The Fear of Hollywood: The Status of the Horror Genre

In the spirit of the holiday, I decided to base my post on the condition of horror films in Hollywood. I searched the blogosphere for reputable bloggers who were equally interested in the topic. I sought to add my own comments and questions to the ongoing debate on the state of the horror genre. I personally remember peaking through blankets watching the horror films of my childhood and since then I feel as though no recent movie has lived up to my memories. The new craze is for special effects driven “torture” films, which I believe to be juvenile compared good writing and well-crafted characters. A superior horror film is not scary simply because the audience cringes or looks away instead the film creates a widespread mood of pure terror and anxiety. A truly frightening movie leaves the audience member looking around after each shocking scene for reassurance that what you are looking at is not real. I don't believe today’s films, like Saw and Hostel, ever make the viewer think that what is happening on screen might ever happen to them or to anyone for that matter. The horror genre is one of only a few film types where the audience reacts on pure reflex instead of having to think their way through a movie. My childhood addiction and attraction to horror together with the spirit of Halloween drove me to offer my personal thoughts on two highly regarded blogs. The first post I commented on, The Horrific State of the Horror Film is written by Noah Forrest, a regular writer for the blog Movie City News. Noah not only excellently analyzes the modern horror film but he also provides insight into why the general quality of the genre has greatly diminished over time. Steven Zeitchik a media and entertainment journalist for The Hollywood Reporter wrote the second post I commented on, HSM 3, Saw V, and the definition of torture. Steven’s article comments in detail on the transformation of the horror category into one almost completely dependent on torture scenes and human disfiguration. In addition to submitting my thoughts and comments directly on the authors’ individual posts, I have also attached these comments below.

“The Horrific State of the Horror Film”
First off, thank you for your thoughtful and succinct post. You appear very knowledgeable with the on goings of the film industry. I am equally unimpressed with the quality of horror films being made today and I feel as though most of your arguments take the words right out of my mouth. While you do not cite other sources you provide ample examples that support your claims. Perhaps some readers may have been turned off by the lack of quotes and citations I however found the structure very inducive to having a conversation. After reading several other articles regarding this topic, I felt that you sympathized the most with horror fans. I agree with your final remark that in all cases in Hollywood, it is all about the money. Despite directors and producers asserting to be fellow supporters and fans of horror films you very accurately show it to be simply greed. Given the evident motive of easy profits, do you think there is anything average viewers can do to stop the lambasting of our favorite horror franchises and characters? The American horror film viewing public is not even aware of the negative effects that go with purchasing a ticket for "Saw VI". The only suggestion I have would to perhaps add some box-office receipts and DVD purchases to show how each viewer shapes the horror film production slate. Overall you wrote a very strong post about a topic that numerous others and myself are very passionate about. Thank you again, and I look forward to your 3rd annual horror film update, which I hope for the both of us, will be more positive or at least optimistic.

“HSM 3, Saw V, and the definition of torture”
Thank you for your comprehensive blog on the success of horror franchises. While your remarks on the topic are more data intensive than analytical, I do believe that you have noticed a downward trend in the quality of today’s horror films. I am shocked to see that there is still life in the “Saw” franchise despite the annual release schedule and zeitgeist. The horror films today lack the very essence that defined the genre. These “torture” films offer the audience nothing more than a cringe or shudder at the grossness of the situation rather than the possibility that it may be real. After watching “Saw”, I did not find myself lying awake in bed wondering what I would do if someone trapped me in a room with a slicing contraption around my neck, because that would never happen. Films like “Saw” and “Hostel” are not like “Jaws” where I was afraid to go in a swimming pool for months let alone the ocean. I am extremely disturbed to hear that “Saw” is now Lionsgate’s holy grail, are the industries and major studies merely taking advantage of a dedicated and loyal audience base? I understand that Hollywood is a business and consistency is very rare however are the numerous remakes and franchise additions building a creatively stifling genre? I am also interested to see how critics’ approval rating has had no affect on the box office receipts these horror movies receive. It appears that creativity and quality do not go hand in hand with profitability especially in horror films? As evidence from the article’s indifferent tone, I am curious if you believe this is an incurable dilemma or if you reserve some hope that there may be a revitalization of the genre coming. You use appropriate data in your blog, which greatly adds to its credibility. Aside from my suggestions, I truly appreciate your blog as it has certainly aided me in my search for the reason Hollywood continues to put out lackluster horror films.

1 comment:

Chris Jahnle said...

Thank you for a comprehensive blog post on the direction Hollywood has decided to take the horror genre - straight to the bank. As someone who is passionate about art of all types including movies, music and writing, to see these franchises get produced and then rehashed numerous times without any real artistic integrity is a great disappointment. I can certainly relate to feeling scared for days after seeing a movie like Jaws and feel the most disappointed by the current state of the horror genre because there are no great films to balance the franchise fluff. I thought you did a great job of establishing this point in your post through the blog posts you chose to comment on and with your initial synopsis on the horror genre. Your comments are focused and provide excellent questions to create a discourse with others posting on this topic. I was recently discussing this phenomenon with a friend, and the focus of our conversation eventually fell to horror films. After discussing the Saw series, as well as the Halloween and Chucky franchises he raised a valid point "there has always been a horror movie that comes out on Halloween." It seems as though Saw has filled that role, and will continue to for another year or two. Do you think that if a few quality horror movies were produced in the next few years they could challenge the "Halloween phenomenon" that has been an excuse for substanceless blockbusters? Do you think there is any hope for the horror genre? Or will it remain just a money machine?

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