Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Cinemaniacal: The Horror The Horror Part 2. There's Always a Sequel

Okay, in part one I gave you a general history of the horror genre in Hollywood movies. Part 2 will give you a few of the pros and the cons of horror.


1. Audiences need a vent for their fears. I don't know how the mental mechanics work, but lots of people need an occasional jolt of simulated fear to make their all too real fears livable. So there will always be a market for horror films.

2. Horror is cheap to produce. Speaking dollars and cents, it's actually better to make horror inexpensively. Cheaper is usually better. The genre needs to be a little rough around the edges, and expensive stars and slick special effects actually hurts any horror film. As Stephen King recently said, big productions need big explanations.

Filmmakers can't have the monster hide in shadows when they've paid a lot of money for it, so they have to show it all, and
ta-da, there goes your mystery, your unknown, and with that, your scares.

Also big stars have their own image related baggage with them, it's harder for the audience to imagine themselves in their place, which is essential for them to feel the necessary fear.

3. Horror is a great way to scout new talent. The horror genre is an excellent entrance exam for feature film work. Why? The maker of a domestic drama can coast on good actors, a sci-fi film can coast on good special effects, an action film can coast on stunts and gunfights, an indie film can coast on being "quirky," etc.... etc...

However, any filmmaker who tries to coast on just gore and cheap frights, will make their lack of talent pretty obvious. If they don't use all of the tools at their disposal, story, actors, crew, and their own imagination, they will come up with something campy at best, dull and derivative at worst.

Plus, the low cost, and secure audience, will help protect a company's investment, while allowing them to see how the crew manages to work within a budget. And face it, too many filmmakers these days don't know how to work within a budget, something Hollywood badly needs to relearn.


1. Some horror fans aren't discriminating enough. There are people, some call them gore-hounds, who will watch any piece of crap as long as there's enough blood and organs flying around. My advice to them, demand quality, because you're hurting the genre with your low standards. And a small number of these fans, get a little too far into it. My advice to them, watch a comedy once in a while, horror movies are for you to vent your fears, not for you to swim in them because you think it makes you cool. It doesn't.

2. Almost all horror franchises die from overkill. As I said in my piece
on horror history, the low cost and built in audience is too powerful a temptation for many film company's to resist, so the moment they get a successful horror film, they try to turn it into a franchise.

Now I'm not against sequels, but there is a time when any franchise runs out of gas, the problem is that too many companies see that as just the beginning. And to add injury to insult to your intelligence, the desire to "top" the previous films cause them to put gore, violence and depravity above the originality and story that made the first films hits.

And how many times have we seen once scary horror icons tacked into films that originally had nothing to do with them because some producer thought making it part of the franchise was easy money.

Hellraiser, I'm looking in your direction...

My advice, sequels can be good, but any filmmaker has to realize when their flogging a double dead zombie, and know when to put it in a deep hole so they can go find the next franchise.

3. Too many horror filmmakers, too little talent. Horror is a great way to scout new talent, because good horror, the kind that has some real shelf life so to speak, is hard to make. However, too many people operate under the mistaken assumption that horror is somehow easy to make, and you see the end result cluttering the shelves of your local video store. Especially the sequels to films you've never even heard of, sequels made possible by the folks in Con #1. As I said before, demand quality.

I hope this explained a few things for you.

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