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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Hump-Day Harangue: Where Have All the Horror Movies Gone?

Right out of the gate, I want to reiterate once again what a grand slam Sam Raimi hit with last month's Drag Me to Hell. So great to see an original, awesome, kick-ass American horror film again, especially representing during the summer blockbuster season. However, it has been pointed out to me by the insightful Scott Weinberg of HorrorSquad that other than that, this has been one piss-poor year for horror.

And you know what? I can't disagree. In fact, looking back at the half-expired 2009, I am appalled at the pitifully slim collection of fright flicks that have made it into theaters thus far. I mean, prior to Drag Me to Hell, the last horror movie to be released theatrically in the U.S. was The Haunting in Connecticut, and that was all the way back in March!

Not to mention the fact that of the scant films that have been released this year, so very few of them have been worth our hard-earned dollars. The Unborn? The Uninvited? The Friday the 13th remake? What's going on here? Aside from the remakes of Last House on the Left and My Bloody Valentine at the beginning of the year, 2009 has been nothing to write home about whatsoever.

Since the release of Drag Me to Hell, we've only gotten Dead Snow just now released on American shores--if you can count a two-screen distribution as a legitimate release. And although I haven't seen it yet, I'm not getting overly enthusiastic from the feedback I've been hearing on that one. Next week we've got Blood: The Last Vampire, which is a pretty decent fun flick for which you'll be seeing a full review from me in the next few days.

And looking on the bright side, we've got the likes of Grace, Antichrist and Zombieland on the horizon for the second half of the year, so maybe there's a chance that 2009 can be pulled out of the crapper. But even disregarding quality, its the sheer lack of quantity in theatrical horror films that's surprising me. What gives here? Are filmmakers, studios and distributors losing interest in the genre en masse--after a near decade-long horror boom, is the scream machine at last grinding to a slow and painful halt?

I certainly hope not. Maybe this year is just a sad abberation. I'm just hoping we're not heading into a down period, a la the 1990s, a decade so bad I actually think that Return of the Living Dead III was a major highlight (seriously). Fingers crossed, people. Mr. Raimi, thanks for saving us. Now someone, anyone, please take the torch and run with it...


BJ Colangelo said...

i tilt my head down. you're right. dead on.

B-Sol said...

Alas, I wish I wasn't!

Steve Ring said...

This has been a horrid cycle. Hopefully, the next one won't be even worse but it's hard to picture it trending far in the other direction. The mainstreaming of torture-porn is the worst thing to happen to the genre.

Tenebrous Kate said...

You know I love you and everything, B-Sol, but I've got to confess--all of the talk about the death of the horror movie has me perplexed. I mean... dude, I REMEMBER the 90s. It was pretty much a wasteland of "Leprechaun" movies and lousy Stephen King adaptations. For every genuine classic like "Dellamorte Dellamore," there were a score or more of films that made me say something like "HOLY SHIT--they made FIVE sequels to 'Children of the Corn?'" or "Mother of mercy, save us all from the milquetoast screen presence of Jennifer Love Hewitt" or "'Scanner Cop?' F'reals?" At least now, with DVD distribution and internet buzz being what they are, the foreign and modest-budget films that are out there are getting plentiful attention (positive *and* negative) and the "reboot" phenomenon is nothing more than today's marketing parlance used to describe what was formerly the endless sequels of the 80s and 90s.

If anything, I think the *percentage* of entertaining horror films released recently is significantly higher than what it was in the 90s. Hell--there were *years* that went by where I wasn't jazzed about anything being released, and for the past several years there have been multiple releases annually that have caught my attention (granted, they didn't always *deliver* on my expectations, but that's a whole 'nother "Oprah").

It's entirely likely that I'm spoiled by where I live--it's easy for me to catch the limited-run flicks on the big screen--so I might not be feeling the same lack of entertainment as other folks are experiencing. But believe me, it could be--and HAS been--a helluva lot worse than this...!

B-Sol said...

Kate darling, I think you need to go back and re-read my post carefully. Because I completely agree with you!

Hopefully, I have not failed in communicating my point that this decade has been excellent with the exception of this year, and that the '90s were indeed a horror wasteland which I don't care to return to.

Perhaps my rants are descending from the vitriolic into the incomprehensible...

Tenebrous Kate said...

Cupcake, carefulness has never been one of my virtues, and you are absolutely correct--I now see your cautionary warning regarding the 90s and the horrors of the horror genre at that time (the two "horrors" canceling one another out, mathematically speaking). I am suffering from post-traumatic stress--clearly!--and as a result I am just happy for what I get when it comes to creepy-flavored entertainment ;)

Anonymous said...

The creative juices are just not flowing for horror as of recently. I did enjoy The Last House, and Haunting in CT. Drag me to Hell, not a fav of mine. I have NEVER been a fan of Sam Raimi's work. But, I always still watch them and give them a try.

CRwM said...

I don't remember this vast wasteland of the late 1990s you guys lived in. Restricting yourself just to American productions, you had Dusk Till Dawn, Flatliners, Misery, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Silence of the Lambs, The Frighteners, Habit, The Sixth Sense, The Blair Witch Project, Sleepy Hollow, Ravenous, The Addiction and Seven. Add into that the foreign releases and you add Funny Games, Cronos, Ringu, Audition, Riget I and II, Thesis, and Cemetery Man. We could go on, but you get the idea.

Really the only thing that sucked about 1990s horror was the direction the already failing 1980s franchises were taking in their long and pathetic decline towards crap self-parody. If that's all you really watched, then yeah, you saw a lot of crap. But who's fault was that. The filmmakers were cranking out good stuff. You just had to put down Troll 2 and try something different.

B-Sol said...

CR (may I call you CR?), you've managed to mention a bunch of great horror flicks from the 1990s, granted, but I contend that there were far fewer than, say, in the 1970s or 1980s. Listing the gems from those decades would give you far more to choose from. In general, I think the '90s suffered from the oversaturation of the '80s, and a growing conservatism in Hollywood.

Anonymous said...

Ok Here is a list(Some have pending distribution/release dates):



The Box

Trick 'r Treat

The Lovely Bones

Paranormal Activity


The Road

The Wolfman



Long Weekend

Jennifer's Body


House of the Devil

George A. Romero's ...of the Dead


The Devil's Tomb

The Devil's Commandos




The Horde



And Soon The Darkness

The Crazies




B-Sol said...

YES! The Wolf Man and ...of the Dead are two I'm looking forward to big time! The second half of 2009 is very possibly looking up...

CRwM said...

Please, just call me C.

This is, of course, just a matter of taste, but I still think the '80s love and '90s hate is bass ackwards.

I don't remember the 1980s being a particularly great time for horror. I remember it mostly as sequel bubble, with cheaply made, subpar slashers and their derivatives flooding the marketplace. There were a handful of classics, but precious few compared to the 1970s or 1990s.

Seriously, in the 1990s, we had horror flicks winning Academy Awards. People like Coppola, Scorcese, Fincher, and Demme making horror films. The decade opened with Jacob's Ladder and ended with Blair Witch. I don't think you're giving the era credit for the quality it produced.

The entire decade cranked out at least one lasting classic every year, which is a great rate in any genre and is truly remarkable considering that, just a decade before, drek like the slashers ran the roost.

B-Sol said...

You know what? This might be worthy of an entire post down the road, maybe even a Round Table: Do the '90s Get a Bad Rap?

Might be a topic worth exploring...

Anonymous said...

Hummm amazing work....very good one..

Thank you very much...

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