I have always been a horror fan. From my first exposure to the genre, when was a kid watching Bob Wilkins present b grade (at best) horror movies on Creature Feature in the 70s, I was hooked. And now that I am a (mumble mumble) years old man, I still love horror. Which is why it baffles me that so little of it interests me these days.
I don’t know if its old age creeping up on me or if the genre isn’t doing so hot right now, but increasingly when I sit in my seat at my local movie theater, watching the trailers for coming attractions, when a horror trailer comes on, I find myself rolling my eyes and saying “nope. Looks stupid” more often than excitedly turning to my wife and saying, “We are definitely going to see that one!”
It’s sad. It’s like watching an old friend die drink themselves to death.
I think a lot of it is that horror is a REALLY easy genre to get wrong. There is a very fine line between taut psychological thriller and boring snoozefest or between gore filled action and mindless torture porn. And it isn’t always clear where those lines are. So, it makes sense that many, even most, attempts at it are going to misfire.
If I really sit and think about it, I think that it isn’t so much that horror is going downhill so much as it is a genre that just isn’t amenable to the way big studios make movies these days. I think its probably the niche-iest of niche genres and it just can’t be all things to all people. But studio films HAVE to be exactly that if they want to make back their enormous budgets. And while I can’t say that you can NEVER have a horror film with wide enough appeal to justify the kind of money a major studio release entails (The Conjuring series seems to be doing quite well, for instance, even if I personally don’t really enjoy it) but it seems a very easy thing to screw up. And it is screwed up, far too often.
So for me, it seems that the best horror I am finding these days is lower budget independent fare. Some weird little movie I notice while flipping through the horror selections on Netflix or whatever. It seems that a lower budget (provided it isn’t so low that it could be doubled by the director chipping in all the change in his car’s ash tray) is kind of liberating somehow. It allows the film makers to let the movie be what it is and not to even try to appeal to everyone. Is a lot of it crap nonetheless? Yeah, but in the immortal words of Theodore Sturgeon “90% of everything is crap” but I find a lot more to like in the lower budget fare than in the big studio films.
And maybe it has always been that way. Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s when local video stores were still a thing, and those damned kids weren’t on my lawn, I always had a lot more fun finding some stupid little scary movie that I had never heard of than I did watching the big names of the day like Jason or Freddy. So in the end, maybe it isn’t that horror has changed just that I have gotten more honest with myself.