Recently I read an article that really pissed me off, although I apologise that I can’t link it (it’s lost in the abyss of the internet). The article wasn’t too offensive, it was mostly about Eli Roth’s Green Inferno and the idea of him becoming the next Wes Craven. Okay maybe it’s a little offensive. The thing that pissed me off was the writer’s claim at the start of the article that horror is a dying genre and in need of a hero to save it. Not an original claim, it’s been made countless times by plenty lazy journalists, so here’s my rant about why horror’s not dying.
The main evidence that horror is dying is dwindling cinema turn-outs. The box office returns for the latest possession and haunting films that are coming out are not as healthy as the studios have hoped. Yet is it surprising? I feel like we’re reaching the end of this cycle of horror, and a new sub-genre might emerge from the ether. We’re not sick of horror, we’re just a little burnt out on THOSE KIND of horrors. There’s also another possibility, we might reach the end of the sub-genre focused releasing.
Horror fans know that before the current haunting/possession/found footage trend, it was torture films which followed Japanese remakes, which followed 90s teen horror, etc. Those were the money-makers, the safe bets that cinemas love. Cinemas are struggling these days, people have better set ups at home and with On Demand services. Newer and newer films are being pumped straight into their homes. Those On Demand services offer choice, so much more choice than the traditional cinema with it’s one sub-genre of horror at a time.
Many older horror fans mourned the loss of the rental shop, the proper independent rental shop which offered a treasure trove of obscure horror titles without the commitment to buy. On Demand services are the new rental shop and while the likes of Netflix might have a limited choice, more specialist On Demand services like horrorshow.tv can provide all the horror viewing you want. The other option, the one that doesn’t help, is piracy but when it’s becoming more convenient just to sign up for a service, piracy will fade.
With all these services around to provide the viewer with horror, that means there’s more platforms for the makers of horror to get their work seen. There’s been a stigma for ages that if a film goes straight to DVD it isn’t good, which is a bullshit elitist idea that is only there to sell cinema tickets. There is so much good horror that gets made that doesn’t fit into that safe little bubble that cinemas want that can be beamed directly into people’s houses now. You can promote your movie and link people straight to it in a tweet.
The people who really want to see horror die are the ones who hate it for moral reasons, they’re the same people who hate heavy metal and punk because it’s “satanic”. Horror appeals to our dark side, and it’s clear people love the dark side. Horror television is massive right now. Horror shares something else with punk, DIY ideology. Indie film makers often start in horror for two reasons. One: There is a guaranteed audience. Two: That audience will love it despite cheap effects. Troma has been surviving on that love for years. Film making is reaching the masses these days with greater access to film making equipment and free educational videos through youtube. Want to learn how to fake a decapitation for your film? Youtube can teach you how to do it practically or in post.
So horror can be distributed and made reasonably easily, but “horror films aren’t scary anymore”. Another all too common complaint, one entirely based on subjectivity. It’s usually said by people who aren’t really into horror films and generally only watch the ones that have made it at the cinema. Sure there’s all that great indie horror out there but it’s lost in the sea of some not so good ones so how are we expected to find it. Horror fans are insanely loyal to the genre and if you ask us we will tell you which films to watch, in our blogs, with our tattoos, or just by screaming at you.
Horror doesn’t need to be saved from extinction. Sure some of the old masters are dying or moving on to other genres but there’s plenty people eager to fill their shoes. Some of the greatest horror films of all time are still obscure to the masses but to the horror community, there is love and passion for all the horror. That love is undying and so is horror.