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7 Prescriptions to Save Horror (pt. 1)


Lately I'm hearing people saying horror is dead. Of course people are ALWAYS saying horror is dead. And it's always the same kind of people. Stupid ones.

That's like saying comedy is dead. Comedy is laughter and laughter is a human fundamental, so it's never dead. Same principal goes for Horror. Horror is fear, and fear is NEVER going to die.

I mean, the idea that some unqualified asshole can pipe in and say horror is dead makes me laugh... then it makes me cry. Why do I cry?  Because it's quite likely that the same Variety-toting fucktard who's dumb enough to declare an entire genre dead is also the gatekeeper to the funds to make more horror films.

When some studio exec says "Horror is dead," what they MEAN to say is "We have no clue what horror is, and everything we're cranking out is taking a giant shit at the box office. And since it CAN'T POSSIBLY BE OUR FAULT, then CLEARLY the genre is dead." What's worse is when some lazy and hapless film critic parrots the latest studio decree because they can't think critically about what is really going on.

Okay, so if Horror is not dead, then what is it?

It's sick, that's what it is. It's sick because it's being mishandled by the studios.

So what should we do for our sick friend, the studio horror film?

Write it a couple prescriptions, that's what...

Here's 7 simple prescriptions to get Horror in Hollywood back on its feet.

1) Stop with the fucking remakes.
I don't even know where to start on this one. I guess I'll start where they start, with the money people doing the creating instead of the creatives. There's this scourge going around these days called "branding". And while it works great for cell phones, websites, fast food, fashion and action films, it's a fucking death knell for horror films. The very nature of branding is CONSISTENCY. When you buy a Coke, you know what you're getting and it's good. It's predictable. That's good branding. When you sit down to watch a strongly branded horror film, you know exactly what you're getting... and then you leave the theatre feeling sort of "meh". Why? Because horror needs to be unpredictable. While it's great that every coffee at every Starbucks everywhere tastes the same, that's hardly the case for a kind of entertainment that relies on surprise, the unexpected and the unknown.

So the thinking that "If we just remake Classic Horror Film X because it has a strong BRAND, (ie everyone knows the title) then surely it will be a hit!" could not be further from the truth.

The other thing about remakes is that usually the original isn't just a good film, it's a classic. A near perfect film that was not only well done and satisfying, but was perfectly relevant to its time. Horror works because it strikes a chord with people because of a collective subconscious. Something in the air when it comes out. It's fresh and reflects a new perspective. And what was culturally relevant and poignant 20 or 30 years ago is going to be stale and old news now.  So what studios try to do to "freshen" up the film is bring on a director with "a new vision".

Speaking of which, here's a message to directors of remakes: If you think you can bring something fresh to a classic, you're lying to yourself. First of all, YOU'RE NOT THAT IMPORTANT. Get over yourself. It's ALREADY a classic. If you're so fucking visionary, go tell YOUR OWN story.  Now if you admit that you're doing it for the fat paycheck, I might at least respect your honesty. But remakes are the playgrounds for studio hacks and puppets.

So studios know that the material is stale and formula on remakes, so what do they do? They replace good storytelling with a new look, a new polish, flashy fantasy casting and lots and lots of spectacle.

Which brings me to point number 2...

2) Stop making horror into grand spectacle.
Horror is not spectacle. It is not plot.

It is mood. It is character. And it's easier for an eagle to fly through the eye of a needle than for a studio to greenlight a film based on mood and character over plot and spectacle.

Examples of this mistake: (13 Ghosts, The Haunting, Mirrors, The Haunting in Connecticut)

3) Stop making Horror look slick.

Horror is not slick. It's indie. It's dangerous. It's often ugly. But MOST importantly, it's unpredictable. Think about the best horror films. They're raw, different, they throw you off balance, they don't let you feel safe and secure. And if your film looks like a big budget studio production, the audience subconsciously knows the visual and story cues that indicate that this is formula. And formula is safe, comfortable, pleasant to look at and familiar... and familiar and safe are NOT horror. Think about Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 28 Days Later... When you watched them, the edge was palpable.  Both were beautiful films, but NOT slick. Big difference.

Those are my first three prescriptions. Check back on Friday for four more...