Before I get into this post, I just wanted to show you a time-line. Horror is generally split up into time periods. All forms of horror fit into the different periods. Classic, golden age and modern. The only blurry line would be the exact film that started the modern age. I prefer to blame Scream. It took gritty B-grade horror of the early nineties and turned it into a glossy teen TV star riddled mess.
Is horror, as we knew it, dead? I’ve had this discussion recently and as a life-long horror fan, I say yes. Quality horror is dead and the only thing that is going to save it is letting it die completely. Ninety percent of the horror released in ANY decade is garbage. The modern age is no different. There have been gems released in the past few years, but not as many as we have seen in the past. Sure, you can make the argument that every decade has it’s fair share of trash and treasures. Some people I know made the statement that horror in the nineties was far superior to that of the past 12 years. The nineties weren’t that good for horror either. That was really a paradigm shift because some of the greats were Thrillers and not horror. It is a matter of preference and the caliber of talent behind the lens. I have come to terms with the pattern that seems to have been broken. I actually had a discussion about this a few nights ago. Which is what brought on this blog post. Modern horror is a joke, but I’m sure they were saying that at the end of the Classic Age as well. I haven’t really bothered watching many horror films released in the past 5 years. Unless there is some buzz around the film, I generally steer clear. The disappointment has gotten to me. After the few decent films that were released from ’99-’01 I thought things were taking a turn for the better. I was wrong. Hell, I can only think of maybe 10 films in the past 15 years that were truly great entries into the genre. Gems if you will.
One of the biggest complaints you will hear in the horror community are the influx of remakes. Every decade has had remakes. It just so happens that this past one had remakes of a higher profile. And a few of them were enjoyable. After being surprised by the remake of my favorite horror film (Dawn of the Dead), I have learned to accept the inevitable. The originals will still be there. A remake won’t change that. I was furious when I heard about the remake in 2003. After watching it, I knew it could have been much worse. I didn’t love it, but I enjoyed it. Other remakes haven’t been so lucky. Mainly those centered around the big four (Freddy, Jason, Leatherface and Michael). Especially the garbage Rob Zombie force fed horror fans (I’ll probably blog about that later). A lot of people don’t even realize that the movies they go to see are remakes. They are so ignorant to the genre that they think that films like Dawn of the Dead and The Crazies were original films. Both were a tad enjoyable in their own rights, but I am shocked at the amount of people who think that they are great “new” horror films. Remakes tend to circle the toilet before being released into the septic tank that is modern horror. I find it sad that most horror fans don’t know who Argento or Fulci are.
This past decade has been the worst for horror, both original and remade, since the 1950s. Though, most of it was just as much Sci/fi as it was horror. I just can’t lie and say that there weren’t a few landmines that blew me away amidst the leech-field. You really need to take a look around the market for great films. You can’t just look at the mainstream any longer. Like the late seventies and early eighties, the foreign market is doing horror better than Hollywood. The past few years have had their share of good films, but the real masterpieces have been foreign and Independent.
These past fifteen years has been full of terrible mainstream horror, but I wouldn’t say Hollywood is to blame for the influx of uninspired films we have seen. It is mostly the fault of the audience. The studios are using an outdated model when making and marketing these films, but the masses seem to be getting dumber by the year. They will go out and see anything that looks entertaining and come out thinking it was the best film/series/remake ever. I think that even if we entered into a new golden age of horror, fans would be too jaded to recognize good films. I know a few people that tried to make that argument for the torture porn films that have come out in the past few years. They were wrong. Mainly because those films lowered the standard, were poorly made, and were just popcorn films.
We have seen some greats (Let the Right One In, The Loved Ones, The Host, Shaun of the Dead etc), but I don’t see what can be considered an upswing in the near future. I see the bottom falling out of the genre when people get tired of shitty sequels pumped out to mediocre films like Paranormal Activity (Saw’s replacement) every year. I do hope for that day, though. Because it means that any horror film to be released from that point on would have to take a chance and do something new. It would pave the way for the rise of competent film makers coming to the genre who know that there is more to a horror film than it “being scary.”
Most of the time I’m just going to keep my head down, watch the few films that get thrown my way from trusted friends and hope for an October where I don’t see a remake, a sequel to a film released the previous year, or some unimaginative regurgitation of the same genre films we have seen a million times before. I don’t care if the film has a slasher, ghost, machine, zombie, vampire, werewolf, et cetera . I just care that it is well made and not some cliched mess.
Again, Hollywood is working from an outdated and broken formula. Don’t hate Hollywood hate the fans. I despise the average horror fan. Not because of their simplistic understanding of film, or their innocent love and enthusiasm for the genre either. Because of the tickets they purchase and the films they see. They are carelessly perpetuating this cycle of bad cinema. And they have the audacity to complain about the sequels that are being made while they sit in the theater eating the popcorn. Hollywood isn’t what is wrong with horror today. They fans are. To be honest, it is only the “elite” that really care enough to look beyond the “Br00talz” films. Most horror fans are casual ones that think that a horror film needs to be scary or gory. They are the same people that think any film that frightens them is a good movie. It really is as black and white as I put it. You have the few “true” fans that know who the classic directors are, and can list great films of the past. Then you have the majority that don’t know their asses from their elbows. I blame that on the lack of late-night horror hosts, or any mom and pop videos stores that allow you to rent a stack of horror movies for a buck each once a week. The former is a future blog. I may do it next week.
Horror is dying. People have been saying it for years, but to be honest? I can feel it. There is too much emphasis on the glossy Hollywood-horror that features teen-of-the-month television stars. Or the age-old gimmick that is 3D (which is personally hate). There are a million things wrong with horror today. But the are a few out there that enjoy the old films. We know that there is a difference between liking something and it being good. We almost deify the great horror film makers long since passed. We cherish their works and we love the campy films of the eights and early nineties. Our prophets were Joe Bob Briggs and other late-night horror hosts that spoke the gospel and still write scripture in their tiny corners of the Internet. I will be a fan until the day I die. When I eventually spawn little mutants of my own I will introduce them to Giallo as well as C.H.U.D and you can be damn sure that I will look up at the skies with them and warn of Killer Klowns in their big-top spaceships. As for me? I’ll hold out hope. Or I’ll be a nostalgic old man watching his VHS copy of Highway to Hell wondering where it all went wrong. There was good, masterful horror and then there was the campy memories. Hopefully they return one day.
OH! I’m sure you want to know which films I found good, eh? This isn’t a complete list. I may have forgotten some. This is off the top of my fried head.
- Let the Right One In
- The Loved Ones
- The Host
- Trick r Treat
- Blood Creek
- Session 9
- The House of the Devil
- Brotherhood of the Wolf
- Shaun of the Dead
- 28 Days Later
- Pan’s Labyrinth
- Dog Soldiers
- Stake Land
- A Tale of Two Sisters
- The Mist
- The Devil’s Backbone
- 30 Days of Night
- Ginger Snaps
- Bubba Ho-Tep
- Wolf Creek
You can figure out which ones I consider to be “gems.”