Friday, October 2

Who/What Can Save Mainstream Horror?

...or are we all just in an endless bitch cycle that's constantly evolving as each generation picks up new horror fans where the glory days seemed more...ermmm... glorious compared to "now"? I did finally view the teaser for the Elm Street redo last night and it got me pondering this very question throughout the day. Prepare for rambling. Remember the days when Clive Barker was the golden boy of the genre on-screen after Hellraiser arrived? The potential seemed palpable for a time until it just fizzled out with the hacked up Nightbreed and the Bakula-powered Lord of Illusions. I can't think of another single personality that had so much buzz since. Now he's back behind the pen, behind the business end of films, and sounds as if a nailbomb went off in his throat. Of course, Barker is in good company with a bevy of directors that struck cinematic terror only to temper into the studio system or be carried off into our obsessive horror dorkdom.

So is it really a question of a singular person with a series of box office hits that magically press all the buttons? If these recent horror icon re-imaginings are any indication; I'd say catering to "us" and tweens the studios are desperately trying to lure in either intentionally or not is virtually impossible. They might feed you the line that they're molding these characters for their generation. That's bullshit. Except for a very scant few wunderkinds; everyone fueling the creation of these films are certainly old enough to have been waiting in line for the next original Freddy, Jason, or Michael sequel back in the '80s. What the hell happened? Money happened. 13-year-old girls and Twilight happened and we're still reeling. And I'm sorry but Scream happened as well along with all the flowery teen soap rotgut that followed.

Where has true horror villainy gone? It moved to the Thriller section of Netflix. Nowadays horror baddies need to be clever, cunning, yet also sympathetic souls. Jigsaw never killed anyone and merely wished to make people realize the value of their lives. Even Rob Zombie whose lyrics are riddled with unsavory characters with a don't give no fuck attitude reduced The Shape to a 99.6% chance of afternoon redneck rampage. Zombies have become rocket-propelled and now more than ever symbolize any mass threat. In mainstream horror, if you're a giant drooling olaf with a machete (or chainsaw), you're fine for consumption because you're unbelievable. Bring Anton Chigurh or Ledger's The Joker in (or name your film Trick 'r Treat) and direct-to-video you go. Or you're marketed to an entirely different audience and garner a usually limited theatrical release. Heaven forbid the horror genre obtain a truly vile character to nest in pop culture's consciousness once again. Who would have thought, all those horror flicks your mother scoffed at actually taught you something--how to be fearful of evil. Not today, with many screen frights injecting far too many shades of gray into matters that should clearly be wicked.

This is why I agree with Mr. Astro over at The Cheap Bin, "New Freddy" needs to stay grounded in something with the distinct ring of true abhorrent evil. If not, we're going to be left with yet another flick and in this case icon reconditioned to essentially a book slamming on a table while reading. You jump, look up to see your jokester friend, and proceed to forget about it entirely as soon as you walk out of the theater. But if present, that kernel of repugnance actually just might be that dim beckon of hope horror fans have been waiting for in multiplex scares...


Drunketh said...

I agree with most of what you said... but that being said, I f'n Love the film Scream. The sequels are balls. But that first one was pure class... I don't care how it affected the genre. And Twilight, I'm just into it. I catch flack and shit here and there, but ya know, fuck it. I like how Edward stares at Bella. It makes me feel good. And as they say in Demon Knight, "If it makes ya feel good do it!"

Real horror will always be my true love. But I do accept a few things here and there... after all, sometimes you gotta take what you can get(when it's new, that is).

Jayson Kennedy said...

Scream and Twilight?!? Really Drunketh?

J. Astro said...

Sehn - good points. Although, really, to me, horror works best "outside" of the mainstream, when something new and fresh comes outta nowhere. So there's no point in "saving" mainstream horror; they save themselves when they copy and cannibalize original ideas that come along from smaller, individual parties and film-makers.

For the purposes of sheer originality, there shouldn't necessarily BE a "next Freddy or Jason...", there should be something entirely different. Then the studios will take that idea and homogenize it and re-package it and start the whole cycle over again.

Freddy/Jason/Michael begat countless more slashers... (although you don't hear me complaining)

"SCREAM" begat the new self-reflexive teen horror wave... "I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER", "VALENTINE", "URBAN LEGEND", and even this summer's "SORORITY ROW" remake seems to still be a product of this 'modern teen' approach.

"RINGU" begat the stereotypical Asian "ghost girl" movie hype... (i.e. THE GRUDGE sequels/JU-ON, just about everything released by Tartan Asia Extreme)

Rob Zombie/Eli Roth/Quentin Tarantino begat "retro" old-school horror and the "torture porn" sub-genre... "SAW" was an offshoot of this, I'd say, and begat the 'horror-thriller'... tons of generic-ass examples of which can be seen languishing on your local video store shelves.

And now we're all currently stranded in remake purgatory, waiting for the next thing that nobody's seen before... which will come along and soon enough become the next thing that everybody's seen a million times before.

Drunketh said...

Yeah, sure. I also really dig Jennifer's Body and The Craft too.

But who's going to save the horror genre? Really, it's hard to say. I think film preservation may be the only thing. (With gems like 4 Flies, Cat inda Brain, Satanico Pandemonium, Alucarda, Street Trash, Encore's now RIP Rollin Collection, and other older films being released... I'd say that living in the past might be a good bet.)

And as long at films like Pan's Labyrinth, The Host, District 9 and Let The Right One In are being made by people who care, I guess it's all about what you do in the inbetween time: such as watching those older horrors and trying not to let this disasterous state get to you. Personally I'm awaiting for Brian Paulin and Greg Lamberson's new films, Blood Pigs and Slime City 2. Oh yeah, and there's also the 3-D boom goin' on. Hey, Piranha 3-D should be coming out soon from who else but Alexandre Aja, director of one of the greatest films of All Time: High Tension. I say get that guy off the remakes and let him just go at it... that may be the answer.

Anthony1138 said...

The answer has been here forever, but Hollywood seems to have forgotten about foreign and independent horror films. I can think of so many that are far superior to Hollywood productions over the past 10+ years... Let the Right One In, Martyrs, The Signal, The Host, High Tension, 28 Days Later, Dance of the Dead, Trapped Ashes, Rec, Oldboy, Thirst, Ringu, etc.

And let us not forget that most of the horror icons of yesteryear originated outside of mainstream Hollywood. There was a time when Hollywood had the foresight and balls to take a chance on characters like Jason, Freddy, Leatherface and Michael. So what happened?

I understand the torture-porn cycle, because it's just a progression of slashers and giallos. But with media so easily accessible these days, why keep producing remakes of original movies that audiences can easily rent, buy or download? Is America really that in love with Michael "King of the Hacks" Bay and his apparently endless case of remake-diarrhea?

I feel like American horror films of this decade have become a bigger joke than the Italian schlock-fests of the '70s and '80s. At least those were entertaining; sometimes more so that the films they were ripping off.

MrJeffery said...

I liked your rambling. And not a fan of the flowery teenage rotgut either.

It seems like there's a lot of great filmmakers out there who are frustrated under the Hollywood system. This is true for horror but other genres as well. But with horror, I'm really tired of the remakes.

I agree that "Scream" was a bad influence in the sense that horror movies became more playful and ironic, the 'whodoneit' villans less menacing (look it's Rebecca Gayheart or Roseanne's sister under the mask!).

Unknown said...

scream will be a great, comeback... it restarted the way hollywood looked at horror films... the problem is the new wave of pg-13 horror, are we being fooled? when i see a r-rating, i believe it will be seen the way it was meant, not later when the pg-13 get a dismal cash return and the release a "unrated" dvd version... which if they would have done in the first place. as of late movies like "jennifer's body" or "the collector" have low budgets and minimal returns... but the newest "zombieland" pokes fun at horror. not that is a bad movie, but next year ten films will pop up, based of the first weekend box office numbers...

okay, sorry i hope i had something useful to say... you have a great forum and blog for us who like the... odd, weird and strange...

2vs8 [jeremy]

Drunketh said...

And ya know(in response to Tony138 - my friend), I never really cared for how the italian films of that time were always disrespected and portrayed. For example: Fulci's Zombi as a "rip-off" of Romero's stuff. I mean, come on... besides the international film name, there is not a damn thing in common. I love, absolutely love, both films equally. But it's like comparing Persepolis with Jessica Farm.

I understand what was being done, and how most of the film trends in the US really got things going over there... it's all natural, but like we have said, and how we act by seeking out these films, we all know that the Italian films are far superior to the one's they're "ripping off". Alien Contamination(Toxic Spawn) should have been the Alien 3 of the US. It would have f'n rocked balls.

Though I liked the underwater scenes of Aliens in A3... they needed a bigger bitch affect and some glowing eggs that make mothafuckas bust guts into nuts. you dare tread upon the staircase?

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