Pick your poison. For some, a high is found in the dark, swirling vortex of a cup of coffee; for others, it can be found in the sweet, foggy haze of a tightly-rolled j***t. For me, that exquisite release can only be found in the toe-curling scenes of a horror movie.
In 2006, my love affair with horror films began the way most do: me, in a blind panic, running to my bed and hiding from the menu screen of a movie. The movie was The Blair Witch Project, and the home menu consisted of Heather Donahue’s frantic breathing, and her piercing screams. Before the movie had even begun, I was left to endure this repetitive montage alone while my dad took a smoke break. My dad ended up watching the film alone that night.
It’s been almost 11 years since that night. In that time, I’ve watched The Blair Witch Project more times than I can count, often by myself. I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the boringly familiar, and have refused to see the unnecessarily gruesome and cringe-worthy. As new horror movies are continuously marketed each month, a feeling of déjà vu has begun to sink its claws into my psyche. And as much as I try to shake it, it only seems to haunt me more, like my own personal Babadook.
This era of the horror genre is just not that scary.
In 2016 alone, horror movies generated 4.3% of the movie industry’s domestic gross. This number is definitely an increase from previous years, which leads most to believe that the genre is thriving again. However, quantity does not account for quality. Last year, the average for horror movies on Rotten Tomatoes was a score of only 55%. Clearly, people are not holding horror in high regard. This trend seems to reflect a truth I hold as self-evident: big U.S. studios are killing the originality of the horror movie.
They say that movies are supposed to be an escape, and take you somewhere. Well, I’m tired of being taken to a place where some naïve girl is being tormented by a ghost, demon, or what have you. I’m tired of being able to guess the plot within the first 15 minutes. That subtle hint that the director slipped in about how the imaginary friend, little Sally, is actually a demon? Yeah, not so subtle. We all know there’s eventually going to be the need for an exorcism by some spiritualist who’s lost faith in God. It’s nothing new.
In an interview, Jason Blum, founder of Blumhouse Productions, a prominent fixture in the current horror industry, said, “I think the movie business is guilty of looking in the rearview mirror, looking at past successes for future decision… When horror movies have a little run of success, you have to stop the impulse to try and copy what’s worked, and encourage the instinct of trying new things.”
A mass amount of horror films each are guilty of creating films reminiscent of the past. What is becoming more horrifying than the movies themselves is the number of horror franchises, remakes, and sequels beginning to haunt our screens.
And yes, I often hear that all the truly blood-chilling movies are found in indie and foreign films. But, those gems are only produced about four times a year. Am I condemned to ceaselessly watch this sub-genre until the newest ghoul is conjured from the dark recesses of some twisted mind? No.
You can only eat filet mignon so many times before all red meats are ruined for you. And I can barely stomach this Burger King-quality horror as is.
So, giant movie studios, this one goes out to you: scare me. Stop creating these clone movies about a possessed doll and possessed houses. Give me something new to sink my fangs into; something that can elicit terror from its menu screen alone. Then, and only then, will my one-woman witch-hunt of your purely capitalistic “horror” films begin to wane.
And no, using the concept of mass suicides in a foreign forest for your clichéd film won’t do either. I’m looking at you, Lava Bear Films…whoever you are.
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