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What’s Next? 5 Horror Trends We Expect Within 5 Years

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Recently I penned an article based on the last Decade of Horror. In said post, I delved into the top three films of each year spanning 2010 – 2017 and attempted to decipher what the trends were throughout our decade thus far.

To say the least, the article was insightful to write up. Witnessing trends ebb and flow and analyzing what floats to the surface time and time again was a fascinating project to take on.

With that knowledge now in my big, bald noggin, I thought it would be interesting to dive a bit into what I believe will be the “Next Big Thing” in horror. We’ve seen found footage. We’ve seen 3-D. We’ve seen it all, right? Not so much.

So here are five trends I expect to see in horror over the next five years.

Enjoy!

***


Black & White & Red All Over

The resurgence of black & white films. This is the one I can all but guarantee is on the horizon and it is going to hit in a big, bad way in the very near future. Black and white creates atmosphere in spades, and it doesn’t cost any extra money.

With films like The Eyes of My Mother and A Girl Walks Home at Night bringing the “old-fashioned” technique back to the forefront of independent cinema – and the recent killer episode of “Black Mirror: Metalhead” directed by David Slade – I believe, like cinema tends to do, there will be a step back towards a more classic era of filmmaking. And black and white horror films will be at the head of that new reverse-renaissance. Mark my words.

Netflix of Horror

A horror streaming giant will rise. Bank on it. While Shudder appears to be the frontrunner, they have yet to become a household name. Unfortunately, I think this is due to too many obscure titles. I love Shudder don’t get me wrong – and I’ve kept my subscription going for several years (as I’m sure you have) – but that said, they seem to be too concerned with horror street cred than pulling in the mainstream crowd.

That’s, of course, not a bad thing, but throw some bullshit teen horror on there and get your subscription numbers up, and Shudder will become the top spot for horror (of all kinds) on these here internets… or continue to be cool and fade away. Make your choice. Again, nothing but love, Shudder. I’d just like to see you become the Netflix of Horror you deserve to be. Someone’s going to take the title soon. I only hope it’s you.

Drone Footage

This is just what it sounds like: movies shot almost exclusively with drones. More and more low-budget filmmakers are employing drones to stunning effect, and it is only a matter of time before someone says “F*ck it” and shoots a flick completely with a drone.

And I’m not talking about found footage here by the way. I’m talking about a movie that breaks down the walls of what we call typical coverage in a film – horror or not. But considering horror is always at the forefront of innovation in the world of cinema, I think drone movies will begin in the horror genre. No more steady-cams, no more cranes, tripods, helicopters, or dolly tracks. Imagine sweeping camera moves of not only landscapes but intimated conversations as well.

Imagine we’re close on someone’s eyes, then we pull out into an over-the-shoulder, then we begin to steady-cam around them as they kiss (or kill, whatever) and then we pull back higher and higher into a glorious wide of the sun setting behind the trees. Shots like this weren’t possible (on a low budget) before drones. Get creative. Forget the rules of coverage (other than the 180 rule) and push cinema to new heights.

That said, I concede that such dialogue scenes will need to be dubbed and shadows/reflections caused by the camera will need to be monitored closely, but these are already the issues any filmmaker takes on when making a flick. One day we will get epic drone films, and they are going to be low-budget stunning on the level of mega-budget movies ala Dunkirk. I cannot wait.

Fan Films

Sooner or later all of us fans are going to get sick and tired of waiting for someone at the major studios to get off the butts and make another entry in the TCM, Friday the 13th, NOES series. With technology what it is nowadays people are going to just start making them themselves. They’ll be putting real time and effort into these films as calling cards, and they might even break the studio system this way.

Hell, we’ve already seen the start with such quality flick as the Friday the 13th fan film Never Hike Alone. And I see no reason that the films couldn’t end up being ballsier and better than anything a studio could put out.

But they can’t make money. True. But again they will function as calling cards for future filmmakers. And have you ever seen how expensive film school is? Yikes. Better to slap a hockey mask and a GoPro to your dumbass friend Brian and have him chase your little sister around the backyard. Just work your way up from there.

One-Month Movies

One-Month Movies. Or Flash Flicks. Or something like that. It’s an appealing gimmick to be sure. Filmmakers will begin making movies for all intents and purposes as fast as they possibly can. Pure creativity without overthinking the final product.

Scary prospect. But a thrilling one as well. I know I’d be up for watching what filmmakers like Adam Wingard, Mike Flanagan, and hell maybe even John Carpenter could come up within one month’s time. It’s like DIY king Robert Rodriguez once said (and I’m paraphrasing here) digital filmmaking is like a painting; you can just begin and let the mood and inspiration take over.

These “One-Month Movies” will be exciting and fresh… or utter disasters. Either way, they will be worth watching. But these films will need a platform for their releases. And once the Netflix of Horror I described above comes to grandiose fruition, then we will be seeing these films more and more. At least I hope.

***

And those are the 5 horror trends I expect to see over the next 5 years. Do you agree? Is there something you think I’ve left out? Let us know below!

Until then give the video below a quick watch. It’s simple and amateur but the (no doubt kids) behind the video have the right idea. Drones plus black & white footage, plus the score to The Shining creates killer atmosphere. Just wish the framing was a bit better. All the same, there are moments in the video that will sell these ideas to you instantly.

Enjoy?

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Interview: Author Alex White on ALIEN: THE COLD FORGE

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Titan Books new novel Alien: The Cold Forge finds a group of scientists conducting experiments on the titular beasts on a remote space station, and as you might expect, things go so hot. While the basic setup may sound like familiar ground, author Alex White manages to twist and subvert expectations at nearly every turn, developing a book with some great characters, creepy horror setpieces and intriguing tweaks to the Xenomorph lifecycle.

I recently got to ask Alex some questions on Alien: The Cold Forge, covering how he got the job, alternate story concepts and if there was anything from the movies that was off bounds while he was writing the book.


Dread Central: Hi Alex. First off, could you give a quick overview of your writing career prior to Alien: The Cold Forge?

Alex White: I started out writing screenplays, which was a major part of my independent studies in college. Around 2005, I started seriously writing novels, and I sold my fifth book, Every Mountain Made Low, in 2015. My agent, Connor Goldsmith, parleyed that into the Alien deal for me, as well as my forthcoming three-book space opera, The Salvagers. The first book, A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe, arrives June 26th of this year.

DC: How did the concept for The Cold Forge come to you?

AW: My agent called me to let me know that I’d scored a pitch meeting with Titan editor Steve Saffel, and I had to come up with a couple of ideas, fast. I was at Adaptive Path’s UX week when Double Robotics did a presentation using their telepresence robot, and I was fascinated by the idea. What if you had one survivor in an alien outbreak who was cut off, only able to influence the outcome through telepresence? How would the other survivors react? Would they be grateful or upset?

I was also dealing with a lot of Silicon Valley tech bros at the time, and Dorian naturally evolved from the amoral folks that work at a lot of those companies. When we’re chasing profits, it’s important to ask: who gets hurt? Dorian doesn’t have that reflex.

DC: Did you pitch any other ideas for Alien stories to Titan for the book?

AW: I pitched three, but I only really remember two of them. There’s the one that eventually became The Cold Forge, and there was another that took place on a military academy on a planet overrun by aliens. The idea is that you have a bunch of troubled outcast teens who’ve been shipped away from home to get discipline, then an outbreak kills most of the adults. It sounds YA, but I wanted to turn it into full-on Lord of the Flies.

DC: Pretty much every character in The Cold Forge is flawed or corrupt in some way. Was it fun to write a story without any traditional heroes?

AW: Absolutely, because honestly, I think it represents the reality of a survival scenario. Also, can you imagine living with your coworkers for years at a time? I doubt I’d be able to survive that with a clean conscience, myself.

DC: Dorian Sudler has to one of the great all-time assholes in the franchise to date. How did you dream up such an odious character?

AW: I was dealing with a lot of Silicon Valley tech bros at the time, and Dorian naturally evolved from this utter prick of a venture capitalist who shared a cab with me one evening. When you’re dealing with big data in particular, it’s easy to violate privacy, manipulate people and outright disenfranchise folks (Check out Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil). On my product teams, we have a strict rule: “Don’t pitch me anything you don’t want used on you.” With any advancement, you might churn a good profit, but you also might end up ruining someone’s life. That’s why it’s important to ask: who gets hurt? Dorian, like that venture capitalist, doesn’t have that reflex.

DC: The relationship between Blue Marsalis and her android/nurse Marcus is also pretty intriguing, where she uses his body as an avatar to escape her own bed-ridden condition. Where did that idea come from?

AW: While I’ve already talked about Double Robotics, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that my friend’s father passed from complications of ALS around that time. Another friend of mine has a terminally-ill daughter, and watching the trials that poor kid has to endure is heartbreaking. I wanted the readers to feel the difficulties that come with a terminal condition, as well as the discrimination. Terminally-ill people are often treated as though they’re already dead. Friends drift away, unable to witness the pain unfolding before them.

Blue deals with all of that, especially the fact that her life is considered worthless by the others. If they’d managed to get to an escape pod, do you think Blue’s crewmates would’ve rescued her? If she’d died out there, who would’ve spoken a kind word?

DC: The Cold Forge reveals Facehuggers don’t actually implant an embryo but inject a black goo-like substance instead that rewrites DNA. Did you receive any pushback about making this change to their life cycle?

AW: Nope! It’s 100% in keeping with Alien: Covenant and you never actually see a larval injection onscreen. In fact, 20th Century Fox requested ZERO changes to the manuscript and sent a page full of compliments, which is probably a first!

DC: The book feels somewhat inspired by video game Alien: Isolation, including how the Xenos are depicted and certain passages like Sudler hiding in a weapons locker. Have you played the game?

AW: Oh, I absolutely did. My god, that game was a masterpiece. The thing that really stuck with me was the audible weight of the creatures. I’d never felt them so substantially in the movies.

DC: Are you a fan of any of the other Alien Expanded Universe stories, be it games, comics or novels?

AW: Oh yeah. In the 90s, I had every Dark Horse book and comic. I played all of the games, especially AvP and AvP 2 (and that badass Capcom beat-em-up that took all my quarters). Strangely enough, the creator of the AvP games was Rebellion, and their publishing arm is the company that bought my debut!

DC: Were there any story ideas that were off-limits while writing the book, e.g. mentioning certain characters or events from past movies?

AW: When I started writing, Covenant hadn’t come out yet, and Prometheus was considered a separate license, so I couldn’t use the black goo. About a month into my contract, Covenant came out and boom! I get to use everything I want.

DC: How have you found the fan response to the book so far?

AW: Incredible! They love it, and they’re so happy to tell me that. I’m really blown away by the kindness and excitement from this fandom. There are a lot of really great folks out there, especially the ones from AvPGalaxy.net.

DC: Would you pay another visit to the Alien universe if the opportunity presented itself?

AW: You bet! I’ve always got a few more ideas in me. I’m also planning to do a commentary on my thought process while writing the book, which you can find in my newsletter.

If you fancy picking up a copy of the book for yourself, click this here link! If you like Alex’s work and you want to keep up to date with his next book, he can also be found on Twitter @alexrwhite

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Exploring a Variety of Horror in Japanese Anime

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In the early 2000s, Japanese horror films took American audiences by storm. These pictures took form through numerous remakes, with such classics as Ringu (The Ring), Ju-on: The Grudge (The Grudge), and Honogurai Mizu no soko kara (Dark Water). These J-Horror remakes offered stories woven with Eastern folklore, dealing with ghosts, precognition, and yōkai, including lots of psychological twists. For some American filmgoers, these remakes were their first horror films, kicking off a life-long love for the genre.

In regards to other Japanese art forms, horror has shown remarkable promise through manga. One need not look further than the work of Junji Ito; the writer and illustrator is responsible for creating some of the most visceral and disturbing work within the genre. His short story collections, as well as his famous graphic novel Uzumaki, present worlds of psychological madness and despair.

It’s no secret that American audiences continue to love all sorts of media from Japan. However, there’s one medium from Japan that is met with as much love as it is met with criticism: Anime.

For as much as the medium is loved by fans, there are others that point out how the form is home to many tropes. While we may love Dragon Ball Z or Sailor Moon, we can’t deny the overt melodrama of character’s dialogue and actions. Whether it’s the over-the-top machismo or extreme cutesy nature, it’s difficult to deny the, at times, cringe-worthy elements of the art form.

However, it’s extremely important to note that these elements do not speak for all of anime. There are just as many shows that does not rely on tropes (or uses them effectively within a story’s framework). And when the right combination of elements comes together, anime and horror can go hand-in-hand like peanut butter and chocolate.

So with that said, I want to highlight four excellent anime titles that do the horror genre justice. These works present their own blend of horror, and masterfully use their medium to give viewers chills (or even turn their stomachs).


Hellsing Ultimate

The original video animation (OVA) is the main highlight of the Hellsing works (given that there was an anime and manga before Ultimate). What the OVA successfully accomplishes more so than the original works, however, is the extreme level of violence and darkness it exudes. Hellsing Ultimate follows our protagonist Alucard (the anime’s iconic vampire), along with the Hellsing organization; they work together to fight the monsters of the night that threaten mankind. The series overtime throws numerous antagonists at them, including the likes of Nazis, the Vatican, and other vampires.

What character tropes the anime uses work in its favor. There are a couple characters that act as comic reliefs, but other than those brief moments, the anime includes scenes of theatrical dialogue. In general, there are quite a few crazed antagonists throughout the anime; for the most part, many of these characters work. An example is Alexander Anderson, one of the show’s best antagonists, whose back story helps us understand his drive and personality.

However, it’s Hellsing Ultimate’s action sequences that make the show sincerely brutal and grotesque. Alucard is one of anime’s most powerful and iconic protagonists; while he takes on the role of anti-hero, his personality and ideals go beyond that of a flat archetype. For as repulsive and cruel as he can be, he also has a solid loyalty and respect to those close to him (or who he battles).

We see Alucard driven by pure bloodlust, but are also shown the somber traits of his personality. The former is where we see much of the anime’s ability to instill tension within its characters (and the viewer). His dialogue, as well as the voice acting behind it, present a sinister, even threatening aura. Given his extreme power, we see foes tear into Alucard, even tearing his limbs apart, and yet, he laughs and begs for more. His voice contains such a controlled, yet hysteric, masochistic nature, that we can empathize with the horror on his foe’s faces.

The violence is also splendid to witness for those looking for a gory rush. Hellsing Ultimate is packed with flailing limbs and literal waves of the undead. This animation also serves to masterfully capture the emotion of characters as mentioned previously; the show incorporates a hyper-realistic character design. Using a combination stellar line work, coloring, and shadowing, the emotion of each character is genuinely felt. And for those seeking more pleasing aesthetics, the world of Hellsing Ultimate is a gothic delight. Weaving in those elements of shading and detail, the European structures are as beautiful as they are creepy.

For the horror fan who needs gallons of blood, you won’t want to miss out on Hellsing Ultimate.


Perfect Blue

Unlike the previous title, Perfect Blue is a film. Directed by Satoshi Kon and written by Sadayuki Murai, the picture tells the story of Mima Kirigoe, a famous pop singer who retires to pursue acting. I won’t give away plot details, but let’s just say that this film has a lot of similarities to Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan.

The film is nothing short of brilliant. As the story progresses, the viewer will begin to question the reality of events as much as the protagonist. To sum Perfect Blue up as a psychological thriller may technically be accurate, but would also leave out a lot of the film’s details.

For all of Perfect Blue’s weirdness, it makes for a sincerely disturbing picture. As Mima strives to succeed as an actress, the stress continues to build upon her. Along with this stress comes a mysterious stalker and random violent actions taking place around her. This stress ends up taking over much of her psyche, altering her sense of time and reality. Getting into specifics would spoil the film, and the shock value of Perfect Blue is absolutely worth exploring firsthand.

The shock works in a way like David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive; sporadic jumps in time and random bits of disturbing nature ripple throughout each scene, and will have the viewer scratching their head as to what is genuinely taking place. These transitions are jarring, revealing a combination of unsettling imagery as we witness Mima’s sanity unravel. Perfect Blue represents masterful editing, as well as relatable characters.

In a unique way, the world of Perfect Blue feels close to the real world. Beyond the psychological elements, there’s nothing that fantastical that plays into anime stereotypes; even the way characters are drawn is plain, even bland. Wherein a lot of anime characters are given flashy detail and spruced up with bright colors, Perfect Blue gives us very ordinary people (with the exception of Mima and some other girls). For an animated film, Perfect Blue feels very human; in turn, this makes the blend of unsettling, even horrific scenes, more believable.

This is a film about obsession, and how some people are always striving to fit into an image. Mima is an empathetic character and watching her descent into madness is not only grim, it’s heartbreaking.


Another

For those who like mystery and stories that involve ghosts and curses, Another is right up your alley. The show follows Kōichi Sakakibara, a young boy who has just moved back to his birth town. The show opens with him waking up in the hospital after being sick for a month. Students from the new school and class he will attend come to visit Kōichi, but immediately begin to act strange around him. He meets a girl be the name Mei Misaki, and eventually learns of the curse that haunts class.

The show does a great job keeping you in the shadows, slowly trickling bits of important information overtime. In the beginning, the viewer will sense a great deal of weirdness coming from the characters. It’s this feeling that, while people may appear normal, the viewer can tell there’s a larger act at play. Details slowly trickle throughout each episode. The events that have led to the class’ curse are grim and make for sinister context in regards to their present state. Another comes with a compelling atmosphere. The animation utilizes stellar shadowing, casting a foreboding presence throughout the show.

If you are a fan of ghost stories like The Ring and The Grudge, you’ll love Another; there’s a consistent air of dread and uneasiness that roams about the characters and school. If you live for supernatural mysteries, Another offers a thrilling, dark journey in hopes to learn more about a curse. The show presents plenty of creepiness and twists, feeding into its overall gloomy plot.


School-Live!

This is the one anime on the list that comes with a warning. I had a friend recommend the show and say to me, “You won’t see what happens coming.” What takes place in episode one is super out of left field, and one of the most unique ways to trick an audience.

So before going into this show – please keep in mind that the following will include the first episode’s twist.

When you start episode one of School-Live!, we are introduced to Yuki Takeya, a cheerful high school girl that is the ideal example of cutesy anime tropes. Yuki’s friends are just as bubbly, all playing into typical girly anime tropes. As you watch the girls run throughout the school, you notice all the delightful colors and decorations.

The first episode continues in this way for the majority of its run time, up until the end. It’s revealed to the viewer that all this cuteness is inside Yuki’s head. The school is not full of bright colors and life, but is actually quite the opposite. We learn that Yuki’s friends are playing along with her to protect her, for the majority of the school’s population has been desolated by a zombie outbreak. Barricades protect broken windows and walkways, and the girls work to keep Yuki safe while trying to survive.

School-Live! throws tropes into the viewers face, amplifying the shock value of the twist. The rest of the girls use Yuki’s delusional mind state as an excuse to leave the school grounds for supplies. When we see the world through Yuki’s perspective, the animation becomes bubbly and full of color; the tone drastically shifts when we see the point of view from the other girls. This shift allows us to see the real horrors that surround them.

What transpires from there is a somber story of each girl’s desperation to survive and protect one another. The show also utilizes a series of flashbacks to provide context for each girl and where they were the day the outbreak first took place. The grim nature of their world weighs heavily upon their shoulders, and as the show progresses, the darkness of their reality leads to strain and despair.

This show is a surprising gem within the realm of horror anime. It’s a smart anime that knows not only how to play into the medium’s tropes, but the viewer’s expectations as well.


These four are just the beginning. There’s so much horror anime out there for fans to enjoy, including titles like Vampire Hunter D, ParasyteShiki, and more. You can find many of these titles on Hulu, Crunchyroll, as well as the Funimation streaming service.

Anime has much to offer horror fans through story, stellar voice acting, direction, and superb animation. While some of the horror to be found may be fun and action-oriented, there are plenty of titles that offer a sincere atmosphere of tension and fear.

What are some other horror anime titles you enjoy that are worth checking out? Let us know in the comments!

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FORBIDDEN ZONE and Political Correctness

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Forbidden Zone is not just a surreal musical-fantasy, it is an expression of wild, balls-out absurdity. Unabashedly politically incorrect, with something to offend everyone, its outrageousness is certainly not for everyone’s taste. Fine. But my 1980 cult film has nonetheless picked up a loyal and still growing audience.

Occasionally detractors accuse Forbidden Zone of being racist, homophobic and both anti-Semitic and anti-Christian. We seemed to hit all the bases! In my opinion, it is none of those. Only if an element is taken utterly out of context can Forbidden Zone be misconstrued as to having any bias against anyone.

An example might be “insult comic” Lisa Lampanelli. She insults whites, blacks, gays, straights, Asians, Latins, Jews… everyone, including herself. Her audience is totally diverse and includes all of the above named groups who laugh their asses off. However if one element of her show were taken out of context it would certainly appear bigoted. But taken within its context it is not. Just a diverse group people having good-natured fun, laughing at themselves and each other.

The same could be said of Forbidden Zone. It is a human cartoon where everyone is parodied. Yours truly actually was the original “Human Pet.” The topless Princess led me around by a leash tied to my dick and only a potential ratings problem made us reshoot the scene later using another actor, dick tucked safely in his pants.

Perspective is obviously influenced by one’s life’s events. I was born adjacent Watts on 103rd Street deep in South-Central L.A. We moved up to Crenshaw when I was four and I attended predominately African-American schools—both a matter of the Elfman family’s liberal idealism…and economic necessity.

As a red headed Jew growing up in a virulently bigoted and anti-Semitic time period (1950s and early 1960s), I was actually accepted more by black kids than white kids. I excelled at track, Afro-Latin percussion…and boxing. I was one of the few white athletes to compete in the champion, seven-school, almost entirely African-American “Southern League.”

The African-American community I grew up with had its own divisions. Baldwin Hills was black middle class. The top of the hills were fairly rich, a place of black doctors, lawyers, major sports figures, etc…. And literally, across the tracks at Jefferson Blvd., and south on Crenshaw, sprawled the “hood.” Diversity!

Around my friends and teammates I must have heard the “n-word” ten million times. We actually laughed and joked about our differences. After I smoked one track meet, someone remarked that a white boy shouldn’t run that fast. Someone responded, “He ain’t white–he a red n****’!” I took that as a compliment.

From today’s perspective, if I could go back forty years, I certainly wouldn’t have included the brief blackface bits in Forbidden Zone. It was just one of hundreds of visual absurdities not at all important to the film and not worth it’s particular hot-button reaction. Although I have grown up in and around the African-American community (and have a racially diverse family), I don’t claim to know exactly what it is like to stand in a black person’s shoes and feel the effects of their particular oppression over the centuries.

So what was I thinking? I wasn’t. There is stream of consciousness. In my case it was stream of diarrhea. Whatever popped into my fervid absurdist art-mind as I pasted a “plot” around musical numbers from my Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo stage show. I certainly didn’t mean to offend my black friends. Or anyone else for that matter. I simply wanted to share crazy absurdist art and expose new audiences to great, timeless music–Cab Calloway, Josephine Baker, etc… (And little brother Danny’s very first film score.)

Yes, we’d all do a lot if things different if we only had that proverbial time machine. You’d probably still see a red headed “Human Pet” in Mickey Mouse ears led around by his dick. And no blackface in Forbidden Zone.

Danny and Richard Elfman, ages 12 and 16. I was at Dorsey High School then, Danny soon to start Audubon Middle School on MLK & Crenshaw Blvd.

“Oy vey! Oy Vey! Oy Vey!!”–The portrayal and mannerisms of “Mr. Bernstein” were labeled anti-Semitic.

Hyman Bernstein was my Brooklyn/Jewish grandfather. He wasn’t acting! (Me aged 29 on the set of Forbidden Zone.)

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