The problem with today’s horror movies is…

Posted by Peter Hall - September 4th 2008 @ 11:39 am

The unfinished thought above was the prompt for the most recent LOTTD roundtable for blogcritics.com.  Guess what?  I actually contributed this time!  I’ll paste my finishing of that thought below, but before reading on I’d like to point you to the blogcritics post proper containing all our thoughts as well as this round’s other contributing members: Slasher Speak, Theofantastique, and the guy who puts the whole thing together, Zombo’s Closet of Horror.


The problem with today’s horror movies is they are not yesterday’s horror movies. I mean this not in a caliber comparison, rather strictly in temporal proximity. I think neither the horror community nor the fan community at large has had enough time to digest the current crop of horror output. I feel only time will separate the wheat from the chaff, that the current generation of horror acolytes have forgotten their now cherished classics were often not only ill received upon first introduction, but down right dismissed. The saying goes Time Heals All Wounds. I think as far as horror is concerned, time shows which wounds never heal.

Not nearly enough time has passed for this conversation to properly take place. Not nearly enough middle schoolers have snuck into current R rated films, had parents let them run wild in the sacred horror isles of a Video store (rare oasis they be), or had older siblings pass them an illicit DVD of a film so reprehensible it shall surely burn itself upon their psyche for years to come.

Times have changed. The arena has changed and, frankly, I think the old guard hasn’t. For the purpose of full disclosure, let me state the following: I am fairly confident that I am the youngest of the League of Tana Tea Drinkers. Barely weeks into my 23rd year on this blue ball, I have grown up with a different set of films than the other LOTTD’ers. I wasn’t weaned on the likes of black and white, of De Palma and Wes Craven, of Grindhouse or Italian shockers. I cut my teeth on Predator 2, on Alien 3. On Tremors and Army of Darkness, Lord of Illusions and Scream. I grew up thinking Slashers were a punchline to be laughed at. I caught the tail end of the golden age (as far as I am now concerned) and was none the baby faced wiser.

Did it change my appreciation of horror? You bet. Do I love The Thing as much as the next nut? You bet. Point is, I was rewinding VHS tapes of I Know What You Did Last Summer long before I had any idea who in the hell John Carpenter was. By the previous generation’s standards, today’s horror sucks. Hell, by my standards today’s horror sucks. However, let us not forget that a slumber party somewhere is full of bodies quivering with anticipation at the prospect of watching Hostel. Maybe they snuck the DVD out of their older brother’s collection; maybe their parents could care less what the kids add to the Netflix queue. Maybe they strolled into Best Buy and bought the flick without incidence. Whatever the circumstances, I assure you that a new generation of horror fans are cowering in fear watching the likes of Hostel.

And I hate Hostel. I think it is a terrible film, a boil upon our smooth operating genre. This love fest is coming from someone whose site’s title, Horrors Not Dead, is a direct reference to Hostel purveyor Eli Roth’s thoughts on the Cabin Fever DVD commentary. But just because I think the thing is a dreadful exercise in shock with no awe, an affliction spreading through the new harvest of horror films, that does not unsoil the pants of an adolescent batch of horror fans in the making. They eat it up and I respect that. I was first in line to see Jennifer Love Hewitt’s cleavage bounce around in a low cut top like some kind of rain dance to stave off a hook wielding fisherman. I had poor taste once, too. So did you.

However, aside from the current cohort of horror fans loving the films we versed in the genre lambaste, I still stake the problem with today’s horror is that it is not yesterday’s horror. The space-time continuum does not yield for us. Horror films are being produced and released at an unprecedented pace. Even the most dedicated of fans, new or old, can’t keep up with the niche throughput. Factor in the excision of latitudinal and longitudinal borders thanks to the Internet, cheap international shipping rates and region free DVD players, and, well, few can see everything.

The problem with today is its inability to simultaneously be yesterday. No one has discovered the real gems yet, the wounding 24 frames per second unhealed by time. Nothing is canonical, because nothing can be canonical in an industry of perpetual discovery. No one has time to pull back, take a breather and acknowledge just why the Spanish hit [REC] is a viral piece of cinema because they are too busy watching the trailer for the American remake re-titled Quarantine or reading about the proposed sequel. That isn’t a snide swipe at the current state of the industry, which anachronistically remakes and repackages before release even takes place. That is just the state of the game.

However, someone somewhere does need to pull back, needs to attempt to separate themselves from time and space, factor in all the variables and see what sinks and what rises. If that is my burden to bear as a modern horror blogger, so be it. No regrets on this end. I get to tell someone that Teeth is the millennium’s most unappreciated creature feature. That Altered is a thoroughly enjoyable twist on the alien abduction niche undeserving of its relegation to Straight-to-DVD obscurity. That I may just be one of the few people blown away by The Last Horror Movie. ThatBlack Water struck an indelible fear of crocodiles in me. That Storm Warning is a welcome relief in the overwrought Hillbillys-Rape-Locals brand of horror. That some studios still take risks on superficially silly material like killer plants and turn out horrifying product like 2008’s best horror film thus far, The Ruins. Or that [REC] will make grown men shit their pants.

I, not a film critic, just a film enthusiast, get to discover and share all those films with readers around the world. Every couple weeks I round up my own little big-screen-in-the-basement bound festival of titles chosen from blog of mouth. My friends, who couldn’t tell David Cronenberg from David Caruso, are routinely blown away by the new batch of horror out there. And when they aren’t, well, I just pop in The Thing and let ‘em discover how glorious old school horror is. Let’s not forget just how many horror films are released each and every month. I personally don’t see how anyone can cover them all with a blanket statement declaring, “The problem with today’s horror is…”

The only problem I find is there isn’t enough time in the day to discover what I’m missing out on.


rss 4 comments
  1. September 4th, 2008 | 1:14 pm | #1

    Well said.

  2. September 4th, 2008 | 1:46 pm | #2

    Thanks.

  3. Barry
    September 5th, 2008 | 8:01 pm | #3

    In a world of oversaturation, I’m glad your out there to try and weed through the crap and find us some modern gems Peter.

    Yeoman’s work!

  4. Matt W
    September 6th, 2008 | 6:50 pm | #4

    I am, as always, impressed with your writing. Although, with all this [REC] talk…I gotta beg for you for a copy.

    (BTW, sorry I never sent the review over to you. Launched a brand new website at work, haven’t had the time to write a review to send your way for approval)

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