We last left our retrospective during the 80’s, an era full of horror classics and cult film phenomena. It is as we get into the 90’s that we begin to see some of the more self-referential horror films such as Wes Craven’s “New Nightmare,” where his creation, Freddy Kruger, escapes into our world and terrorizes the cast and crew responsible for the creation of his movies. Other films like this included John Carpenter’s “In the Mouth of Madness,” in which an insurance investigator is pulled into a novel written by the man he is hired to track down. The self-referential horror film would later take a turn towards the comedic in Wes Craven’s “Scream” franchise.
It is here where the genre hits a low point, as it becomes saturated with gory slasher films. The demographic that once fueled their popularity became adults and the teenagers of the time became more enthralled with science fiction and fantasy. This era marks the birth of computer generated imagery with films like the original “Tron” and “The Matrix.” This prompted the release of even more comedic horror films.
Here in the present, the genre has become a tad more dormant as less and less theatrical horror films are made. While we begin to see more and more unique horror films made overseas, we also see some dark trends emerging here stateside. The first of these trends is “Americanization.”
As the term may indicate, this is where an American studio takes a highly successful foreign horror film and remakes it with an American cast and crew, often with mixed results. On the one hand, we get success stories like “The Grudge,” an American remake of the Japanese film “Ju-on.” On the other hand, we get debated successes like “Quarantine,” a remake of the Spanish film “REC.”
Another trend that has also spawned has been what is best referred to as “gore-nography.” Simply put, these are films where the emphasis is placed on gruesome scenes of torture and gore, the two forerunners of this genre being the “Hostel” and “Saw” franchises. This is a point of contention for many horror fans, both old and new.
The third trend we find is something that isn’t limited to simply the horror genre, but to most Hollywood films in general. Of course, I speak of remakes. As most people know, remakes have seldom managed to do well in the eyes of most moviegoers. However, remakes have existed long before the 2000’s with films like “House of Wax” being remade twice.
As we move into a period where the practice of “Americanization” begins to spread beyond horror, one must wonder what direction the genre will go. Will it go down the path where society will be terrified by only the most extreme depictions of human brutality? Will we venture down a path where we are more terrified by what we are not shown? Or will we return to a time of simplicity, where the cause of our anxieties can be easily edified into a single form or being? No one can say with any degree of certainty. All we can do from here is let Hollywood know what terrifies by paying for said scares.
Next time on The Weekly Reel, we’ll take a look at genre that once started out as horror, but then evolved into something all its own. We will leave the dark laboratories of Dr. Frankenstein and travel once again to the land of the Rising Sun as we take a look at Kaiju cinema.