My Not-So-Secret Wish for a new Sub-Genre

Posted by Peter Hall - May 15th 2008 @ 10:00 pm

I’ve spent the last few days with this question rolling around in my head; What will be the next gimmick? What is the next generation of horror? Who will be the next vanguard and what, exactly, will be their guard?

Call me skeptical, but no one can re-invent the slasher. No one can re-invent the creature feature. No one can re-invent the psychological thriller, as much as I hate that bullshit term. No one can re-invent the apocalypse. Man vs Man, Man vs Nature, Man vs Self, Man vs Society. No one can even re-invent Man vs Naturally-Self-Governing-Society-of-SimuMen at this point. I believe there are still fantastic and refreshing stories to be told within those frames, but until technology cracks open a terrifying new vista of reality, we’re stuck with the same breed of story. Everyone knows what the payload is these days, the only real variance is the method of delivery.

The obvious trend avenue of choice is POV Media Horror. That ‘ole found footage bag. The conflict there is that, while certainly nowhere near over in cinema history, its exposure has reached a point where that gimmick, minority it be, also offers little new to the viewer. When it is done with just the right gravity, it can work wonders and contort the viewer in ways a standard multi-camera production of the same story cannot (ala [REC]). On the opposite edge, POV also carries with it certain expectations, which are almost always met by film’s end. You can also just fall apart at every turn, like Romero did with DIARY OF THE DEAD.

So, yes, faux reality is in right now, having trounced Torture Porn, whose span on Earth was as gracefully brief as that of a Mayfly, but I don’t think it has reached its logical station in cinema. Yet.

I will not venture to prophet as to who is going to engineer the evolution (if it has to be me, someone give me a check and let it be providence), but I will stake the next stop. I’m waiting for an enterprising young filmmaker to stage a real life horror film. To set it in a crowded area, “film it” with the cameras of the marks themselves and never let the cat out of the bag. I preemptively dub it Hoax-Horror.

Now before I hear the cries of, “Isn’t that just Reality TV? Have you never seen “SCARE TACTICS”?”, let me clarify. I’m not talking Reality TV. Predicting the past is, well, the epic fail of predicting. My prediction may still fail, but not because it has already happened. I predict the next stage in fear entertainment is going to be Hoax-Horror in which the people whom are experiencing the horror never get to know their assailant, mythic or man, had a zipper running up his back. Not anytime soon, at least. I think it will happen on a big scale and that its viral delivery and rapturous consumption by the public at large will make the Star Wars Kid sit at the back of the classroom.

The eventual fault of POV Media Horror is that we, the Media consumers, know what we shovel down our gullet. We may suspend disbelief, but we always know that what we are seeing is a gimmick. That someone could yell “Cut!” and that safety would restore across the land.

If, however, you were able to get a handful of tight lipped actors to execute a carefully orchestrated assault, be it by man or myth, and you let the non-actors become the film’s stars and directors…well, I think there is an outstanding possibility for a grand slam. Think of it as BORAT with BIGFOOT, or whatever your source may be. Orchestrate it at a rural town. Perhaps a high school basketball game where a guttural roar from deep within the school ices the veins of an entire gymnasium. Do it once, have some carefully filmed reactions hit YouTube. Let the first hand reports end up on Fark, Digg, Reddit, Facebook, MySpace, Adult Friend Finder – whatever. Let it simmer.

Then do it all over again a few weeks later, this time allowing a straying youngster to glimpse your Unearthly White Whale. He will freak the fuck out and tell everyone. His story spreads. Phase 2 complete.

Those first two steps could be repeated until just the right pitch of anticipation is met. Get a few legitimate media outlets to cover the story. Let it simmer again and then let the shit hit the fan. Have a planted student be assaulted by the creature, perhaps in plain sight, mayhaps only in sight of his equally planted family members (our oh-so tight lipped actors) on their newly inhabited farm. Who cares where, the frenzy will set in. At this point, ditch the simmering.

Before anyone has a chance to get a hold on the situation, you strike again. Swap all the Planted Family’s cattle with the mutilated carcasses of slaughter house rejects. Cap it off with a diabolical stalk through the town on the night of a Pumpkin Festival or some such. Not just one Crypto though. A whole god damned fleet of ‘em. Scare the ever living shit out of the small town, disappear never to be seen again (or catch a flight to Venezuela and start all over) and then let the YouTube videos roll. It’ll be on the DAILY SHOW before you know it.

Now here is the tricky part. Is credit ever taken? If Enterprising Filmmaker needs the ego noticed and he can’t wait 7 – 10 years for a statute of limitations, he should be ready for many lawsuits. If no credit is given, you’ve just pulled off a phenomenally successful bit of Hoax-Horror. Wait til your 60 and let the world know they’ve been had.

Is it practical? Not one bit. Fool proof? Not even close. Will a redneck shoot a friend of yours in a hairy suit? No doubt. BUT, could it go down in the history books? Absofuckinglutely!

Then again, I’m the guy who also desperately wishes that Man goes to Mars in his life time. I desparetly, desperately wish that when we do, some eccentric billionaire ready to sear his mark on mankind sees fit to rig the whole thing and our first live feed of a man on Mars ends with him being yanked out of frame by a gaggle of humanoid but inhuman “hands”.

A boy can dream.

I would also like to go on the record as saying I’m going to have to watch 4 hours of Nickeledon to be able to fall asleep tonight after posting that picture. As obviously fake as it may be, Aliens by far are the scariest thing in the universe to me. If your nose hairs just twinged a bit, worry not; that is just a whiff of me shitting myself until the sweet release of unconsciousness comes from dehydration.


rss 23 comments
  1. May 16th, 2008 | 8:13 am | #1

    “You can also just fall apart at every turn, like Romero did with DIARY OF THE DEAD.”

    I’m sorry, did I miss this review?

  2. May 16th, 2008 | 11:33 am | #2

    Nope, I just haven’t published it yet. I’ve got reviews for DIARY OF THE DEAD, OUTPOST, and THE DEATHS OF IAN STONE waiting in the wings.

  3. Brian
    May 16th, 2008 | 12:07 pm | #3

    If you find aliens that terrifying you definitely should not watch Communion with Christopher Walken.

  4. May 16th, 2008 | 12:12 pm | #4

    I don’t know what it is about them, but I have a crippling fear of bi-pedal aliens. They scare the ever living shit out of me. They are the only thing that does, actually.

  5. May 16th, 2008 | 12:25 pm | #5

    Busy man! Looking forward to reading your thoughts on DotD, which I have yet to see.

  6. R.J. Sayer
    May 16th, 2008 | 12:37 pm | #6

    when i read this last night, i had no idea what to say in response. there’s a lot.

    at one point i even typed out “god damn you, Peter” but decided not to post it.

    i’ve had similar ideas rattling around in my haunted house of a head, with the chains and creaking doors cobwebs, for years.

    i ultimately never did anything for a few reasons: 1) fear of consequences. 2) laziness. 3) booze. 4) the desire i have for all of these things to be real… somehow hoaxing them myself would just seem … wrong.

    of course, i still have the occasional urge to do something along these lines (not nearly as well planned out as the way you put it, mind you), and maybe someday i will.

    what bugs me, i guess, is why would you post this? why not just go do it? or communicate secreetly with some people and try to encourage them to do it?

    i mean, it’s a great article… but… i don’t know. i’m just a cantankerous old man.

    and yeah, aliens. scary as shit.

    aliens, bigfoot, and ghosts. the only things that haunted my childhood nightmares that STILL scare me.

  7. R.J. Sayer
    May 16th, 2008 | 2:43 pm | #7

    wow. communicate secreetly?

    i’m a mess this morning.

    anyway, i guess i really shouldn’t be judging you for posting this instead of doing it. after all, i haven’t done it. and you even thought it out and came up with a name and all that. nice.

    the only thing is, now if somebody does it, the War of the Worlds factor might be a bit diminished.

  8. May 16th, 2008 | 3:15 pm | #8

    Duendes!!!!!

    Anyways. Too much planning involved. I just wish it happened.

    And then just document the entire process, thus making two movies at once. When the cat is let out of the bag, release the documentary of how it was all done. Profit.

  9. Brian
    May 16th, 2008 | 3:26 pm | #9

    I was going to try something similar this weekend but instead of a horror movie I was going to try a subgenre of action movies – the bank hostage crisis.

    I’ll have the rifle and my buddy will have the camera.

    Can you say “summer tent pole release”?

    Disclaimer: This is a joke, please do not alert the authorities (especially not Bruce Willis).

  10. Sean
    May 17th, 2008 | 8:25 am | #10

    The sad thing is that even now we’re going through a phase that most refuse to acknowledge, the blatant rip off/”remake” of all the classics.

    I agree with you on the slashers (Hatchet did that in for me), the creature features (Because nobody gets the point that a werewolf with BUNNY EARS IS NOT SCARY), the acocalypse (I hope I’m not the only one bored by 28 days/weeks/months/years later, or the remakes of the ” __ of the dead” series) and I really hope that the psychological thriller (what psychology? its all in your head!) is quite dead.

    But my problem is that POV isn’t really all that interesting to me (I haven’t seen REC yet although I do have it) because a lot of the times it’s too…obvious to me. Cloverfield is a good example. I’ve never heard of a camera that high tech being able to do all that. Same with Blair Witch Project. If I was being chased through the woods, I wouldnt record myself whispering to the camera about how scared I am.

    What I really wish is that they’d have a mix of series, because I really would enjoy “Godzilla versus Michael Myers” or something. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine, and I snap up all the films like it (For instance, Shaun of the Dead is brilliant apocalyptic comedy! Laurel and Hardy meet __, or even just crappy Freddy Versus Jason.)

    But what I really want is an end to the mediocrity, where the directors push things together and the audience eats it up with a spoon. Hypocritical? sure, I know. That’s why I’m getting ready to watch Gutterballs, midnight disco bowling with brutal rape and bizarre death, to Loverboy!

  11. Sean
    May 17th, 2008 | 8:26 am | #11

    Oh, and I forgot.

    Zombie Strippers? hell yeah.

  12. Adrian
    May 17th, 2008 | 4:39 pm | #12

    Maybe you shouldn’t be so afraid of aliens. The Vatican’s official astronomer recently announced that there could be aliens and that God could have made them. What’s more, it’s possible that aliens on other planets never committed an original sin. So they’re nice people.

    Now that would be a cool alien flick plot. Humans find a planet inhabited by aliens that never ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Then we show up and corrupt them.

  13. May 18th, 2008 | 8:47 pm | #13

    Sean, I agree about POV not being interesting because of its style. I do think that limiting at all times what you show the viewer can have immense benefits. When done properly of course.

    I hate to talk it up like it is the second coming, when it isn’t, but I do think [REC] is the best of its breed since BLAIR WITCH. It should assuage any of your peeves as well. The camera is a television quality one and the man using it is a TV cameraman, so the reality gap isn’t as huge as it is in, say, CLOVERFIELD. Plus it is steady and focused at all times, very little of the spinning and what not.

    And yes, as cheesy as most would be, I’m all for mixes as well. If you can’t invent a new element, at least brew a new compound.

    Adrian, go write it. You’ve got nothing else to do.

  14. Sean
    May 18th, 2008 | 10:25 pm | #14

    Ah, good.

    And, once again, horror movies lets me down hard.

    Gutterballs was worse than the worst scifi film ever made.

    Apparently now people who make these movies rate and comment about the movie favorably on IMDB so people are suckered into seeing it, which is so low. (Even though I knew it was going to suck.)

    I also saw something about one where the murderer records himself with the camera? It throws back to that old film (the name of which I’ve forgotten)where the murderer records the deaths of his victims while impaling them with the camera stand, but it’s all POV.

    I’d much rather see a POV that was like yours. :P

  15. May 18th, 2008 | 10:31 pm | #15

    Sean, you may be have read about THE LAST HORROR MOVIE, which is a flick I keep meaning to write about it. I think it is a highly under-seen and undervalued film, yet is leaps ahead of the likes of CLOVERFIELD, DIARY and co in using the POV style as a method of comment, not just presentation.

  16. May 18th, 2008 | 10:32 pm | #16

    Oh, and yeah, Gutterballs looked pretty bad. Glad to know to steer clear.

  17. Brian
    May 19th, 2008 | 10:30 am | #17

    Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer has the most effective POV/camcorder scene ever. It was just one scene, but man, it was brutal.

  18. May 20th, 2008 | 2:47 pm | #18

    Sean, that’s PEEPING TOM, right?

  19. R.J. Sayer
    May 20th, 2008 | 5:20 pm | #19

    I don’t think that’s PEEPING TOM (the grandmother of Slashers – if PSYCHO is the grandaddy, that is). I don’t remember him killing anybody with a tripod in that one.

    Of course, it’s been years since I’ve seen it.

    Come to think of it, the only movie I remember seeing a tripod-impalement in is HALLOWEEN: RESSURECTION…. you know, that movie that was never made as far as I’m concerned.

    holy shit, i’m capitalizing. better knock it off before i blow my rep (that’s blow – as in ruin – my repUTATION, not give oral sex to a state repRESENTATIVE).

  20. R.J. Sayer
    May 20th, 2008 | 5:21 pm | #20

    hey, peter.

    what’s this “awaiting approval” shit?

  21. Brian
    May 20th, 2008 | 5:37 pm | #21

    yeah, for reals

    I’ve had several posts not show up at all. What about my freedom of speech? I know my rights!

  22. May 20th, 2008 | 5:43 pm | #22

    The spam filter has been flagging some legit comments these days. I had to de-spam two of yours, Brian. And that number 19. above us was flagged for some reason…I guess because it said oral sex. How dirty.

    If you ever leave a comment and it doesn’t appear right away and you really care about it being timely, just shoot me an email and say check the spam filter. I only do it from time to time because normally it works without a hitch.

    This is a small blog, but Akismet has blocked over 32,000 comments… so, yeah, glad its there even if its robo-no-heart can’t make its mind up sometimes.

  23. R.J. Sayer
    May 20th, 2008 | 8:08 pm | #23

    i’m assuming it also might have something to do with the weird capitalization on the reputation/representative thing.

    in addition to the b.j. remark, that is.

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