a rant about the BBC drama Dive. It aired 2 years ago now but I'm still not over it. This is one of the only clips of it on YouTube, and it contains perhaps the clumsiest piece of exposition ever; "It's gonna get tougher if you want to be in contention for the olympics in 2012." And don't get me started on that fucking music...

It's probably shows like Dive that have made me turn away from TV dramas, and towards horror films. Dive should be more like the diving scene from A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child.

Classic horror films provide a much more accurate representation of young people. Obviously I'm not talking about the whiney, privileged teens of the slasher genre; when they're not going to summer camps where a massacre had taken place the previous year, they're going to summer camps right next to the summer camp where a massacre had taken place the previous year. These annoying teenagers have been cleverly parodied in brilliant, postmodern horror films like Scream and The Cabin in the Woods.

I'm no longer allowed to judge what is and what isn't a good representation of youth, being a ridiculous 20 years old, which means I'll be dead in 50 or 60 days. But I still feel the alienation and insecurity of adolescence, and I suspect I always will. The best depictions of adolescence are bleak, and isolated, and I can't speak for all young people (I can) but those existential representations are the ones familiar to me. Oh boo-fucking-hoo, on with the Top 5 representations of adolescence in classic horror films: 

5. Carrie

Brian De Palma's adaptation of Stephen King's novel is a perfect representation of young people, in that they're all cunts. But unlike the delightful hatebags of Skins, their acting like  loathsome bullies isn't celebrated or glorified. Rather, it's gorified. 

Carrie is a victim; a victim of playground bullying, a victim of her oppressively religious upbringing, a victim of all-round ostracism for being different. This idea of victimisation is a vivid representation of adolescence, and the heightened, garish high school prom represents everything that's shit about being a teenager. I mean, who has ever had fun at a school prom? Dicks.

4. Battle Royale

Yes it is a classic, albeit a modern one. This Japanese piece of brutally scathing satire is a viciously honest representation of youth. A cautionary tale about the dangers of an overly-powerful state, the teenagers (well, children) forced to fight to the death are moulded and manipulated by an authority which seeks to curb the unruliness of youth by any means necessary. It's exactly what would happen if Michael Gove had any imagination.

As well as the victimisation of youth, Battle Royale cleverly, and with its uniquely dark sense of humour, transposes the petty schoolyard relationships into the battle; are there any of your classmates you want to kill? Well now you can! Teenage vanities are also carried over into the lawless mayhem; there's still time to curl your eyelashes before hacking someone to death with a sickle!

3. Martin

You know how hard it is to talk to someone you fancy? And you just don't know how to approach them? So you end up having to inject them with a sedative and drink their blood? It's textbook teenage behaviour.

George A. Romero, the genius that he is, understands the profound disconnect between the old and the young in society, which shines through in his classic Night of the Living Dead as well as this unconventional Vampire film. Martin, while clearly influencing Dexter, beautifully encapsulates the real sense of alienation felt by teenagers, forced to be outsiders if they don't fit in; trapped by the constraints of authority; constantly threatened by the moral panic of a society with its monopoly on morality, bound by outdated conventions and religions. When something threatens that, they leap with relish at the opportunity to destroy that outsider that they just don't understand, that scares them and drives them to their pitchforks and torches and tabloids.

Struggling against that tide is Martin, alienated and alone, trying to make sense of this shit-hole of a world. "People are the hardest thing," he observes. "They don't talk, not really. They don't say what they mean."

2. The Hitcher

Obviously the original with Rutger Hauer as opposed to the remake with Sean Bean, which I've not seen but inevitably ruins it. An innocent, naive teenage boy picks up a hitchhiker to stop himself falling asleep at the wheel. Who in their right mind would pick up a hitchhiker who looked as terrifyingly unhinged as Rutger Hauer?! So that's a fairly solid depiction of a young person; he's an idiot. His blind aimlessness is a beautiful representation of adolescence, as his youthful world is sadistically turned into a nihilistic hell by the Hitcher's playful torment, which teaches the kid more about life than any teacher ever could. Unless Rutger Hauer is your teacher, I guess. It's a bit like a horror film version of a Limmy's Show sketch. 

The Hitcher is relentlessly bleak, with youth represented by a mindless journey, set in a liminal space; we join our protagonist on the road and we leave him on the road, with a profound sense of circularity. This is a perfect portrayal of adolescence; as existential nightmare. Also, next time you eat chips, watch out for any severed fingers lurking amongst them...

1. River's Edge

Maybe it doesn't count as horror, but I love it. And what's not to love? Dennis Hopper plays a mentally-unstable uber-junkie called Feck who's in love with an inflatable sex doll named Elly; "Look, I'm not psycho, I know she's a doll. Right, Elly?" It's like a Tim Minchin song. But weirder.

Meanwhile, Crispin Glover gives one of the most fascinating performances in the history of cinema.

Not only is River's Edge bleak, funny, bizarre, realistic and beautiful, it is a mesmerising representation of adolescence. A teenager kills his girlfriend because "she was talking shit", (don't worry, that's not the part with which I identify. By which I mean I don't have a girlfriend.) and his friends respond in a shockingly nihilistic way. Some rally around to protect him from the law, some are so apathetic that they don't seem to care at all, and some, most significantly, just don't know what to think; "I don't know how I felt", confesses Keanu Reeves' character, the lack of emotion making this role perfect for him. Not even he can ruin this film, even when in full-on Bill & Ted mode.

It's a hypnotically raw depiction of youth, rooted in sheer, nihilistic boredom. In an existential void, abandoned by society and left to find their way in a dark, sparse and confusing world, with the failed values of previous generations crumbling around them, they fall into the self-fulfilling prophecy of moral decline proclaimed by the adults. 

But cheer up, because now you'll never be able to drink warm beer without thinking "It's warm even!" 

So to sum up, adolescence is bleak and lonely, then adulthood is boring and soul-destroying, then you die. THANKS FOR READING! I'll leave you with the brilliant Jamiroquai song that this blog is named after, enjoy!

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