The Death Of Scary Horror Films

I read once that two of the most common fears are heights and clowns; but in that case why aren’t clowns the monster in every horror film? Well when I thought about it some more I realised these are very difficult fears to convey over film. The fear of heights applies more to the fear of falling from said height, not the height itself. Filming from the top of a tall building would probably not set off someone’s acrophobia. And clowns are difficult because for every one person who’s scared of clowns there are 5 people that would find the idea of a scary clown ridiculous.

What I’m trying to say in a very long-winded way is that what scares one person; does nothing for someone else. And this factor is what makes the horror genre so hard to get right. For every Halloween there’s a Saw 12 (not an actual film- thankfully). But even so it still annoys me that that there are hundreds of horror films out there that still, to certain principles, ruin a horror film.

As far as I’m concerned there are two main factors that annoy me when it comes to horror movies. Firstly, it is the idea of franchising. Horror franchises have been around forever. That’s fine, and completely understandable. Using the same character and revolving plots around them is a lot easier for studios, and it also means audiences knows the character and will watch a film about them again. Most horror films rely on a central antagonist and if a film contains a good one then it makes sense to use the character again. It’s the way the studios treat the films that’s the problem. A film in a horror franchise isn’t created with the emphasis of quality, instead it’s created to fit a release date. The current batch is the Paranormal Activity series, a new film is released every Halloween, and the next in the franchise is announced once a decent box office return has been released. It’s upsetting that the first film got made because of passion and determination, whereas the sequels got made so that the central idea could be drawn out as much as possible.

My second problem with modern horror is the sub-genre of ‘torture porn’. Hostel and the Saw sequels took this idea and used it over and over again. Gore is fine, it’s an essential part of many horror films (not all), but it feels like it’s gotten to the point where the idea is to shock the audience, not scare them. Blood gushing everywhere isn’t scary, it’s shocking. There’s a difference.

I understand that not everyone is going to agree with me on this, but I do think that the horror genre is relying on too many genre staples. How would I change it? Nothing major. Just a couple of simple thoughts to keep at the back of your mind when you’re creating a horror film:

1. What scares you, and why? Because if you’re looking at a shot thinking that looks cool instead of that scary, you’re probably doing it wrong.

2. Are you making a film that’s scary or shocking? Shocking is showing someone being cut in half, scary is the build-up.

3. Are you trying to make a film or a franchise? Because you’ll be proud of a film whereas building a franchise has the potential to disappoint you. Because in most cases they will only get worse.

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