Are We Horror Fans Becoming Too Jaded to Enjoy the Genre?
It’s a really tough world out there for any aspiring filmmaker within the confines of the horror and science fiction genre; it’s even tough for those established within it these days, as well. It seems that every day a new idea is announced and is then promptly met with cynicism, doubt, or anger. What happened? More importantly, why is this happening? Are we, as fans, killing the genres that we all collectively love with our bad attitudes?
In short…no, definitely not. I’m sure that these movies are going to continue whether we like it or not. Something we are doing, however, is putting a severe buzzkill on almost everything that seems slightly different or unusual. Especially when it comes to new ideas in franchises that we’ve grown up with.
Case in point: this week, a poster for a new The Amityville Horror movie, titled Amityville: The Awakening was met on twitter by widespread criticism and annoyance. Much of this, well, almost all of this has to do with the fact that the poster looks like it’s coming straight from someone’s Instagram feed…which, duh, it’s supposed to. Apparently, many are not fans. They’re claiming it’s ridiculous, that the movie will be nothing more than a bad joke, that “social media is ruining horror movies” (yes, I read that). All due to one small cog in the bigger marketing scheme. All I really see with this poster is a way to try and connect with the times. Judging from the reaction, it doesn’t seem to be. However, that’s on us. I feel that it’s because we’re just too cynical. Is the poster a little bit silly? Yes. No one is denying that. However, it’s just that: a silly poster.
I’m not going to sit here and write essays on why this one poster isn’t actually all that bad, because in reality, the issue is much bigger than one movie. It seems to be spreading throughout the genre like a sickness that I myself have even come into contact with from time to time…something that I woefully admit. The truth hurts sometimes, I guess.
See, we as horror movie fans have become very jaded. Nothing is good enough anymore. It’s not scary. We hate jump scares. There is no originality anymore. Remakes are horrible. Or something like that. I’m sure everyone who’s currently reading this had heard some of those complaints. It goes even farther back than with recent movies, though; in a world of a desensitized youth, I’ve heard people tell me that, “The Exorcist, yeah sure, it was okay, but it wasn’t scary at all.”
I don’t think many of us see the broader picture. If The Exorcist doesn’t scare you, that does not make it “not scary.” Us fans have a tendency to speak on behalf of the entire community when complaints are thrown about, often on an electronic soapbox such as Twitter or Facebook, and you know what? That’s perfectly understandable. It’s what we’ve been conditioned to do in this day and age. We all have opinions, and we all like to be heard; however, it needs to be stressed that as a fan base we are bigger than one single person. We are all part of one worldwide community. We should try and keep that in mind.
So, maybe that’s the issue. Maybe with our virtual soapboxes, we’re all just getting caught up in our egos. Every horror fan has “seen everything.” We’re all looking for something to “actually scare us,” or an idea that’s “original…for once.” Even breakout films like 2015’s It Follows was met with harsh criticism in places that seemed unnecessary, calling it “overrated” or “not that great.” Why? If we like something, why do we feel the need to constantly peck at it until we finally find something wrong with it?
I think the answer quite simply has to do with expectation versus reality. Put plainly, we expect films to be a certain way, and when they aren’t, we hate saying that we’ve been proven wrong. Even I was a perpetrator of this, as seen in my review of January’s The Boy, in which I saw something that to my tastes looked like it would bomb but ended up being awesome. In the opening sentence I start the review of by saying “creepy dolls are nothing new”. I’m guilty of being jaded and cynical at times, as well. Right off the bat you can see where my brain automatically started to look for something that I wouldn’t like about the film, justifying my hesitance to go into it with an open mind. Ultimately, the film provided a great opportunity for me to learn how to not judge a film by preconceived notions as to what it will be before seeing nothing but a trailer and a few posters.
While this certainly won’t be killing the horror industry any time soon (the box office numbers don’t lie), what it does do is make other potential fans feel ostracized and criticized for positive opinions on films that we may not feel the same way about. For example, picture yourself speaking to someone and having them tell you that The Boy was hands down, bar-none the scariest film that they’ve ever witnessed in their entire life. They’ve just expressed an interest in the genre to you…and you react ay laughter. “That’s not scary. You obviously know nothing about horror, then,” may seem like an appropriate response…but in reality, all that does is dissuade someone from learning more about the community and the films that we embrace. Instead of promoting horror to the world, we’re showing by our attitudes that this is a closed circle and unless you’ve been in it since birth, you’re not allowed in. A proper response would be to say, “Well, if you liked that, maybe you’d like…’X’ as well!” With this mindset, we are encouraging others to love and respect the genre as much as we do instead of making them feel stupid for their “wrong” or “inexperienced” opinions.
While there are times that we as fans do feel completely letdown by a movie – let us not forget the A Nightmare on Elm Street remake – it’s important to note that for every one dud, there’s probably about five good ones. I could name about ten worthwhile movies off of the top of my head from the same year the remake came out (Inisidious and the I Spit on Your Grave remake came out that year, after all). These aren’t franchise-destroyers. We still have the rest of the ANOES film catalogue, and directors/screenwriters these days are smart enough to know that sometimes stepping too far out of the box doesn’t work. But hey – it was worth a shot. Now we know what we don’t want in a Freddy Krueger film. I’d even venture to say that I’d give Jackie Earle Haley (Freddy in the remake) another shot; maybe the first time just isn’t the charm. Anything is possible.
To clarify: am I saying that you should just blindly enjoy every single horror movie in the genre? No. Not at all. Some are terrible. Some are actually beyond terrible…beyond any normal human’s comprehension as to what the Hell is even going on. But you know what? It’s still fun. Unless a film is personally insulting you, there’s fun to be found in almost every single movie out there. You don’t like the acting? Fine. Focus on the effects. You don’t like the effects? Well, how’s the soundtrack, then? There’s so much that goes into these films that taking one aspect of it and letting it shatter the entire thing seems a bit silly. There are so many movies out there to fit every single person’s taste that by hating on all recent movies, we seem just a bit uneducated about the genre. Being a horror fan is one of the greatest things in the world; we have a near endless supply of great things to love about it with new additions almost every month, and yet, we’ll still complain.
We’ve got to stop this thought process. We’ve got to remember back to a time when we first learned about the genre. I can remember seeing Halloween for the first time, wide-eyed and full of wonder. I remember thinking, “How’d they do those effects? How did they make this movie work?” Ever since, I’ve still been captivated. I’m still impressed every time I see a filmmaker trying a new idea or simply using one that’s tried and true. I still try and go into every movie I see with the biggest sense of optimism that I can muster…even though, admittedly, it’s not always that easy. At my fictional school of all things horror, we have but one golden rule:
“Don’t knock it ‘til you try it.”
When I speak to other fans who only complain about the movies these days, I have to ask…are you really even a fan anymore?