What's Wrong With Horror? Please Scare Me Hollywood!
by Andy Adair
April 13, 2008
Can I say something that I am sure everyone is saying, or I hope at least thinking? Over the last three years, Hollywood has been giving us one thing that we will never forget - bad horror movies. Why does Hollywood do this to us? Is it really that hard to scare someone without making a terrible film? Hollywood has underestimated the intelligence of the movie going public by releasing cheesy "horror" films that only scare us because we can't believe that people are really that bad at acting. And yet people still shovel out the money, hoping that one of these days we will truly be scared by one of these disasters of cinema.
Almost every film in the horror genre since August of 2005 has been at best a six out of ten. The reason I date August of 2005 is because I am referring to The Descent as the last good horror film. Since then, we have had numerous terrible Hollywood duds such as The Grudge 2, Pulse, and Slither. Of course there were a few shining moments between then and now (Halloween, The Mist), but The Descent was the last movie I can remember being genuinely scared.
There are of course a lot of problems with the genre that need to be fixed. First, there are way too many PG-13 horror films, that in my opinion, all suck. For example, in the last three months we have seen the release of four sub-par PG-13 horror films: The Eye, One Missed Call, Shutter, and Prom Night. Of course, the reason these films are made is to target the teenage demographic. I work at a movie theater and every release of another one of these attracts so many teenagers, who all seem to genuinely like the movies. Every time I step into a theater full of obnoxious 15 year olds I feel like I am babysitting. Now I'm 21 and I've already grown out of this phase. Is it too much to ask for a horror film directed at more mature audiences? I hope I am not the only adult who feels the same way about these bad movies!
The second problem with recent horror films is that they rely quite heavily on violence. I love the Saw series, but we can't honestly say they are still horror films can we? It's more of a shock fest than it is a good scare. Another prime example of this horror film travesty is Hostel 1 & 2. Going for shock and awe over scare, these two movies fully support the idea of movies going for the "ewww" factor. I think you can even throw in films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning and The Hills Have Eyes into this category.
The last issue with the genre is the poor execution. I recently went to see The Ruins and initially thought that the idea for the film was great. The characters were believable and the potential for this film was fantastic, except that it fell way short of the mark. Is it too much to ask for a horror film that has great characters that we can care about, great scares, a good story, and intensity that takes us to a place where we are truly filled with terror?
What is a good horror film then? I feel like there a few guidelines that must be followed in order for me to be scared again. The first is the acting. These days filmmakers will throw in any Hollywood hotty to try and sell tickets. Sure they look great, but that is the extent of their acting ability. We need solid actors. I don't care if they aren't models, I want someone who looks like a real person that is actually scared! Also, a good original story wouldn't hurt either. It seems like almost every scary movie is based off a much better foreign version of the same film. We Americans get our hands on it, dumb down the story for our dumb audiences, and presto! A hit scary movie, that sucks!
And is it so much to ask for a good amount of violence with out going over the top? What happened to our imaginations? I am fine with seeing a few things, but do I need to see his shin bone snap in two? Not really. A solid balance that allows us to both see the gore and use our imagination at times would be a nice change in today's horror industry. And lastly, the studios need to toss in a few R-rated horror films. It's not too much to ask. How much better would some of the PG-13 films have been if we had a few more F-words and a bit more violence; they might have even been passable!
I hope that some of the upcoming horror films like Quarantine and perhaps even The Poughkeepsie Tapes can deliver what the horror genre is lacking. I still feel like it will be impossible to truly scare the audience when all that's on the minds of the studios is money, but there is still hope. Are there any gems out there that people should watch to deliver a true scare? What is the one movie you would recommend that will cause people to run to the car after the movie? Leave your comments and let the world know what movie they should see to scare the hell out of them. I know that is what I want!
Our friend Scott Weinberg over at Cinematical has followed up with a similar horror rant of his own: PG-13 Horror Sucks and I Can Prove It.