Horror Movies Suck

Halloween is coming up.  What more of a perfect time to shed some light on the dying genre:  horror.

The Horror genre flourished in the 70s and 80s with classics such as The Exorcist (1973), The Omen (1976), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Carrie (1976), Alien (1979), Poltergeist (1982), A Nightmare of Elm Street (1984), The Evil Dead (1981), and the beginning to two ever-lasting franchises Halloween and Friday the 13th (1980).

Here, we saw many sub-genres of horror emerge:  horror of personality and real people, horror of the Devil and demons influencing children, horror of monsters and demons in general, and horror of the supernatural.  But just like all movies, horror had to keep reinventing the wheel and raising the bar.  Unfortunately as a whole, the genre wasn’t able to keep up it’s grueling success.

In the 1990s, unoriginality plagued the decade as sequels were banged out to try and profit from the classic originals, but almost all were panned by critics and received mild box office success.  It seems as though the audience who thoroughly enjoyed the slasher and zombie films of the 80s disappeared in the 90s.  They’ve grown used to it and wanted something new and different, but the studios stuck with something safe… not new and daring.

A few bright spots in the 90s ended up being those films who mocked the horror genre, along with one very unlikely gold mine.  Dead Alive (1992) was Peter Jackson’s attempt at horror, where he deliberately went overboard with the gore for comedy.  And then there was Scream (1996) that had characters who made references to the horror genre in the film for comic effect.  Along with that fresh perspective, it also rejuvenated the slasher film, putting it into a teen view.  The success of Scream resulted with additional teen-slasher flicks such as I Know What You Did Last Summer and Urban Legend.

The biggest and most successful horror film of the 90s was The Blair Witch Project (1999).  Made for practically peanuts ($22,000), the movie grossed over $240 million worldwide and currently holds a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for “Top Budget: Box Office Ratio.” The film was good, but that wasn’t the reason for it’s extreme success.  It had a remarkable marketing campaign, including using the Internet and spreading a rumor that the footage from the film was real.  The documentary style and seemingly completely ad-libbed script helped to feed the fire that the movie was real.  There’s no doubt that this rumor was a big reason why it made so much money.

So where did that leave the state of the horror genre for the new millennium?  Not in good shape.  Though I have to admit, the 2000s have been better than the 90s… but that’s really not saying much.

What’s wrong with horror movies today?

Horror movies are supposed to be scary… that is the sole purpose for the genre.  It’s a tricky feeling to achieve and depend an entire movie on because everyone is scared of something different.  Not everyone believes in ghosts and spirits, therefore those people might find supernatural horror movies pointless and laughable.  Others are immune to the shock factor of the current torture-porn movies that amplify the gore as a horror element.  If you’re not a bit squeamish, you could probably laugh at all the fake blood pouring out of someone’s body or when someone’s limbs are being ripped off.

As for me, well I’m not a horror fan.  For some it’s all they watch.  They love to be scared.  They love to get that thrill of suspense and love to (as twisted as this sounds) watch people die.  This doesn’t mean I’ve hid my eyes from the gore and the ghosts throughout my entire life.  I enjoy horror movies.  It’s just that in my opinion, horror is the worst genre of film.

Don’t get me wrong… there are plenty of horror films that I love.  As I thought about it some more, I can edit my hatred towards the horror genre to hatred towards the current state of the horror genre.

I don’t hate The Silence of the Lambs, The Exorcist, The Shining, or any other horror classics.  They’re awesome!  They’re well-made, well-acted, well-written… just all-around “good” movies.  And that’s all I’m asking for, despite the genre of the film I want to see some effort put into a movie.  Is that too much to ask for?  Not really, but the studios aren’t always interested in putting out “good” movies.  If they can bang out a handful of movies every year that are low budget, have inexpensive actors, and can make a profit… keep the movies rolling!

Let’s face it.  The horror genre is dying.  There’s simply not enough good horror movies anymore.  Since the original ideas have faded into oblivion there have been countless remakes of classics.  To name a few:  Halloween (2007; Rob Zombie), The Hills Have Eyes (2006; Alexandre Aja), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003; Marcus Nispel), The Omen (2006; John Moore), The Fog (2005; Rupert Wainwright).  None of these films were good and they almost tarnish the excellence of the originals.  The current generation of movie watchers will pick up these remakes, be completely turned off and then once they find out that they just watched a remake, will have no urge to watch the classics.  It’s a crime!  Stop remaking the classics!

Am I being too rough?  I don’t think so.  I want to like horror movies.  Let me tell you one things about horror films… they have awesome trailers.  Every single time I see a trailer for a horror movie I go, “Damn that looks awesome!”  But then I immediately retract my excitement because I remember… “It’s a horror movie.  It’ll most likely suck.”  Some examples:  An American Haunting (2006), Pulse (2006), Turistas (2006), Vacancy (2007), and House of Wax (2005).  I don’t know about you, but to me all of these movies looked pretty cool.  The trailers were good, but the movies sucked.

Covering the other side of the spectrum, there have been a handful of recent horror films that I loved.  Probably my favorite recent horror film is The Descent (2005; Neil Marshall).  Here is an original horror story with a group of unknown actresses who find themselves trapped in an underground cave and find out they’re not alone.  This wasn’t a teen-horror, wannabe slasher film.  This had good acting, a great storyline, and excellent directing.  There were plenty of “edge-of-your-seat” suspense and it blended the cheap “shock” horror tactic with brutal and gory violence very well.  And the ending… all I have to say is that if you’ve only seen the U.S. version of the ending then you are missing out!  Watch the original ending (U.K.) and The Descent will simply blow your mind.

Here is the trick…  Horror movies are only good when they strive to be much more than just a “horror movie.”  This is the case for all genres.  If a comedy is made with only one intention, to make you laugh, then it might be a good comedy but it won’t be a good movie.  Same as chick-flicks.  If they only try to make you weepy, then it might make you cry, but was it really a good movie?

Let’s take a look at The Sixth Sense.  What a fantastic movie that was.  Not only did it make people wet their pants, but it really drew you into the film because of its story depth.  The characters were so convincingly real (or at least you thought so until the end).  And the idea of the existence of ghosts and how they’re still around because they have unfinished business is expanded in this M. Night Shyamalan masterpiece.  The medium was Haley Joel Osment, but he was just a kid who didn’t understand the world of the dead.  He needed a psychiatrist to help him understand the supernatural, and that psychiatrist’s unfinished business was helping someone understand himself.  Pure brilliance.

Good horror movies surprise you and might even scare you.  Great horror movies haunt you.  Take great horror classics like Psycho and Jaws for example.  When talking to someone in their 50s or 60s they might recall the fear they felt while watching the film, but then they’ll go on expressing how they were haunted afterwards.  Psycho created a fear whenever you took a shower, especially at a motel, and Jaws created a fear whenever you stepped foot in an ocean.  I know some friends who still get a little nervous when they see a flock of birds resting nearby (from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds).  It’s astounding to think that such simple, everyday things could drastically change from a movie, but that’s what great films do.

So what am I saying?  It seems as though the production of horror movies has taken a lazy and greedy turn for the worse.  There are too many remakes, too many teen-horror films, too much gore and not enough scares.  It’s time to go back to the drawing board and come up with some fresh ideas.  Not new and twisted ways to kill people.  New characters, new stories, new reasons to be scared.  There have been some breakthroughs in the past few years.  The first Saw film was incredible, but unfortunately has erupted into a number of disappointing sequels.  Final Destination put some fear back into everyday life, but its teenager cast made it cheesy and laughable.  28 Days Later was gripping and put zombie movies back on the map, but its sequel 28 Weeks Later was predictable and ordinary.  The Others relied on psychological scares than gore and violence, and Grindhouse was a memorable tribute to the B-movies of the 70s.

?

But it seems like the trend of low quality horror films will continue.  In 2009 there is a remake of the Jason Voorhees classic, Friday the 13th.  And talk about never-ending sequels… Final Destination 4, The Grudge 3, and talks of a Scream 4 are in the works as well.  Honestly, the studios can’t be blamed.  They simply put out what they think the audiences want to see.  I don’t know if I’m alone when I say the horror genre is in trouble, but it’s obvious that there aren’t enough people who share my thoughts.  The Saw franchise has over-stayed its welcome, yet the fifth installment released last weekend still managed to gross over $30 million its opening weekend.  And although there were plenty of moans and groans about Rob Zombie remaking Halloween, that even grossed over $30 million its opening weekend.  It’s plain and simple.  If you want a change… if you believe the horror genre is on the downfall, do something about it and stop paying to watch these cheap excuses for horror movies!  Don’t think it’ll work.  Oh it will.  The only reason why these movies are still being made is because they’re still profitable.  Once a franchise takes a hit, the studios pull it instantly.  Example… Hostel.  Remember that Eli Roth movie about kids backpacking in Europe and then being tortured.  It was a massive hit… practically had a cult following.  Do you remember the sequel?  Of course you don’t.  It was a complete failure!  Hostel Part II only made $8 million its opening weekend and $17.5 million total.  Immediately, any suggestions for a sequel were canned.

Get my point?  Well it all comes down to you, the movie-watcher.  You want a good horror movie?  Visit the 1970s and 80s.  You like the current horror movies?  Then good for you.  If not, take a stand.  Don’t let those enticing trailers suck you into their trap.  Instead of the remakes, watch the originals.  It’s sad how the current flavor of the horror genre is torture.  Where’s the entertainment value in that?  What’s so creative and unique about making a helpless human suffer?  Let’s see some more psychological thrillers, small groups of survivors fighting off a sea of zombies, helpless families running away from serial killers, regular people gone insane, etc.  Let’s bring back horror the way it should be!

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23 Responses to Horror Movies Suck

  1. Lana says:

    Thanks for the comment on my horror movie post. I’ve linked to you!

    This is a great post, and you’ve reminded me that I should have included Silence of the Lambs… some other time, I guess.
    I’ll definitely make sure to give The Descent a try – it sounds excellent. Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. Chubz says:

    I’m starting to realize that a lot of people don’t know much about good movies anymore. That’s why these horrible films keep getting sequels.

  3. Sean says:

    I agree with just about everything above. I don’t even both watching new horror movies. Besides The Sixth Sense, there hasn’t been a decent one for about 2 decades! Every time I browse the new releases, I’m always amazed by the insane plethora of lame duck horror movies. I grew up in the 80’s and was a big horror movie fan for most of my life. But now, horror is just short for horrible.

    BTW, The Shining is one of my favorite movies for any genre, and Jaws made me afraid of my pool and even my bathtub! Congrats Phillies, just won!

  4. Dan says:

    What makes horror movies in the current day so frustrating is that when it’s done right, it’s the most fun you can have while being at a theater. I think right now the biggest problem with the films that are released now is that it’s become easier to focus on the shock moments and the violence rather than weaving a story that draws people in. The original Saw hardly compares to it’s sequels, because once it became a hit, people went for the highlight reel of the violent moments rather than the psychological element that made the whole thing work.

    Instead what we have now are one-note ideas. You’re trapped in a house –Get Out!
    Plants are relasing toxic fumes that make people kill themselves — hold your breath!
    Zombies are coming — run the other way!

    You look at a film like Silence of the Lambs, which for the majority of the film features one villian and one charismatic evil person that you come to maybe even respect and like, until he gets his chance and goes psycho on everybody. It’s a case of story over gore — of drawing in the viewer to the point where they never see the horror involved in the breakout coming, which makes it all the more horrible that this person you were listening to talk goes off the deep end.

    Story is key. The new movies just don’t have them.

    Great post!

  5. Lisa Parker says:

    Wow! I was amazed after reading your post! You have a good insight about the horror genre in general as well as the business side of it. I agree with your comment about the Saw franchise, wherein the quality seems to fade as sequels go on and on, being replace with just more gory graphics. I loved the first part too. But I felt that after the part when Jigsaw’s story had been revealed, it seems that the thrill slowly diminished. Maybe because the whole story is just all about him or maybe the type of thrill that the first movies gave to its viewers haven’t changed and was being applied again and again ( made the movie predictable).

    I am very much particular to the story of the film itself. That’s why most of the time I try to read the book first (that is, if it’s based from a novel) before watching the movie (or vice versa). One thing I noticed to most horror-films-based-from-novel is that it turns out to be a good one IF it follows mostly to the story of the book itself and not being edited by some business-oriented film makers.

    About book-turned-to-film case, I would like to mention an upcoming film to be shown next month, the House by Ted Dekker. I haven’t had the chance of seeing it during pre-screening, but I managed to secure a copy of it just yesterday(seen it twice just yesterday too, hehe :) ). It’s based from one of the bestselling book by Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti (both Christian author). I’m a fan of this two great authors so I got curious about this film. I’m telling you, I’m quite satisfied about the film and the story in general. It’s actually a low-budget film but the actors are good, IMO and the effects are effective, not to mention the real message of the story which is about “sin and redemption”. The story is awesome, no more, no less…

    Even if I’ve seen the House at home, I still want to see it rolling in a theater(BTW it’ll be on November 7, see their official website at http://housethemovie.net). Maybe I just want to experience it in a big screen or to give a token of support to the authors who wrote this fantastic story that not only brought a thrill to me but as well as enlightens/reminds me that evil is real and that it is inside all of us. You just have to be strong and you’ll see the light…

    Anyway, I can’t believed I’ve written this long! I’m outta here now.hehe..Cool post herculesrob! Awaiting more posts :)

  6. Rob says:

    Sean – lol, Jaws making you afraid of your bathtub… now THAT’S a horror movie.

    Dan – You’re right about the “highlight reel” of the Saw sequels and new horrors. They weed through the storylines just to give you the shocks. Though that’s fun at times, the plot is was makes the terror last.

    Lisa Parker – Yes, that was a major problem with the Saw franchise. It was all about Jigsaw and once he died, they didn’t create anything new. About adaptations, yes they’re usually a lot better when the film follows the book very closely. For instance, No Country for Old Men was basically a replica of the McCarthy novel and because of that it was a masterpiece. On the contrary, Forrest Gump (film) was entirely different than the novel and in a rare occassion I felt it was better than the book.

    Oh, and that film The House you mentioned looks interesting. I just might check it out.

  7. […] presents Horror Movies Suck posted at The Entertainment Blur. “The Horror genre has slipped since its prime in the 70s […]

  8. anvilface says:

    i know what you mean, you gotta see “rec”, it’s spanish…

    don’t read too much about it, you’ll think it’s crap, the plot souds like it’s yet another version of the “infected zombie apocalypse” theme but it’s nothing like that, really.

  9. TheBeautifulTruth says:

    I don’t agree with you… You obviously do not know the difference between thrillers and horror movies. For example, Final Destination, The Silence of the Lambs, Psycho, Jaws, The Birds, Scream, Hostel, Vacancy, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Urban Legend, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Alien, and Saw ARE ALL THRILLERS NOT HORRORS!!! Why? Because they do not show any supernatural activity in them, unlike “real” horror movies such as The Exorcist, Gravedancers, Pumpkinhead, The Unnamable, Return Of The Living Dead, Jeepers Creepers, Drag Me To Hell, The Evil Dead, Dead Silence, Child’s Play, Amityville, Tombs of the Blind Dead, etc. I learned this in a “Horror/Thriller” film class. Ask any professor at any film school if you don’t believe me.

    By the way, horror movies are the best genre that ever happened to film, unlike boring “Romantic Comedies.” Good horror movies have action, suspense, fantasy, meaning, and creativity than other genres in film. You can’t compare horror with action movies because action movies usually just involve fighting, gun fire, and explosions in comparison, etc.

    • Rob Eng says:

      The genre of “horror” is very broad. Those horror films with supernatural elements can be specifically labeled as “supernatural horror.” How can you possibly say modern horror films like Final Destination, Scream, Hostel, and Saw aren’t horror films? And maybe nowadays, people would refrain from calling classics like Jaws and The Birds as “horror,” but when they were released they were the scariest films that existed then. I agree that The Silence of the Lambs is more of a thriller than a horror film. Heck, I hate horror films and that’s one of my favorite movies of all-time, so I’m more than happy to say it’s not horror.

      Anyway, thanks for the comment.

      • Jamie Mathers says:

        Scream quite obviously isn’t a horror film, it’s a spoof and a pretty unoriginal one at that. All the ‘poking fun at horror movies’ genre was done way back in the 80s. Scream did nothing original there either. Frankly it is horrendously overrated by people who like ‘horror’ films that aren’t at all scary.

    • TheObviousTruth says:

      “Ask any professor at any film school if you don’t believe me. ”

      Good to know you need other people to tell you what to think. Those of us who think for ourselves will disregard your bitchy rant. :)

  10. All horror movies suck. They are all talentless fearbaiters.

    Except for maybe Psycho.

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  16. Ryan says:

    hahaha i found the funniest video that makes fun of horror movies, anybody who read this blog has to see it! its so funny.

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