Editorial: Is Horror Dying?

Drag Me to Hell (click for larger image)Following Drag Me to Hell‘s modest box office take, the folks at The Examiner have posted up an interesting editorial – “7 Reasons Why the Horror Genre is Dying”.

It may not be much of an epiphany to all you avid horror fans out there, but it’s a well-constructed account of what has been crippling the industry over the last several years.

The article concludes by calling for someone to step up and save horror, but I’d like to offer a counter-point: The saviors are not only here, they’ve always been around. You just have to recognize them. When it comes to the genre, the first thing people need to do is stop looking at the multi-plexes.

Think about the majority of new and old horror classics: How many of them actually came from a big studio? How many had hefty budgets and instant success? Aside from a few exceptions (Jaws, The Exorcist) most of our beloved fright flicks have been either modest independent or foreign productions. The key to this genre’s success has never been found in box office receipts, but the longevity it carries with fans. The financial failures of the 70’s and 80’s are now today’s classics that fuel the “Ain’t It Cool” geek generation, inspire new filmmakers, and rake in anniversary edition DVDs every five years.

Paranormal Activity (click for larger image)Great horror is still all around us. But like anything worthwhile, it isn’t immediately accessible or recognized. Platinum Dunes may grab the #1 weekend spot with each of their abominable remakes, but will anyone be revisiting them in 10 to 20 years’ time? On the flip side, most fans will have to seek out and/or wait (sometimes for years at a time) to be able to catch a glimpse of superb horror titles like Oren Peli’s Paranormal Activity (review here), Tom Shankland’s The Children (review here), Anthony DiBlasi’s Dread, Paul Solet’s Grace (review here), and Bruce McDonald’s Pontypool (review here). These movies might not grace the cover of Entertainment Weekly, but they’re the cogs that will keep turning that great horror machine long after the big gears have rusted.

At the end of the day, the film industry is still a business, and we occasionally need a Twilight to keep the fires burning. But horror as a whole has never changed: Its future is still with the little people; all those independent artists who thrive off passion and an urge to bring original ideas to the screen. There’s always plenty of exciting material to be consumed; you just have to get your nose out of the troth and start sniffing the grounds.

Andrew Kasch

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  • DavidFullam

    I do wish more had gone to see Drag me to Hell. It really is worth it.

  • Kane86

    I was going to read both articles then I realized who submitted this one.

  • doubleh55

    These articles are stupid because everything goes in cycles. Remember when the 90s had like no horror movies and everybody thought horror was dead? Yeah exactly.

  • The Unknown Murderer

    That Mark Jones. What a card!

    The article was terrible.

  • Enraged_Otter

    what this genre needs if a movie that’ll make monkey bust out of peoples asses when they see it. something great a new set of classics that break the rules we know and actually do something different for a change.

    when have we ever seen a hardcore rated-r horror movie about children? and no not children of the creepy kind and without the story changing focus to the parents. something really horrific that still lies dormant within all of us since childhood. what if that shadow against the wall you thought was a monster really was a monster? what if that little tickling sensation from your sheets against your feet was something else? more primal fears i guess.

    What we all need is fresh ideas introduced into the genre that’s all. no more lazy stories.

  • will graham

    But usually when this sites raves about an independant film I’ve found it to be just as crap as many big films. The Children is a good example of this.

    The horror genre (like all genres) survives on whoever makes the best films.

    The mainstream is gone to see mediocre horror films, remakes and sequels for the last hundred years (oh wow yet another Frankenstein film). This is nothing new.

    • Uncle Creepy

      Really? You didn’t like The Children? That’s kind of mind blowing. What didn’t you dig?

  • Sutter Cane

    Can we please retire the question of “is horror dying?” or “why is horror dying?”. I read this same article almost word for word over twenty years ago in Chas. Balun’s Horror Holocaust. Where’s the originality? Where’s the scares? Why is horror pandering to the mainstream, or kids? Too many remakes and sequels! Big budgets and glossy special effects are ruining the genre…and so on and so on. The same doomsaying, the same pointless hand-wringing. Horror isn’t going anywhere. If you’re talking from a box office point of view, there’s been a slew of hits in recent months. Not runaway blockbusters, but successful releases, like The Unborn, The Uninvited, Last House on the Left, Friday the 13th, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, Coraline, and now Drag Me To Hell. Whether you liked or disliked all or some of these movies is irrelevant. The point is they all did well and from a business point of view, that means studios aren’t soured on the idea of making horror movies.

    From an artistic point of view, that’s another matter. That’s entirely subjective and every fan has their own idea of what rates as good horror. But among the movies being released today – whether they’re in wide release or straight-to-DVD, chances are every horror fan can find something they really like. One of the best films I’ve seen recently was The Burrowers. I think it’s a shame it didn’t get a theatrical release but at least it got made and I was able to enjoy it on DVD. In the theater, I loved Drag Me To Hell and I plan on giving Pontypool a try soon on on-demand cable.

    With the variety of choices out there, it seems to me like horror is thriving, not dying.

  • Chainsaw

    The problem is, of course, the attention is going to the mediocre, the ones that are holding the genre back. The people who think that movies like Scream, a movie only 13 years old, needs to be remade for the tweens today, and that vampires are romantic souls. They’re the true rapers of this genre, the ones who are the chains and weights that are dragging horror to a watery grave.

    Except horror isn’t going to die. It’s too strong to do that, too deep in the DNA of every one of us. People may stop going to the movies, but so what? DVD releases are still strong, almost as strong as VHS releases were back in the 80’s. For every wannabe horror fan that falls away when they grow up and get ready for college, another one embraces the genre and the history as they decide they’d rather stay an outsider. I’ve railed about what people think horror should be, but it’s formed by the outsiders. We’ve always been outcasts, the opening acts for the geek show, and we love it. Horror really shouldn’t be popular. I’ve said this before, if one teenage girl watches stuff like Twilight, realizes it’s terrible, that she can do better than that, and follows through, we win. We always win. Because we love what we do.

  • Cash Bailey

    But there’s still hundreds of amazing horror novels out there going unread by a great portion of so-called horror fans.

    Read a book instead of supporting the next half-assed remake just because you think you have to.

  • SauceyJack

    Maybe we’re getting back to the basics where a horror film was considered successful if it was disturbing, rather than a moneymaker.

    Thrillers make billions. Horror makes people puke and run out of the theater. Subtle difference, I know.

    Horror isn’t dying, just maybe bright and shiny Wal-Mart horror is, and let it. Let’s get back to mail order horror flicks where the discs get delivered to your house in a plain brown wrapper.

  • ngs091

    Agreed. Great observations!

    The mainstream often does not understand just what you point out.

    Way to go Dread Central!