"Let's face it: fear is fun," writes Douglas E. Winter in his introduction to the landmark 1980s anthology Prime Evil. It may be why we turn to it as a source of entertainment, even if we seldom think critically about the hockey-masked villains or the hormone-addled teenagers who serve as prey.
But it can serve another purpose. It can lift us from the pits of depression and despair, as Shannon McGrew observes in her essay at Rue Morgue. "Horror gives us the chance not only to face our fears but to find a way to deal with some of the pain and suffering life throws at us," she writes--an acute assessment whether or not our pain is part of our depression, is situational, or even self-inflicted. They provide comfort when things fall apart.
If Midsommar represents art horror at its finest, then Crawl delivers a solidly entertaining if occasionally silly monster movie. Directed by French extremity wunderkind Alexandre Aja, it tells the story of a young college student (Kaya Scordelario) and her father (Barry Pepper) trapped in a decrepit house as a Category 5 hurricane hammers the coast of Florida. Rising water complicates their escape, as do hordes of giant alligators swimming the flooded streets. It's a pared-down effort, and Aja shows surprising restraint with material that could have been far more brutal. If it's not on nearly the same level as Midsommar, Crawl nonetheless shows what one can do with an economy of material. Worthwhile and recommended, and made me want to begin work on my meth gators story.
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Derek Austin Johnson has lived most of his life in the Lone Star State. His work has appeared in The Horror Zine, Rayguns Over Texas!, Horror U.S.A.: Texas, Campfire Macabre, The Dread Machine, and Generation X-ed.
He lives in Central Texas.