BY Andrew Russell
What happened to horror movies? It seems like most of the horror movies anyone ever talks about anymore are sequels or cheap ripoffs of other successful projects.
For some reason the only movies that make money in this genre are tragically unoriginal and/or horrifically directed. It seems as if horror movies just drift through a trope and new sub-genre until someone has a half original idea, and then it’s on to copying that. In the mid-2000’s the Saw franchise started, and admittedly the first one was pretty original and took some interesting turns. However, six more movies later, I’m relieved they’ve stopped. But during its run, and even a little after, plenty of studios joined in and produced their own movies featuring people in life or death scenarios and being tortured in bizarrely well thought out ways.
My biggest problem with this isn’t that these movies were made purely for profit after seeing the success of the first Saw. My biggest problem isn’t even that most of these movies aren’t good. It’s that they’re considered horror and scary. Just because I turn away when the girl gets her rib cage torn out by an elaborate death machine doesn’t mean I’m scared. It means I’m going to throw up and I don’t want to do it on the person sitting in front of me in the theater. I don’t know who in Hollywood started the rumor that when you see people’s insides outside, it’s scary. If that’s what I wanted, I’d just find one of those documentaries on YouTube that’s supposed to turn me into a vegan.
The only thing that could get the money hungry studios off of something as straight forward as splatter films is another, even more simple and cheap indie horror film. Enter Paranormal Activity and its unasked for revitalization of the found footage genre. Paranormal Activity got its success from using social media in a clever marketing campaign that, instead of showing bits from the movie, showed audiences’ reaction to what was happening on screen. It was a movie trailer that showed literally none of the movie. They even made cities vote to have the movie shown in their theaters. Along with that, they would throw out alleged critics quotes about the movie, describing it as too scary even for adults, which is apparently why it had to be voted into theaters.
Have you watched Paranormal activity lately? It’s pretty much stuff moving in the background for 90 minutes. Definitely stuff too scary for adults.
The point is that horror movies aren’t horrific anymore, they’re formulated, designed for the purpose of money and the only fear it evokes is the fear of an inevitable sequel. Lately though, their have been some indies that have gotten mainstream recognition that are truly original and honestly scary. They don’t use Hollywood’s crutch of jump scares and false advertisements. The Babadook, an Australian indie horror film from 2014, I found to be truly brilliant and easily one of the better films of this decade. It doesn’t have a single jump scare, there’s no puppet on a tricycle or reverse bear traps, and it dares to do something horror movies haven’t done in years: it doesn’t show the monster. The Babadook takes notes from Spielberg’s Jaws and instead makes our own fears embody what the creature could be, which is far scarier to the individual than anything a filmmaker could produce.
It Follows, a movie that’s about STDs pretty much, is gloriously riveting because of its direction and how it turns its premise into symbolism you didn’t know could be scary. Roger Ebert said “It’s not what it’s about, it’s how it’s about it,” and I can think of no better example of that than killer STDs in It Follows.
With promising indies like these, I’m hoping to see something of a horror movie renaissance, like that of the 1980’s. At the moment, there appears to be no dominating horror genre or franchise, so hopefully projects worth seeing can surface and inspire creativity rather than greed.