Someone on another site forum recently brought to my attention a very good article about horror films suffering a slump at the box office. It offers several compelling reasons as to why the genre has found itself being pulled by the ankles into the abyss, and I think many of them have merit. Check it out, cause it’s worth a look.
One might also blame the war, the Virginia Tech massacre and gas prices, not necessarily in that order. Real life is far more scary right now, and horror isn’t exactly an escape at the moment. We don’t feel safe, so we’re not doing the work as an audience to root for a picture. We’re being passive, sitting there waiting for it to take us along. Our hearts aren’t in it, and the “bigger” the project, the less we feel connected to it.
Of course that’s a big, dumb generalization that may or may not be true for some, but for me, I need subversive right now. And that lies with the indie filmmakers and auteurs that aren’t dressing up horror with blue screens and non-stop – and forgettable – CGI, but finding the zeitgeist itch and scratching it with a good, well told story loaded with well peeled dread. The more stuff that comes up that seems patronizing, the less confident a viewer will be. A sequel to a film is almost de riguer, but sometimes it sends the message that we’re being fleeced. Don’t do a movie because you might as well because the first one made lots of cash, do it because the filmmaker and the story demands it.
To wit, Hostel was a solid film, and even had a little foreign policy subtext for eggheads to chew on. Same goes with SAW, which held its own among larger, broader fare and generated a rabid cult following. But both seemed to have sequels squeezed out of them like toothpaste. Even Grindhouse was made under no pretense to impress anyone but the whims of Rodriquez and Tarantino, still it was a self-conscious piece of tribute art. And it was too long. I loved most of it, but it should never have been expected to make so much money, and should have been taken on artistic merit alone. In fact, the cheaper the budget sometimes, the better for the film. It isn’t trying to pull blockbuster weight, and is more free to take chances and deviate from the Hollywood norm.
I’m a die-hard horror fan. I write the stuff. But I never have in mind to write a big fuck-off star vehicle because I know its a career move formula script they’re looking for. Don’t get me wrong, those can be very good. But I think audiences are feeling “sold” right now, and good horror, if nothing else, is about pushing people away and daring them to walk in.
Just my two cents. Well, it was a bit long, so maybe it was more like a nickel.