The sad state of current horror films

I have feared for the deteriorating quality of horror in cinema for the last five years or so.  It’s a view that occasionally had me butting heads with horror enthusiasts, but the discussions that came from these confrontations was always enjoyable.  I like to think that I make valid points in my arguments but, after preaching from the same bloody pulpit so many times, the argument seemed to get tiresome and even a bit cliched.  But the thesis of it all is that 95% of all horror films to be released since 2000 have sucked.  (The Descent and the majority of movies in the Eight Films to Die For project managed to keep my hope alive).

That’s why an article written over at First Showing made me happy.  The guys over there usually shoot from the hip and stay honest to all film genres, not just horror.  But with the release of The Ruins and the handful of less than positive reviews it has gotten, they bring up a good point.  (And I hate to use The Ruins as an example because the book was amazing).  A quote directly from the article written by Alex Billington states:

The world of “torture porn” and everything horror has been under attack for a few years now, at least since Saw originally hit theaters in 2004…Horror movies seem to be getting more and more sparse. Both The Ruins and Shutter performed pretty poorly at the box office, which is expected for March and April, but it’s still proof that horror doesn’t perform well. It seems that it’s becoming more and more of a small niche – something that only the folks who frequent Bloody Disgusting and Dread Central will end up seeing. And they do, but that doesn’t account for much money. These horror movies would be better off playing in small art house theaters than taking up precious screen space at the big cineplex.

I’m actually a bit worried. I used to hate, absolutely hate, horror movies. It wasn’t until recently that I began to appreciate them and walk out without being scared shitless. After achieving that kind of bliss, I began to enjoy them, even the fun ones like Saw II and Saw III. Then the crap started to hit, whether it was The Hills Have Eyes or The Grudge or Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning or any number of these pointless overblown horror films (usually remakes). They began to water down the genre and turn off people like me who genuinely wanted to have a good time. Now it seems like the studios are going the other way and dumping anything horror. They’re not even giving it a chance anymore.

I agree with every single point made there.  For one, I will go ahead and confess here and now that I despise the torture porn films.  They are NOT horror.  They are gore for the sake of gore.  It was fun for a while but now it’s become a joke, the thing that 13 year old kids snicker about on the back of the school bus.  So no, I didn’t care for the Saw movies.  And while a sick part of me did like Hostsel, I think it was more for the fact that near the end, it pretty much stopped taking itself seriously.  And while we’re talking about all things Eli Roth, I will also go ahead and say that I thoroughly enjoyed Cabin Fever, but more for the dark humor of it rather than the overdone and almost comedic gore. 

Looking at the current state of horror films, there are three factions to choose from: Torture Porn, Adaptions (of Japanese horror films or book adaptions like The Ruins), or Remakes of classics.  So, creatively speaking, nothing wholely ORIGINAL has come out of the horror genre of film in quite some time.  So of course horror is suffering at the box office.  Horror is a rare breed…it isn’t like a romantic comedy where you can get away with recycling the same plot over and over again (proof of this exists in the fact that Friday the 13th started to suck after part 4 and that there should have never been a Nightmare on Elm Street after part 3), nor is it like an action film where the audience is distracted by a lame plot with cool explosions.

So what about all of you other horror buffs out there?  Do you see any additional flaws in Hollywood’s portrayal of the horror genre and, if so, what needs to be done to fix it?  I’ll leave you with another question, also taken from the First Showing article:

Is this the decline of the horror genre? Are there any original stories left to tell or are we just going to see remakes from now until forever? Is the lack of horror movies this summer saying something about the studios, or is it saying something about the moviegoers?

(You can read the entire article here).

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One comment

  1. Nothing original as ever come out of horror films or detective films or rom-coms or westerns or frankly art-films. Torture-porn is older than Poe. Expecting something new or startling from horror movies is like putting a slice of bread under a grill and expecting something other than toast. All I expect from any kind of film is that it entertains or intrigues me. For instance I like the film Splinter because the way the characters go from unsympathetic to sympathetic and even heroic is well handled. The monster movie element is simply what makes it a horror film rather than a drama. Its a good horror film. Just as Fanny and Alexander is a good Bergman film (well TV movie) or the Big Sleep is a good detective film.
    My point is that if you no longer like the the patterns and conventions of Horror films its not because the films have got worse. It’s because you have changed or got set in your ways or are simply looking for the wrong things in the wrong films. Watching SAw 3 and expecting something other than a Saw movie is plainly silly. Personally I wathched the first two and realised they were not my sort of thing. I also think a lot of Horror fans only seem to watch horror films , in the slightly puritanical belief that its a moral duty or something. And then when they do get a film within the genre that does do something slightly different , like say The Village , they get outraged. This movie sucks, its gay, it did not do what I wanted it do, it betrayed me. That comes from film goers not the films.

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