Most recently, however, King has written about why big Hollywood horror films are so rarely scary. He writes:
Big movies demand big explanations, which are usually tiresome, and big backstories, which are usually cumbersome. If a studio is going to spend $80 or $100 million in hopes of making $300 or $400 million more, they feel a need to shove WHAT IT ALL MEANS down the audience's throat. Is there a serial killer? Then his mommy didn't love him (insert flashback). A monster from outer space? Its planet exploded, of course (and the poor misunderstood thing probably needs a juicy Earth woman to make sexy with). But nightmares exist outside of logic, and there's little fun to be had in explanations; they're antithetical to the poetry of fear.King is on to something here, and it goes well beyond horror. The best films—hell, the best stories—are ones that are liberated from any need to conform to some external logic. Chesterton, Lewis, and Tolkien all have beautiful statements about why they love the genre of fantasy for this very reason. Fantasy does not “make sense” according to any external standard; rather, it makes perfect sense within its own narrative world, and once we enter that world, we see that fantasy tells us the truth. Fiction and fantasy are not “pleasant lies” that divert us from reality; they rather speak the truth about reality in the most compelling way. As Chesterton said, the old legends about dragons are not true because dragons really exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be defeated. The point is applicable to Scripture as well: once we think the Bible has to conform to the logic and experience of the empirical world—and so, e.g., requires verification from archeology and modern science—at that moment it ceases to be God’s Word, i.e., it becomes “tiresome” and “cumbersome,” a place where “there’s little fun to be had,” to use King’s language.
While King does not explore why Hollywood keeps shoving explanations down our throats, I think the main reason is that Hollywood is trying to cater to a crowd that has largely lost its imagination, or at least this is how Hollywood perceives them. Youth today are cynical and expect a story to be “realistic.” While that’s true in a way, Hollywood has forgotten that there are more options beyond naive fables and brutal realism. A film like Pan’s Labyrinth shows a kind of third way: fantastical, and yet realistic; fictional, yet deeply full of truth; scary precisely because it refuses to conform to any external logic.
Where King goes astray is in the way he pits The Strangers (which he liked) against the new X-Files that comes out today (which he thinks he won’t like). While I haven’t seen the new X-Files movie and cannot claim to speak on its behalf, he misconstrues the series as horror and seems to think that its big-budget status means that the producers will throw explanations at us in the way other bad films do. But any watcher of the series will know that it’s the very lack of explanation which makes the stories so compelling. Be that as it may, King’s article is otherwise on target.