I think we’re losing our touch, we who tell the tales meant to make you shiver. We that cling to the darkness and lurk under beds. I think we’re losing our touch. Horror, when done right is a flirtation, is foreplay, is the romance before the consummation and it only goes all the way when the moment is right.
And we’ve lost that.
From haunted houses to horror movies and outward from there we have lost what it means to create fear and to draw out terror. Too often there is no romance, no tension, so that modern horror becomes a sort of porn (the term torture porn, a term I detest, is a great example of the way people are looking at the films now) – all pretense is stripped bare and it’s straight for the jugular. Once upon a time that worked, as audiences grew bored with the pace of older films. It made sense. It was another tool to use, like gore, but when you begin to rely on something too much it becomes not a tool but a crutch, and that’s a problem. We have had our run of slow paced films, gore films, slasher films, and on and on, and horror’s reliance on the newest trend has hamstrung the effectiveness of the genre. We are losing the romance. And this doesn’t mean I am clamoring for a ‘return to glory’, not at all. The future isn’t in the past, that’s silly, it isn’t in aping the films of other decades but is in learning from those other films and books and the rest. You hear all the time how ‘everything’s been done’ , yet, there are always new ways, different ways to tell those same stories. New ways to explore old themes. And I can’t help but be disappointed to see how some movies fail to rise above the easy scare, the jump scare, the gore scare, and fail to really tap into anything deeper. The best example I have of late is that yet another TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE remake is hurtling towards us and yet again it seems like the lessons of the original are being forgotten. Maybe I am wrong. I hope I am. But it sure looks like the notion of tension over bloodshed isn’t going to be on tap.
And we’ve lost our way.
We have bred and audience that only wants the jump scares, and wants the quick cuts and awful soundtracks. There is so much talent out there and none of it is being utilized to its full potential. One of the great things about horror is that it can be a proving ground for filmmakers with ambition and ideas. Horror doesn’t take a ton of money behind it to be effective, heck, you can make the argument that the scariest films are the ones with the lowest budgets. Things have changed though.
Too much money is being spent on horror with too little evidence of return. Every film seems as if it is set up to be a franchise, and that’s fine, IF IT WORKS. But not every film is meant to BE a franchise. I love the SAW films but did we really need seven films to tell that story?
Same goes with the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY films. A series I rather like but which is spinning its wheels as it slowly doles out nuggets of information. It’s time for that series to end. It’s time for MOST to end. We need a fresh slate. We need direction. We need as much passion and foresight to go into horror that the superhero films are getting right now. We need a plan. And we need the terror to return.
Icons like Freddy and Jason and the rest CAN return, but give them a rest, and when they return give them an arc and after that arc let them go away again. For a while.
And we need new icons. Again, with a plan. With a reason. And with a reason for us to be afraid of them beyond their killing.
We need the scares brought back. We need to feel as if there is more going on than gore, and sex, and self referential humor. We need more than nihilistic murders and meaningless death.
We need it all to mean something.
There is still good, no, great horror out there, it’s just a shame that so much of it feels derivative and empty, like eating fast food for every meal. Once in a while we want something that really gets us, and gets us at our core.
I for one am dreaming for a return to that type of horror, the kind that goes to bed with me and follows me into my dreams.
That’s the horror I love.
What about you?