Pop Off: Horror has turned over a new leaf
Published: Monday, September 16, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 16, 2013 22:09
Something rather unusual has been occurring in the movie world recently, a phenomenon that hasn’t occurred since well before I was born, and I’m tempted to say never before. Horror movies, often sitting dejectedly at the bottom of the genre barrel and so common the punching bags for critics, most of the time fail miserably. But since the 2010’s and particularly this year, horror seems to have turned a new leaf.
So far this year, we’ve had “Evil Dead,” “The Conjuring,” and “You’re Next.” While I’ve heard mixed things about each, all are sitting fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Last year, I called “The Cabin in the Woods” the best film of 2012. If you had told me at the start of that year that my top choice would be a horror movie, I would have laughed. Other recent successes include, “Sinister,” “The Woman in Black,” “Mama,” and perhaps the trigger of the trend, “Drag Me to Hell.”
What has prompted the sudden upswing in quality? Part of it is the people behind the screen actually have talent. Sam Raimi, the man behind the original “Evil Dead,” spent most of the 2000s working with “Spider-Man,” but is now digging up his roots. He produced the remake of his masterpiece, along with a new “Poltergeist” coming out next year. Joss Whedon gave Drew Goddard a hand in writing “Cabin in the Woods,” and James Wan returned from his hiatus following the first three “Saw” movies.
Credit must also be given to the mile-high stack of atrocious horror films that still haunt the market. Often the cheapest and simplest type of movie, horror is usually the choice of young directors and small studios. “The Blair Witch Project” proved for better or worse, that major money can be made with a minimalist approach. For a while the market was oversaturated with cheap and unoriginal slasher and exorcism efforts. These movies succeeded commercially by coming out at weak points of the year and funneling most of their money into marketing. Then “The Devil Inside” came along. It was a horror flick so cheap they didn’t even write a third act. Viewers were so outraged and insulted, they demanded their money back. While they didn’t receive it, it finally did turn many away from the sort, which has since seen diminishing results. Does anybody remember “The Awakening,” “The Collection,” “Chernobyl Diaries,” or “The Apparition?” Of course you don’t. They were released to much scrutiny and few ticket sales, but all came out only last year.
But meanwhile, Hollywood was taking notes. It was clear horror was a profitable genre, it just needed to be utilized properly, and in order to do so the writing and direction needed a tune-up. “You’re Next,” along with the very underrated “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil,” have brought meta-horror mainstream. And the genre has moved out of its niche subculture to blend with other moneymaking genres. “Warm Bodies” and “World War Z” skillfully combined zombies with romance and politics. Successful foreign horror films have also been subject to American adaptations and when in the right hands such as “Let Me In,” produce commendable results.
There will always be bad horror movies. It is in their nature. For every “Exorcist” and “Blair Witch,” there will be a hundred “The Rite(s),” and “Grave Encounters.” But those are steadily losing their spots in the roster of our local theaters. Now, if only we can stop relying on countless remakes to draw attention… ah well, baby steps.