Sunday, 16 September 2007

Modern Horror- Does it suck like Lestat?

Modern Horror- Does it Suck Like Lestat?

By Andrew Hawnt

No doubt you’re going to take me for a bit of a horror snob, but I have to say this. Modern horror is really getting into a bad state, and something needs to change. Hear me out.

Look at the current slate of releases. Remakes, sequels, and endless rehashings of tired old formulas. There seems to be a waning interest in original movies and a sadly growing fascination with no-brainers. SAW IV, Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN, hell, even WRONG TURN is getting a sequel! Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy cheap sequels and I do revel in B movies, but there does come a point where you want something NEW.

Hollywood is struggling, really struggling with decent horror at the moment. One factor in this struggle is the simple fact that all the decent writers are working in TV now (currently a vastly more lucrative market for writers). Another is that apart from maybe Lionsgate, there are few companies with the clout or the enthusiasm to push new horror to a wider audience. Granted there are many companies out there with either one attribute or another but never one with both.

There is a stigma against horror in many people’s eyes. Many execs think it is SUPPOSED to be moronic, and are more than happy to churn out more and more sequels with increasingly smaller returns and increasingly bad results.

The independent movie studio CINEMACARBRE is something I need to mention. Here is a
small company churning out film after film after film of the same old killer/slasher/teens in woods/haunted house/mass murder formulas. The films are shot for miniscule budgets on DV cameras and chucked out on DVD with covers that don’t usually give you a clue as to the essentially home-movie quality of the contents.

I admit I’ve sat through plenty of their movies and have taken some kind of perverse pleasure in predicting every plot twist and taking in every terribly executed (pun intended) special effect, but amongst their catalogue I can’t say there’s one title that I’d watch again. I’m all for movies getting made with no budget, but at least TRY and raise them from the mire of the formulaic!

I guess my ire is generally aimed just at the US market, as there still seems to be plenty of fresh blood (groan) to be gulped down in the Asian and European markets, where there is less emphasis on appeasing the masses and more on artistry and storytelling, tension and chills. Prime examples? Night Watch (I am yet to see Day Watch but am very excited by it), Pan’s Labyrinth (breathtaking), and the constant stream of Asian terror-fests that turn up on DVD in the west.

Why? Because these are films that, while they may adhere to some clichés, they do so with style, substance and the onscreen clout to pull them off. This is something missing from US horror, which has become a relentless mess of CG gore (CG gore?! What the hell is all that about?!), MTV style editing, generic plots, lousy acting and little care.

Horror is supposed to SCARE people isn’t it? Fair enough there will be the odd chill or the odd shock, but there are very few films out there that offer anything more. I want to be unsettled by horror films. I want to come away from them feeling slightly wrong about the world and I want to feel like I’ve got my moneys worth of decent direction as well as gore!

Rant over.

Incidentally, Romero’s new one, DIARY OF THE LIVING DEAD, sounds pretty damn cool, and works as an example of what I’m getting bat. Here’s a guy who pretty much invented the contemporary zombie movie genre, coming back with another entry which turns the formula on its head with a unique mix of ‘archive’ footage, drama and flashbacks that pieces together a very compelling story that many more American film makers would do well to take note of.

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