I've always enjoyed many of the films that would fall in the "Horror" genre. James and I found a book called Monsters from the Id: The Rise of Horror in Fiction and Film. I admit I haven't read all of it. (I made some good headway in it last year but the pregnancy put me onto other books.) But James has read it and we have discussed its ideas at length. The primary points I'll be using from the book are that the genre of horror began with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein as a reaction to the Enlightenment and that the original purpose of horror was to draw the reader/viewer back towards a concept of the supernatural. IOW, human beings do not know everything. Hence horror always had a moral whether it was not to try to "play God" with human life as in Frankenstein or to practice chastity and sobriety as in Halloween.
However, I have noticed a more recent trend (oh say the last 5-10 years) whereupon horror films do not strive to have any moral whatsoever but simply to be the bloodiest, most violent and goriest films. Somehow gory/bloody/violent is supposed to = horror. I admit I have not seen all of them, but Saw, High Tension, Cabin Fever and, my most recently viewed film which spurred this reflection, Hostel all seem to have one simple goal - to be as gory and bloody and violent as possible. And I'm sure there have been others which I have been blessed not to see.
In Hostel there really isn't any innocent character for which to root or feel much sympathy. In fact it is in the survival of a sinful character in which any lack of moral is obvious.
So do such "horror" movies have any redeeming value? I would say no. I can watch Nightmare on Elm Street and plainly see that Freddy does not attack his victim when she has her crucifix on the wall or understand that Jamie Lee Curtis survives the immortal Michael Meyers because she is the virgin and faithful babysitter but it seems modern "horror" films have lost any sense of deeper purpose than spewing as much blood on the screen as possible. According to imdb.com, Tarantino used 150 gallons of blood in Hostel alone.
I would further argue that such films become an instrument of the devil placing evil images before human eyes with no purpose other than to present such images. And they become images that plague our memory and dull our senses and numb our reality to violence.
The relatively recent plague off such films has left me longing for the older films like The Haunting (the original) and skipping going to the theater.
Just for the record, I still think the scariest film I've ever seen remains The Exorcist. Either version counts, but the more recent version have an extra edge over the first.
CONTINUED: I wanted to add, that I do not hold the position that a film, even a horror film, cannot simply be fun and entertaining, but I further want to add that anyone who is entertained by such films should ask themselves why? What is "fun" or "entertaining" about severed body parts or gallons of blood? I cannot find any appropriate answer to this. Now I can agree that senses of humor may vary and what is enjoyable may be subjective but material such as this can only be entertaining and fun to those who would bask in human suffering and relish in the destruction of human beings.
Am I saying that all who see these movies are evil? Of course not. Most people do not realize the evil propgated by such films. What I am saying is that such films are evil by their nature and, while the evil, common to evil itself, is not obvious to many, it has a natural propensity to cause harm to those who view it.