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.