The Truth About Scary Movies
Halloween season is starting to roll around again. Everyone knows we are in for the season of brisk weather, oversized candy bags, skimpy costumes, and scary movies. There is just one problem: scary movies are just not good anymore.
Think about how many recent “horror movies” you have seen and enjoyed. Now think about how many of those films you could seriously say “you know what… that was a really good movie,” like the way you would describe the latest Christopher Nolan or David Fincher project. Unless you are a Cinephile, the answer is probably less than five. This is a terrible percentage considering that around 612 horror movies are made each year in the United States alone. You might be expecting me to point the finger at film directors for this “drop” in quality; but I honestly think directors have gotten better. We are the ones to blame, because we as an audience expect horror movies to be bad even before we start watching them.
In other words, scary movies are a joke. Just think about all the endless Vines and YouTube videos all over the internet that parody horror movies, or even satire movies like Scary Movie that ridicule the genre. Or even how we watch slasher films with our friends late at night because the idiocy of some of the characters makes us laugh. I mean sure, anyone can still be horror-stricken by an old fashioned jump scare now and then, but most scary movies nowadays lack any real surprise. They are mostly just the same formulaic plot regurgitated with different actors and settings. We as an audience can predict what is going to happen from the get-go to the finale, mostly because we have learned all the clichés.
These clichés are not necessarily bad by any means; in fact, you will be hard pressed to find a film genre that does not have its own clichés (looking at you, Superhero movies). Yet Horror tropes have morphed into a different class of their own. Just think about how ridiculous some of them are; the black man or the “dumb blondes” always die first. Cars never start when they need to. The characters (always six of them, for some reason) split up to make it easier for the killer to pick them off. There is always classic mirror scare where a person looks into a bathroom mirror only to see a ghost or some other creature staring back at them (and do not forget the accented music cue to go with it); Killers who are basically un-killable until the protagonist discovers their own kryptonite. And of course, the most famous of all, characters that inevitably fall over nothing while being chased (maybe over the movie’s plot holes?) end up being killed.
Now I am not by any means saying there are not any good scary movies, that is not true at all, I mean just a few months ago the movie “Don’t Breathe” came out and got an 87% on Rotten Tomatoes. All my friends who saw it said how good it was. We should come to expect that level of quality in most horror films and not be surprised when we catch it the 1 out of 10 times it actually happens. Horror has always been one of the most important genres in the history of film. Just think about classics like Psycho, Jaws, Dracula, The Shining, The Exorcist, The Thing, etc. Sure some of those movies seem campy and silly to us now, but back then they totally scared the crap out of everybody, and you know why? Because they brought something different to the table, every time. Those movies brought the audience’s deepest and darkest fears to life on the big screen, and for some reason there is almost nothing that intrigues us more than the monsters we fear, and that intrigue beckons us to watch these scary films.
Instead of trying to dig in a little deeper past the clichés in attempts to surprise us, horror movies nowadays try to play to the nostalgia factor and scare us again by re-using whatever worked in the past, which is why we get remakes of movies like Carrie and The Blair Witch Project. But that is only making it worse for the genre as a whole. For every low quality Blair Witch Project remake, the less we expect to see in future movies, driving both audiences and talented directors towards other genres. Sure, the studios are partly to blame for not attempting to surprise us anymore, but again, they do the same thing with other movie genres. If studios keep pushing out Superhero movies at this pace, then we are also eventually going to lose the “wow” factor we currently have about them, and audience excitement for them will wane and eventually the genre will fall behind. Actually I think this already slowly happening and no amount of Marvel or DC fanboys can make up for that.
I believe there is a way to convince movie studios to put more effort into their horror movies and simultaneously increase our expectations about them. It is a pretty simple plan: Just stop going to see bad horror movies at the theatre. Shoddy horror film franchises make a surprisingly enormous amount of money. Sinister 2 made 53 million on a budget of only 10 (13% on Rotten Tomatoes), the Lazarus Effect made 38 million on a 3 million budget (14%), and Annabelle made 257 million worldwide on only 6.5 million (29%); That is an extremely high return on investment for film studios.
It seems as if making bad, low-effort horror movies is a surefire return for them. Studios need to wake up and stop making bad movies, and audiences need to stop rewarding them for their failures. It is pretty easy to tell even based off trailers whether a movie will actually be bad, and if a movie seems bad, then just stay as far from it as possible; go see something else instead, or go do that English paper you were putting off. Once horror movies start bombing at the box office, studios will be forced to adapt, make better quality ones, and surprise audiences for once, which will recreate interest in what is now a dying genre. Horror movies are an extremely important category in film history and should not be left to rot and made fun of, so guys, let’s please try and make horror movies great again.
If you want a scary flick to watch this Halloween, I recommend you check out these 5 horror movies:
1.) The Witch (2015).
Directed by Robert Eggers in his debut. Starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, and Kate Dickie. (91% Rotten Tomatoes)
This fantastic movie takes place in 17th Century New England and puts a thought-provoking spin on the story of the witch trials, delving deeper into a family’s descent into religious hysteria and madness. It combines accurate historical detail with beautiful imagery and makes you more afraid of the things off the screen than on them.
2.) The Babadook (2014).
Directed by Jennifer Kent. Starring Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman. (98%)
A movie about a monster haunting a family that actually ends up being a heartfelt and genuine story. The movie does not rely on any gore or even a real monster to frighten you, but instead scares the living daylights out of you with traditional horror that builds up inside your mind.
3.) A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014).
Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour. Starring Sheila Vand. (95%)
A Persian-Iranian horror film (do not worry, subtitles will not hurt you) that takes place in an Iranian ghost town and depicts the doing of a lonely female vampire. The movie acts as both a horror film and a heartfelt vampire romance that touches on feminist themes and makes you afraid to walk alone across campus at night.
4.) Green Room (2016).
Directed by Jeremy Saulnier. Starring Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, and Sir Patrick Stewart. (91%)
A gory and relentless film that follows a struggling punk band who find themselves on the run from neo-Nazi skinheads after being in the wrong place at the wrong time and witnessing a murder. The movie is a roller-coaster thriller that combines great acting with an intelligent plot and pays homage to classic punk bands of the 70’s.
5.) It Follows (2015).
Directed by David Robert Mitchell. Starring Maika Monroe and Keir Gilchrist. (97%)
Following a sexual encounter, a girl is followed by a supernatural entity that continuously inhabits the bodies of people around her. A movie that brings a famous urban legend onto the big screen and throughout the story creates this feeling of dread that makes the audience extremely uncomfortable and paranoid. The sensation keeps growing and growing until all hell breaks loose. It is a smart and creative flick that is, above all, absolutely terrifying.