Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The "Death" of Horror?

So, I stumbled across this guy's blog, where he gives reasons why the horror genre is "dying":

http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-11229-Newark-Film-Examiner~y2009m5d27-Seven-reasons-why-the-horror-genre-is-dying

Well, pardon me for being skeptical, but I've been to this funeral before. Horror is always around, but the quality is always in flux. People seem to forget that, during any given point in history, there are always some true classics of the genre...and a whole lot of complete garbage.

Going back to horrors "golden age" of the Univeral Monsters, you had the classics like Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolf-Man, etc, all dominating the box office. In time, numerous sequels and "versus" pictures became the way for Hollywood to milk these franchises for every last drop. Eventually these series became a joke, with the classic monsters showing up in comedies with Abbot & Costello. The cry at the time? "Horror is dying"!

In the 1950s and 60s, irradiated monsters, space-men and vengeful creatures from times past arose on the silver screen, and horror started to thrive once more. Hitchcock created the prototype for the slasher with Psycho, and audiences started to flock to theaters. Of course, as time went on the irradiated monsters became more and more ludicrous, the space-men silly, and the creatures more obviously men in rubber suits. These films became punch-lines and gags, with gimmicks like 3-D and "Smell-O-Vision" becoming more important than the actual plot of the films themselves. Of course, most people thought "horror is dying"!

In the 1970s and 80s, we had the drive-in circuit, which were mainly films with low budgets and minimal studio backing (these films were also the backbone of the "grindhouses" of this era). These played in their theaters, sometimes for months on end, garnering cult audiences from word-of-mouth. Most were never huge sellers, but they were able to make a profit over time. (it should be noted that the midnight movie circuit was also a huge factor, giving new life to films like Eraserhead, Phantom of the Paradise and The Rocky Horror Picture Show that had previously flopped at the box office). Horror movies like The Exorcist and Halloween were able to dominate at the box-office, but the majority of the greats from the 70s were those films that found their audience at the drive-in.

As the home video and cable markets expanded, the drive-ins and grindhouses dried up. Eventually, you had a new market with "direct to video" films. While the majority of these were piss-poor, you'd still get the occasional gem that just didn't get its day in the theater. Hollywood has always chased big hits, and often won't take a chance on a film that isn't a "sure thing". With the drive-ins & grindhouses, the studios had an outlet for those films they were unsure of, putting them out in the hopes that they would find some sort of audience. Home video rentals made this redundant, so soon the shakier stuff was sent directly to video. Unfortunately, the increased visibility of videos soon led to these films getting a reputation for being cheap, crappy flicks that weren't good enough to make it in a theater. While this was often true, it really wasn't any different from the grindhouse days. Plenty of those films were crap, but the bad stuff was often overshadowed by cool, edgy flicks like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Evil Dead. So, now you have lots of bad movies clogging the video aisles, particularly in the horror section. What is the reaction? "Horror is dying"! Of course, this is the era that gave us Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm St, Hellraiser, Poltergeist, etc. While all those films had silly sequels, there is no denying that the originals were classics who made their mark on popular culture.

Of course, you get to the 1990s and 2000s, and you have a rash of remakes, self-aware parodies (the Scream series) and Japanese adaptations. Many of these are quite good, but the majority are awful. Studios now want to maximize their profits, so the marketing geniuses give us PG-13 fair, while later offering up "unrated director's cut" DVDs later on to purists. Is this causing the "death" of horror? I'd say it's just another typical bump in the road for the genre. The "torture porn" sub-genre is already beginning to wane, and there are still films that are hitting the scene that generate a buzz, like The Strangers, Drag Me To Hell, Let the Right One In and the upcoming Trick 'r Treat (which is getting the straight to DVD treatment, even though it has been hailed as a modern horror classic by most critics).

So no, horror isn't dead. It isn't even really dying. It is lying there, waiting for you to get too close so it can reach up and grab you when you least expect it. You may THINK it's dead, but that is never a good thing to assume when it comes to horror movies!

Monday, June 1, 2009

I LIVE!

Yeah, so.....I haven't been on here in ages, mainly because I've been crazy busy at work and at home. My kids have activities almost every night of the week, and I've been covering for all sorts of people at work. Add in an impending back surgery, and there really has been zero time whatsoever. Sometimes being a grown-up totally blows My apologies to all of my friends here who probably think I'm ignoring them....or dead! I'm quite alive....and I'm lurking in the shadows of your room! Mwuhahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

*ahem* So, for all the activity in my life, I really don't have a whole lot to say. This is the worst blog entry ever! I guess I'll highlight some recent movie/TV viewing, as well as my current reading:

Movies: The new Star Trek film totally kicked my ass! I love sci-fi stuff, and I've never been one of those Star Wars vs. Star Trek kinda guys. To me, both have merit. That having been said, the Trek franchise had gotten pretty stale, and the most recent TV series sucked donkey balls. I thought this new film had a great solution to the bogged down history of Trek. It did a great job of tying into the old continuity, while at the same time providing a fresh start to the series. Really, this is the best of this year's Summer blockbusters...so far!

I also checked out Sam Raimi's return to horror, Drag Me To Hell. Gotta say, this movie was a true return to form! It had the humour, gore and scares of the Evil Dead films, while at the same time seeming like a fresh new film. Damned good horror flick!

TV: I've gotten hooked on Harper's Island. Basically, it's a murder mystery crossed with a soap opera by way of a slasher film! The show is fun for anyone who is into the slasher sub-genre!

My niece has also got me hooked on 30 Rock, which is damned hilarious. She also has managed to get me addicted to Supernatural (she's like a TV pusher!), which is a way better show than I thought it would be. When it first debuted, I pretty much ignored it as yet another WB/CW teeny-bopper show, but it is really quite clever. I'm about to wrap up watching the 3rd season on DVD, so I can get caught up as soon as season 4 hits stores. My hope is that I can be completely up to speed by the time the new season airs.

Books: I'm currently reading The Heroin Diaries, by Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue fame. I'd previously read The Dirt, which was a memoir by all of the members, and found it to be simealtaneously the funniest and saddest book I'd ever read. Well, this book is similar...only missing the humorous parts. It features Nikki's actual diary entries over the course of a year, with commentary from him as well as others who knew him during this time period. Pardon my french, but the only way to really describe the material is "fucked up". It's probably the most insightful glimpse into the mind of a junkie ever, and it is quite disturbing. Not for the faint of heart!

Okay, that's about it for now. I know this is a pretty lame entry, but hopefully I'll get back to blogging on a more regular kind of basis here soon!