October 22, 2011

Twelve Reasons Why Horror Has Died

1. Amateur, no-budget, handycam dreck

If you've been burnt enough times after choosing horror films made by people you've never heard of and which star all their non-actor friends, you soon dismiss the horror genre as a worthwhile source of entertainment.

Of course, there are certain mentally challenged people out there who think these films are funny in a "so bad, it's good" way, but for the rest of us, yet another no-budget zombie or slasher film with hardly any story will make us want to watch our own home videos instead.

Just because you are a horror fan with a camera, it doesn't entitle you to become a filmmaker. Without training, talent or discipline all you are doing is wasting everybody's time.

2. Remakes

There have always been remakes right back to the 1920s and '30s, but there was often a good reason behind it such as creating a "talky" to replace the silent version. Even remaking a film in colour to upgrade it from black and white was somewhat allowable as technology improved.

In the last eight years particularly, the sheer number of remakes of horror films (and quite a few non-horrors) has been ridiculous and has added nothing to the originals in any way. In fact, most of them have just cashed in on the name and been dull as ditchwater.

The straw that finally broke the camel's back was remaking "Let the Right One In" as "Let Me In" for no other reason than somebody decided that reading subtitles was too difficult. It's a lousy dumbed-down remake with a vampire who moves like a CGI monkey and amped-up action scenes to please the MTV generation.

As long as there are foreign movies and some Hollywood idiot thinks that they can be remade for the hard of understanding, the trend is unfortunately going to continue.

3. Bad computer generated imagery

Sometimes CGI works to augment the existing practical effects or to provide something which could not possibly exist, but when it's done badly, it can throw you right out of the film.

No matter how much emotion you have invested in a horror film, if the monster appears looking like it just stepped out of a computer game, that bad CGI is the end of it.

Far be it from me to advocate the use of practical effects as they can also be just as dating and ridiculous, but if you are going to use any effects at all, they need to be good ones.

4. Horror comedies

The dictionary defines horror as "an intense feeling of fear, shock, or disgust" and "a thing causing such a feeling". I see nothing funny about that although I will admit to getting a certain sadistic pleasure out of seeing people who are actually scared of horror films trying to hide when they are forced to watch them. Yes, that is always amusing but just a little bit irritating as well.

Horror-comedies have been around since the 1920s although I'm convinced that it wasn't entirely intentional to begin with.

If you set out to make a horror-comedy or parody rather than a serious horror film then why not just make a comedy instead? Why use elements from another genre?

Even though the occasional use of "comic relief" can work in a real horror film, when it takes over completely it makes the film worthless either as a horror or a comedy.

5. Intentionally making bad films

This is something that infuriates me beyond belief. I'm normally a quite placid creature, but as soon as I hear or read the words "cheesy" or "so bad, it's good", my hackles rise and I'm ready for an all out war.

What the hell is the point of intentionally making a bad film? Anybody can do that even top directors when they are trying to make a good one. Making a good film is what will give you credibility not some lame crap that you think will be cult or funny to a select group of your hipster friends.

If you love "so bad, it's good" horror movies then you simply aren't a horror fan. If you make these films, you aren't a filmmaker.

This slew of nasty shit has always been bubbling under the surface right back to Dwain Esper's "Maniac" (1934) but, fortunately, until Mill Creek started releasing multipacks full of public domain awfulness, nobody really encountered it. I'm not blaming Mill Creek though.

Basically, it's the affordability of technology which has allowed non-filmmakers to emulate the very worst of the "Ed Wood" clones and try to get money out of it. Thanks to Mill Creek you can buy nearly all their feeble efforts for less than $100 on the "Pendulum Pictures" label and throw them all straight into the bin where they belong.

When this stuff was getting distribution from the appropriately named "Brain Damage", renting horror DVDs was nothing but a minefield of disappointment. Intentionally made bad films have almost single-handedly killed horror because nobody sane gets any enjoyment out of them.

6. Found footage

Just how much found footage can there still be left to find? We've had it all now from films about witches (without any witches in) to astronauts... and even little girls playing with VHS camcorders.

The cinéma vérité style was done once and for all in Ruggero Deodato's "Cannibal Holocaust" (1980), and there's a damn good reason why nobody else tried to emulate it for another twenty years. Nobody likes these films.

If you really want to see shaky camerawork that'll make you want to puke or watch stories with hardly any plot then YouTube is your friend.

Subjecting cinema goers to more overhyped nausea has been one of the biggest mistakes in the last twelve years. You can get away with it once as "The Blair Witch Project" did, but nobody apart from a complete idiot is going to fall for it again.

7. The "Saw" franchise

I'm not going to call it "torture porn" as the "Saw" films barely qualify as anything other than glorified CSI episodes after the first sequel. Personally, I love "torture porn" and lap it up with the rest of the gorehounds, but nearly everything about the "Saw" franchise's set pieces was uninventive.

I have no idea why people bought into these especially as the stuff from Europe makes anything in any "Saw" movie look like Disney.

With this being the first year for ages that Hallowe'en is officially "Saw free", maybe there's still hope for scary adult films to start appearing again. I think the damage has been done now though.

8. The internet

Believe it or not, the internet with its millions of bloggers (and haters) has also helped to kill the horror industry.

Back in the day, before five-year-olds had mobile phones for their obviously important business calls, and the only source of horror news was either a newspaper or magazine, whether a horror movie was worth watching depended largely on the recommendations of your peer group.

Now you can log on and find so many "hater blogs" trying to be funny at the expense of horror films that it doesn't inspire you to watch anything.

Of course, if a horror film (or any other) really is bad then it deserves to be hated on to the fullest extent. If you've paid your money then it's your right to say whatever you like about a product as long as you are honest.

Deluded people tearing serious horror classics such as "The Exorcist" (1973) or "The Omen" (1976) a new asshole are only the tip of the iceberg. There are some sites which do nothing but rip into every new release unless they get some kind of kickback. You know the ones.

The other problem with the internet is, of course, downloading. Although I would argue that it has very little effect on ticket sales or DVD rentals and purchases from the true horror fan who might also download a DVD rip from a torrent for convenience rather than wait two hours to backup their own physical copy, it must harm the industry to some extent.

Blaming everything on illegal downloading is Adam Green's biggest bugbear but not mine. Some films just aren't worth paying for and some you wouldn't actually watch at all unless they were free, so there's not much difference now between the torrents and Netflix except that, presumably, a few cents get sent to the filmmakers from the latter.

Illegally downloading or streaming crappy horror films is not the problem, but the fact there are crappy films in the first place that makes you feel the need to do this is.

9. The critics

The "real movie critics" (and I use that term very loosely) have always hated horror. Either they use horror films as a base to launch some hypocritical moral crusade to make themselves more popular or they are just so out of touch with the genre by being a "jack of all trades and master of none" that they can't give a good review.

The flaccid old bitches with their two thumbs up or down approach (as if they are some Roman emperor in the Colosseum) have only gained their "celebrity status" by appealing to the lowest common denominator. They've marketed themselves quite expertly, but their opinions are completely worthless.

Unfortunately, there really are people who hang on somebody like Roger Ebert's every word and, if he doesn't like it, they won't watch the film. Ebert is not the only one, of course, just the worst offender.

There was a time when horror was nothing other than "B movies", but things changed once big Hollywood stars and directors all started having a go at it. Horror very nearly became respectable, but these old dinosaurs still harp on about how "disgusting and morally reprehensible" it all is as they shove another cream donut down their necks while watching Saddam Hussein or Qaddafi getting executed live on TV.

10. The horror community

Don't fool yourself for a moment, there is no horror community. Horror fans may associate briefly with each other at a rip-off convention but, underneath all the shameless self-promotion, most people prefer to watch their horror alone.

From the amount of arguments on internet message boards which turn from discussions about the latest polarising remake to death threats, you know there's no community there. To even suggest that there's some kind of underground cult of united horror fans is just stupid.

Horror fans are like cats. They will tolerate each other, maybe bond with an associate or two, but are just as happy to exist in isolation.

11. Marketing

To market a horror film, you have to target horror fans individually not en masse, and therein lies the problem when it comes to filling movie theatre seats. The marketing has become generic (with often fake trailers), just to draw the highest number of the movie-going population in even though most could never be described as horror fans.

Being a lone horror fan in a cinema full of texting teenagers who saw the trailer on YouTube and think the movie will be "kewl" is like being in a living Hell for most of us.

The filmmakers need to forget the teenagers, forget thinking about horror fans as some kind of "post punk" group who all think the same, but remember the people who supported the industry since often before they themselves were even a sperm.

The PG-13 kiddie-friendly horror is not what real horror fans want and there are no horror "communities", as fake as that concept may be, who want to see them.

12. Boredom

Once you've seen the best horror films, there really isn't much point in watching any more. The buzz is never going to be the same, you'll be desensitised and "jaded", and basically, nothing anybody does is going to change your mind.

If you've watched every film on my "Video Vault" list, which so far is averaging about 95% serious horrors with good production values, acting, camerawork, and stories, then what more can any filmmaker offer you?

Nearly all we have been getting for the last 20 years is watered down retreads of the same stories using the same formulas but just changing the actors and occasionally the location. Outside of the "torture" subgenre, it's all been home invasions, slashers, zombies and apocalyptic viruses. Occasionally somebody throws a monster or ghost story to us which we pounce on like a hungry Ethiopian, but there's nothing new even then.

Everyone says that Hollywood has run out of ideas. It's not just Hollywood. If you want to use Hollywood as a scapegoat then you really have to go right back to the beginning of filmmaking as there never was an original idea to begin with. Look at "Nosferatu" (1922) where the plot was stolen from Bram Stoker's "Dracula" and isn't a Hollywood movie at all.

The truth is that everyone has run out of ideas. Every horror story that needs to be told has already been filmed. Horror is dead.

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