Monday, October 13, 2014

Are Horror Movies Finished?

The title is a little...alarmist, but I swear, I'm genuinely asking a real question here.

I don't think I'm making a debatable statement when I say that I think movie culture comes in waves. For a while, a certain kind of movie will be popular and then ebb, and then something else will come along. Oftentimes there's no capital R Reason for this; it's just the way that culture works. So, when I ask "Are horror movies finished?" I don't mean to imply they're finished forever, and I would like to point out that horror movies have been "finished" before.

In 1931, Frankenstein hit theaters and although not the first horror movie or even the first popular mainstream horror movie, it was certainly noteworthy and had a big impact on culture. A scant 17 years later, the Frankenstein monster was turned into a punchline in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein coming out in 1948. Around this time, Universal wasn't producing any serious or good monster movies anymore, and the road was paved for sci-fi movies of the 50s to sort of "fill the role" that monster movies previously occupied. But horror movies in general and monster movies specifically had something of a "boom/bust" period.

Looking at today's horror movies, there are a lot of similarities. For one, there are not very many good horror movies being made these days. This is definitely a loaded statement and I will admit to such, as the horror movie genre for a long time has been intentionally saturated with cheap crap, and I don't want to suggest that there haven't been any good horror movies made lately. The Conjuring has gotten great reviews, for instance, and that came out just last year. The problem though is that besides a smattering of one or two great movies, there are barely any good horror movies and an awful lot of bad horror movies that are being shown in theaters. Look at 2014, besides an Australian horror movie you've never heard of, there have been no good horror movies this year, and in fact, an awful lot of shit ones.

Yes, I mean you.


The other side to this is the number of great movies that have come out as a parody of or satire of the horror movie genre. I just watched Cabin in the Woods last night and I will admit to liking it (which takes a lot of effort for me because Whedon's stupid name is on it). Another great movie, maybe even better than Cabin is Tucker and Dale Versus Evil. Both of these movies take horror movie premises and play with their formulas to great success, and despite the fact that neither of them are scary, like at all, are much, much better than 99% of the "real" horror movies coming out lately.

All this makes me wonder if instead of audiences wanting to get scared, they're seeking something different from the horror movie genre. Another way to approach this is from the Twilight angle. We're starting to take horror motifs, such as vampires and zombies and apply romance movie tropes to them. Either way the result is the same: there are plenty of "horror" movies, but not many Horror movies.


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