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.
Reader Feedback - 34 Comments
Great Article. Have you seen REC, the original version of Quarantine? Awesome movie, first time i've jumped in the cinema in ages. Also, and older film but worth checking out is Session 9....seriously creepy!
James on Apr 13, 2008
The hard part about this is that whenever trends like this happen, a select few good movies are to blame. I guess you could just say it's not their fault, it's really the idiots who intend on cashing a check the earlier movie wrote. This lame tread of horror remakes and PG-13 bullshit that we've seen is really due to two genuinely good films - The Sixth Sense The Ring - still the only good Asian horror remake And as a result, we're stuck wading through the muck of crap like Prom Night and One Missed Call.
John on Apr 13, 2008
I think it's more the movie-goer's faults than Hollywood. Sadly, movies are being produced for low budgets, with third rate actors, to get a few yelps from the crowd...and that's all audiences are asking for. I do not think Hollywood isn't giving the public enough credit. They are giving them exactly what they want.
Nate on Apr 13, 2008
Great article i haven't seen a great horror film for ages and hope we get some good ones soon. I'm 16 and i cant stand some of the PG-13 crap Hollywood ships out for us that is usually a remake to a great foreign horror film that is dumbed down for us. The last great horror film i watched was The Mist crap CGI but great story and i was really into it.
Curtis on Apr 13, 2008
First: Disagree with John about "The Ring" - I laughed through the entire film. And I must say, these terrible movies offer some redeeming qualities: take a hip flask to the movie with some friends, get a little drunk, and mock the movie incessantly. Hilarious!
Conor on Apr 13, 2008
yeah i really agree with this article. and Curtis is right I'm 16 too and the pg-13 horror flims are horrible. If i do watch it is too see how bad they really are. I really wish to be scared again but i just don't think Hollywood will make one for a very long time. Until then I think I will just watch a bunch of old horror movies via netflix.
Taylor on Apr 13, 2008
Good article. But since Halloween is my favorite film of all time -- please don't say the new one is any good. But most importantly I hate all these horror movies that have little kids as ghosts... THOSE ARE NOT SCARY. Kids don't scare me. But the problem is that horror used to mean suspense now they are really making horror movies or rather horrible movies. I think Saw and Hostel are horror, but that's not the reason people my age (30) grew up loving the genre. We want to be scared and nothing is as scary as the unknown. And don't discount how it's really hard to scare people like me and you. We see so many movies that nothing really scares us the way a movie did when we were 8. I wonder if I saw Halloween for the first time today, would I be scared or not? Or am I too jaded? Last movie to pull it off was BLAIR WITCH.
Matthew K on Apr 13, 2008
Honestly i think the upcoming release of The Strangers has the most potential of the upcoming horror movies and could possibly provide a boost to the horror genre.
Seth Steele on Apr 13, 2008
Hey Andy, As an indie Filmmaker, I agree completely. The primeval terror that once permeated the tales of horror storytellers like Lovecraft, Serling, and Poe is gone. I hope we can help bring this unearthly awfulness back to horror, and specifically, horror cinema. If "five young people visit X and Y hunts them and kills them, check out a new horror short film called THE EASTER BUNNY IS EATING MY CANDY... you can google it. It's online and it's really scary.
Fewdio Hand on Apr 13, 2008
Andy like some others have said....try and see Rec. Its fantastic.
Heckle on Apr 13, 2008
i agree. pg-13 sucks.
Darrin on Apr 13, 2008
I agree with number one. REC scared the hell out of me. I couldn't walk around my apartment without looking behind my back for the rest of the night. I also liked Session 9. When I saw it in theaters for the first time I thought The Ring was scary. Stir of Echoes will always be one of my favorites.
Brian Ricci on Apr 13, 2008
The last great horror flick I've seen was "The Orphanage" -- but of course that was a Spanish production. To those tired of films with children as ghosts, I defy you to walk out of that film unphased. Also, the Descent was a British production, so we definitely shouldn't give Hollywood credit for that amazing flick 🙂 Not sure why you mentioned Slither as a terrible horror flick. It's meant to be more of a darkly comedic monster movie, not a movie that gives you scares. After all, there are quite a few "horror" movie sub-genre types that don't aim to frighten the audience.
Devindra on Apr 13, 2008
I agree with #13. Slither was a throw back to 80's funny horror movies. The last good scary flick i did see i now say was Orphanage. That was messed up.
Heckle on Apr 13, 2008
I also agree that "Slither" is pretty excellent. It was very funny, and pretty creepy/scary at moments. Very nice blending on that one, though I could see how it might rub some people the wrong way.
Sparkle Picnic on Apr 13, 2008
Orphanage is the only movie in the last... I don't know how many years that actually made me jump off my seat. Oh, and did anyone see the box office figures? Prom Night pulled in 1st place. I guess those kids will like these mindless horror movies no matter the quality.
Alfredo on Apr 14, 2008
Conor, you were laughing all through The Ring? Sure... Thats been one of the genuinely good remakes and original scary films in the last 6 years. The one that started all the Asian horror remakes.
Mike 8 on Apr 14, 2008
Very good article.
Ryan on Apr 14, 2008
Kinda true, but kinda bs also, theres always good movies and bad movies, theres just as many crappy comedies (like anything with ice cube) as there are horror, its just the way it is, people will go watch it so they keep making it, then every once in awhile a good one will come around. I liked the Descent too but for me its because I'm semi claustrophobic and it creeped me out more because of that then the slime humans or whatever they were. To tell you the truth Disturbia was more intense and kinda scary then most of these horrors lately lol. I think that every time a good style of movie comes out its followed up by like 3 good ones and like 50 crappy ones. Like Dawn of the Dead remake, then another good one is 28 days later, Shawn of the Dead then they are followed by mindless copycat POSs. Same for any other genera I think. Also I watched the Grudge and vowed to never watch anything that was a Japanese horror remake ever, EVER again, no matter what.
Richard on Apr 14, 2008
Good article! Just got back from The Ruins and I was mildly amused by the movie. I am much older than the writer of the article but I encourage you youngsters to check Ghost Story from 1981. I am from the generation that got had nightmares from The Exorcist. After that, any horror film seemed mild. (However, I did enjoy the original Saw - my son made me watch Saw II last Christmas. What a wonderful way to spend that day!) I think that horror is more about the unseen than the seen - I am looking forward to The Happening. Thanks Andy!
Patty on Apr 15, 2008
I completely agree. The last film I can remember that creeped me out was Session 9, a seriously scary flick. With the exception of that, Children of Men was the only film in recent years to bother me and only because it's frighteningly possible.
Brough on Apr 15, 2008
Ive always had a slight fear of the dark, so when i was in my teens, i loved movies like darkness falls and wes cravens they. Although not the best acted, my own fear kicked on to fill in the gap. I think what needs to be done, is a study on what most people are afriad of,,, like the unknown,,, and make movies relying more on that. I enjoyed the grudge and the ring, what i like to do when i feel like a scare,, is watch the ring and the ring 2 in a row, sometimes it gets me. I thought i should mention some of the more random fright movies ive enjoyed too. Try dead silence and stay alive, i really liked those two. For a great thrill ride, try event horizon. An American Haunting is entertaining enough as well
joey on Apr 16, 2008
The best scariest movie that i saw was,exorcist.hostel 1&2,Orphanage......these movie will really scare u.and i agree pg-13 sucks............
robin paul on May 21, 2008
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walter on Aug 8, 2008
this article sums up actually how i feel even though i am 17 i feel that horror movie fail to leave me truly scared and ends up becoming a comedy to me but with each new release i hope for something better but am normally disspointed.what makes it worse is that eveytime there is a piece of goldust they have to make a few hundred crap sequels for instance the whole saw franchise when are they going to learn that if they have ahit should leave it at that.
elizabeth on Dec 5, 2008
one thing ive noticed about most horror films is they seem to always wanna start out with high school or college kids getting drunk partying and having sex.. yea great sex is a part of life but i watch horror movies for a good scare not to watch porn.. every once in a while ill see a decent movie so i cant say its the timing.. its just everyone goes for cheap scares and most scary movies ive seen arent original at all.. a guy wearing a creepy mask running around killing idiotic young people.. sorry been there done that and it doesnt scare me any more.. plus movies like that are kinda less scary considering some of the idiotic characters they get are people id be murdering left and right too
amber on Dec 5, 2008
To all Horror Fans, This article is great. You did an awesome job, Andy. I've been a fan and writer of horror for years now. I was also born in the 80's, so I had the opportunity to be engulfed in the genre. Horror definitely has its ups and downs. Sometimes more down. You are all right, in some way. We can only do something about it. If any of you are interested in collaborating on a project, let's do it- no matter what age or experience level. I'm all about making film, especially horror. As long as your passionate, driven, hard working- that's what is important to me. No talk. All action. Horns Up -Coy
Coy on Jan 15, 2009
I Agree with like 90% of the people on here theres not alot of horror these days that will sccare me. NOw i know im older now but there are times if i watch a horror movie alone in the dark it will freak me out, but they almost alwasy been older movies. i always wanted to watch a horror movie bymyself in house in the middle of the woods but havent had the guts to yet lol. That would eb the ultimate scare. I also dont think movies like Saw and Hostel are Horror but are good films.And dont you think saw is going a little to far with a part six coming out. although ellie roth is a good director i loved Cabin fever but agian not scary. just creepy. I thought the Ruins was pretyy good. 1408 i had to shut off for a second cause for some reason i dont know if it was the movie or not but i was getting really freaked out, i had to get up walk around and get a glass of water thats never happn before. But i also think it had to do with the room i watched it in. Weird shit happen to me in that room and i dont mean hauntings auctaully but some of the crazziest/scariest dreams and mornig hilusinations(sleep paralis) i ver had even freidns who styed over say the same thing. But anyways i would recomnd moveis from the * filmls to die for Horror fest(the had 2 with 1 coming agian soon) and the New lionsgate Ghost HOuse films that jsut came out last halloween. I honestly think these are some of the best horror to comne out in a while.Everyone is different so find your own but i will name my favs. GraveDancers, Wicked little Things, Penny Dreadful, and Dark Doors. some of my other favs thast scarre me are 28 days/weeks later, IT(best horror movie on Tv, and better than most others too)Pet cemetery, 1408, also a fan of the Jason and Freddy series although hasnt scared me since childhood. what really scares me in horror movies are Clowns, ghost/ghouls/demons, and Zombies f'n love zombie films even if there not scary. Dont like phycho killers or even aliens dont think aliens are scary and wouldnt consider moveis like Alien a horror movie. I dont even consider Dead Space a horror survival game. Well i found this post buy searching google for films that wil scare me and teh post asked to suggest moveis but all i heard are REC and Sessiion9 anyone else have other moveis they think are scary. And no hostel 1&2 are not scary at all whoever said that.
scott on Jan 24, 2009
All of the recent horror movies are lacking creativity. Seeing a couple of teenagers slashed by a killer without a good reason not really scary anymore because we all saw 1546875231 different versions of it! I can't believe hundreds of people coming together, and these crappy movies are the products they can offer! I mean no one ever stands out and says "Hey, isn't it better if we do this/do that?" The people who work in Hollywood are that dumb? Yes, money is a problem, but are they stupid enough to realize that they can triple the money they earn by making something right, instead of making the type of movies that'll be forgotten within 10 minutes after being watched? All they do is find a good looking actor/actress who can't even act, then covering the movie with loudest sound effects as much as they can, which by the way, its the loud sound that makes people jump, its a natural human reaction to the sound, and its not even the exact definition of being scared! The only recent horror movie that I can say it's good is [REC], and no suprise, it had nothing to do with Hollywood until they remade it as "Quarantine" which I don't get why because it is already a great movie, and as usual, they ruined it with that remake...
Pete L. on Dec 20, 2009
I'm going to have disagree with some of your points. Writing horror is about intelligent. At least what frightens me is an intelligent view and take on what is frightening. What made Lovecraft and Poe so successful was there was a slow build of suspense. There was depth and philosophy within in the stories themselves. These days people want instant gratification and instant satisfaction. Or horror movies have been turned into semi dark and eerie action movies. There is nothing horror about them. What made Hannibal or even the Silence of the Lambs was the slow build of character development, the slow plot, and the slow working of events. It made it frightening, and Hannibal was frightening, because like the book there was a build up. A lot of the time they make horror movies based on crappy books as well. The modern day books of the horror world are not what they use to be. They too do not have this slow churning moment. When gore was used, it was necessary and for a reason. Not just because the killer liked awesome carnage. But because it was a metaphor for something bigger. The Raven is a great example of this metaphor. The Raven's bigger metaphor is death, but more importantly death of himself.
Jene on Sep 21, 2010
I just recently published an African Horror story called HER REIGN. It's an ebook novella .99cents @ barnesandnoble.com. I admit, I daydream that one day it will be popular and hit the big screen, in its' full R-rated glory! I patterned my story from the movie Angel Heart. That movie was incredible, engaging, and mind-bending. But, overall it was a smart, well-thought out idea. Many horror movies to date, don't fully plan out their story lines.
Tiffian Eliz on Dec 13, 2010
why hollywood likes to scare us good people? why? isn't life a challenge itself? why do I have to see evil videos of exorcist why? why can't we have peace why?
raaal on Aug 21, 2011
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