Three Horror Trends that Need to Disappear

While working on my first novel that only barely touches the realm of the supernatural, I am also outlining another project.  This project is certainly going to rely heavily on the supernatural element, but I would not go so far as to call it horror.  It’s a ghost story more than anything.

I understand that for those not overly familiar with the genre, a ghost story is a horror story. I initially begged to differ. While a ghost story can deliver chills and genuine frights, my first reaction is to not call it a horror story.  And honestly, this bothers me.

When did horror become more about gore and shock value than the actual scary moments and sense of anxiousness and dread?  There are more than fifty movies released within the past five years or so that could be blamed for what I find to be a pretty disappointing state of horror.  And within those movies, there are a few central reasons that I believe have caused this shift in how people perceive horror.

Gore and Needless Violence

At the risk angering many people, I’m going to make a bold statement. Gore for the sake of gore is dumb. I’m going to use Eli Roth as an example here. Like most, my first exposure to his work was Cabin Fever.  I actually enjoyed this movie more than anything else he’s ever done.  I liked it and even enjoyed the gorier parts.

But I didn’t mind the gore because Cabin Fever was a movie that didn’t take itself too seriously.  You know pretty quickly that this is going to be a horror film with some B-movie qualities.  So you know there’s going to be gore. Being that it was the sort of movie that was basically built around gory situations, it’s permissible.

But then came Hostel.  To this day, I think it’s a stretch to call it a horror movie.  I lump Saw into this unfortunate group as well…a group many have come to call torture porn.  When looked at closely, these films are really only brutal and insanely graphic crime dramas.  But the popularity of these sorts of films have made it almost an expected part of horror movies.

Hopefully one day there will be enough of these movies where they can be excised from the label of “horror” and given their own classification.  Because blood and gore alone do not make a horror movie.

Unnecessary Remakes

I understand the cultural impact Rob Zombie’s movies had on the genre.  I actually enjoyed The Devil’s Rejects quite a bit.  But that sort of success does not in any way hand you the keys to the kingdom. I am still baffled over the fact that anyone saw fit to remake Halloween.  I don’t care who is directing.  There are certain movies that simply should not be remade.

I knew we were in trouble when they remade The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  And if we’re being honest, the Friday the 13th remake was a joke.

Honestly…compare any of these remakes to the originals. You’d think people would wise up and realize that none of these remakes come remotely close to the originals.  I still see the dinner scene in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre as one of the best scenes in any horror movie. Ever.

Rape

This is just a pet peeve of mine.  When I was watching the remake of The Hills Have Eyes, there’s that one scene where Juno and Lizard enter the camper.  Much violence and bloodshed ensue, but there is also the rape of the teenage daughter. And I tried to remember if the scene was that vivid in the original. Sure, I get that the act itself is sort of needed to convey just how deplorable the savages are, but did we need it in all that detail?

I remember when the remade sequel (sigh….) came out, a friend of mine made  a comment that really made me cringe for the horror genre.

It used to be, “oh man, did you see that murder scene where….?”

But my friend actually made the comment: “Oh man, what did you think of that rape scene?”

A sad day, really. Oh and there’s one in the Halloween remake, too and it was 100% unnecessary for the course of the movie.

I understand that it’s par for the course in revenge films like I Spit on Your Grave and Last House on the Left.  But again, we go into the above question of what constitutes horror. Neither of these films, in my opinion, should be labelled horror. This misrepresentation that horror is all about rape, murder, torture and gratuitous bloodshed is hurting the genre more than it’s helping.

Just my two cents!

But going back to my point at the beginning…ghost stories vs. horror stories. I agree that there’s a fine line there, too.  There are ghosts in A Christmas Carol but it’s not horror.  Alternatively, there are ghosts in The Shining and that is classic horror.

So sure, there’s a fine line between a ghost story and a horror story. And I’d be unfair to not acknowledge that same line between horror and torture porn and “revenge horror.”  Even creature horror and zombie movies. So sure, horror as a genre has many levels. It’s the same with any genre. Look at comedy: you have family safe Eddie Murphy drivel and then you have raunchy Judd Apatow flicks. So any genre has to have range for it to be relevant.  I get that.

I just wish certain factors like those listed above weren’t bringing down the genre I love and try to work within.

For now, I’m sticking to ghost stories.  I’ll wait to see how this whole horror thing pans out, zombies and vampires aside.

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11 comments

  1. I was just thinking about this the other day. I read an interview with Dean Koontz and how he fought to keep his books from being listed as horror. Koontz felt that the genre as a whole had too much negative baggage.

    I had the same issues with my own writing. Sure my stories have ghost and monsters and death, but they never really felt like horror stories to me. A couple of weeks ago, I removed my books from the general horror category and moved them over to fantasy>contemporary/paranormal or the more specific horror>dark fantasy.

    Great post, Barry!

  2. I completely agree with this post – but I would add – it is also the fault of many writers who decided to write along the lines of torture porn, gratuitous gore and little in the way of a story. A B-movie book, pretty much. It’s lazy writing and it’s dull. I don’t blame Koontz one bit.

  3. Great post, I totally agree. I tend to hate labels in general though. I know they are important to a point, but when they begin to dictate the content, well, it’s a problem. To this day I haven’t watched the original (or remakes) of I Spit on Your Grave and Last House on the Left because I don’t like graphic rape scenes. I just don’t. And I’m not a real fan of “torture porn” either. I’ll watch those movies, but it’s not the type of horror (if indeed it is even horror) that I go for.

  4. Great post and the reasons why I tend to stay away from current Horror movies. I have an exception with Saw just because of personal situations, the over all story kinda spoke to me, but I will be the first point out it’s flaws too. Other than that series though, I can’t think of a horror movie in the last decade I’ve seen that play to these three non-horror defining tropes.

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