Do Horror Movies Need A ‘HOT’ Hollywood Trend To Thrive?
Fans of horror movies. Are we are in a bit of a rut? Does the genre need a ‘big’ franchise every few years in order to keep things fresh? So I ask, does there HAVE to be a hot trend for horror films to thrive at the box office?
Ringu, a Japanese film directed by Hideo Nakata kickstarted an era of modern ghost stories. The film was released to critical acclaim in 1998 and in 2002, it was remade for western audiences by Gore Verbinski. The Ring was a massive success and it opened the door for similar tales and remakes like The Grudge. The supernatural horror film took over.
In 2004, James Wan and Leigh Whannell took the horror genre by storm with Saw. The incredibly violent tale featured a brilliant twist ending that ignited a huge trend that lasted years. Torture Porn was a trend that turned big profits for moderate to low budgeted horror projects. We got an annualized series of seven Saw films, three Hostel movies and three Human Centipede movies. Let’s be honest, looking back those movies weren’t the highest quality horror films. But the trend also gave us films like The Strangers, The Collector, Funny Games, The Devil’s Rejects and more.
With the torturous era of horror movies winding down the genre needed a new hot trend. Almost a decade after The Blair Witch Project introduced the found footage horror film, a little movie called Paranormal Activity redefined the genre again. The Paranormal franchise wasn’t the only found footage film out there at the time (The Curse etc…) but it made the genre relevant in the mainstream. The series eventually took over Saw’s coveted Halloween release window with a total of six films. In between studios took advantage of the trend bringing us [REC], V/H/S, The Last Exorcism, Trollhunter, Grave Encounters and The Bay. The found footage trend even expanded to include films like Chronicle and Cloverfield.
Recently, more big horror films have focused on a villain of the week approach. It’s not exactly a trend but we’ve seen a lot of modern horror villains emerge over the years like Bughuul (Sinister). Time will tell if this new breed of villains will take their place among the greats like Freddy, Jason, Pinhead, Ghostface and more.
Truthfully, we don’t have a trend right now. The slasher genre got a big boost in the Scream era of horror films but we haven’t had a big ‘hit’ lately. The ghost/haunted house genre is a mainstay with films like The Conjuring and Crimson Peak leading the way but I wouldn’t call that a trend. I don’t mean to suggest the horror genre is destined to collect dust like the western. In fact, I would suggest that many amazing horror movies have come along. Films like The Babadook, Goodnight Mommy, It Follows and The Witch are tremendous films worthy of your attention. But they didn’t exactly break the box office when they were released.
So what’s the next big horror trend? Perhaps it’s time for the psychological horror genre to take over? Are audiences ready for the return of the slasher? Are old school monster movies like Child’s Play and Gremlins ready to strike again? James Gunn made a fantastic attempt when he released Slither in 2006 but that didn’t really stick. It would appear Hollywood has finally stopped pumping out remakes each and every month. (Let’s bury that trend forever shall we?) Maybe bringing back a dead genre isn’t the key. It’s time for something original to come along and redefine the horror genre. A project that injects new ideas and bends familiar tropes and stereotypes to their breaking point.
We may not have an ‘it’ series to follow other than The Conjuring (The Purge?) but great horror stories are being created right now. Maybe the answer is simple. Maybe we don’t need a trend at all. Perhaps this is an era of pure originality without the need for established franchises and cheap sequels. Maybe horror audiences have evolved.
Filmmakers like James Wan and producers like Jason Blum of Blumhouse Studios will continue to deliver solid films horror fans crave. But what about the filmmakers in the independent world? Perhaps new superstars like Robert Eggers (The Witch) will usher in a new era for the genre?
What do you think? Does the horror genre need a big Hollywood success that starts a ‘hot’ trend? Or can a series of original stories rise up and prove what hardcore horror fans have known all along. The genre is alive and well. You just need to know where to look.