Horror may not be dead, but it's not as healthy as it oughta be. On Wednesday, I offered three prescriptions for curing what ails it. Here are four more.
4) Stop casting Oscar winners in horror films JUST to show the fans how serious you are.
We're not buying it. We didn't buy it with Hillary Swank. And we're not buying it with anyone else. This sort of falls into the whole "Branding" thing. When you sit down with a big name known actor, you know what you're getting. They're predictable. You know the kind of roles they pick, the characters they play, and perhaps most of all, you KNOW THEY ARE IN NO DANGER WHATSOEVER. They're safe. And safe is BAD in horror.
Also - just because an actor has Oscar cred does NOT mean it has horror street cred. It's like someone with a white-bred ivy league pedigree showing up in the ghetto and wanting to join a gang. There's also a feeling that these actors are "slumming" it in our genre, and that, in itself, shows disrespect and a lack of understanding not only for the genre but for the fans.
5) For God's sakes, DITCH THE FINAL GIRL theory.
We're over it. Break this rule and give us a new one. If ever there was a stale concept, it's this conservative view that you need to show immoral teens being dicks, then kill all of them except for the "nice" girl. Fuck that.
This is a horrible left over from the establishment of the 1960's and 1970's that was lashing out against the liberal counterculture. The template is over 50 years old now, COMPLETELY irrelevant, and needs to be scrapped. It has NO cultural relevance and does NOT reflect youth culture, youth values and therefore causes no fear anymore. We're taking a WWII Generational ideal used against 1960's free love hippies, applying it to kids born AFTER the first Gulf War and wondering why it seems old hat. WHAT THE FUCK? I'm going to reuse a word again. Ready? Predictable. Nuff said.
6) Stop being safe.
Let horror be horrific. People go to horror films to be HORRIFIED. Look it up. It's a very specific feeling. Stop sweating the censors. Don't believe me? Look at The Human Centipede or the first Saw film and tell me they were worried about being safe.
7) Finally: stop with the unsympathetic characters.
We get it. You want us to sympathize with the villain and then be uncomfortable with our feelings when he decimates the "good guys". We do sympathize with the villain, but we're not uncomfortable with that. After a day cow-towing to an asshole boss and two hours of traffic to get home to our shitty apartments, we are MORE than happy to see unsympathetic protagonists eat shit. But that doesn't make us think like it used to. It doesn't make us uncomfortable like it used to. It worked for Hitchcock in Psycho, but THAT WAS 50 YEARS AGO!!! I think we, as an audience might have a different cultural perspective that people did in 1960.
So that's the list.
I don't know a lot of things, but I do know horror cinema. And while I'm far from knowing everything, I can imagine that if the studios just followed these few simple suggestions, I bet we'd get some great horror films again.
If my suggestions above made you uncomfortable, then it's likely you're more banker than film maker. But that's okay. I have a suggestion for you too. Drop the budgets and you lower your risk per film. Horror doesn't need (or even WANT) a lot of money. What it wants is good storytelling. And good storytelling is not expensive. If it is, you're hiring the wrong writers.
What kind of horror film would I make for $10 million? I wouldn't. I'd make ten $1 million films. Good ones too.
Gaudium Per Atrox.