What the hell do you want, horror audience?
The horror audience has been the biggest tease of 2009. It flocked to the 3D remake of "My Bloody Valentine," flocked to then ran away from the "Friday the 13th" remake, stayed away from Sam Raimi’s horror/live action Tex Avery cartoon "Drag Me to Hell."
Blink and you missed "Perfect Getaway’s" opening. God only knows what will be the fates of "The Final Destination" and "Halloween II," opening this weekend. Will they line up for "Jennifer’s Body" or "The Wolfman" later in the year? What about "Daybreakers"?
Maybe the horror audience is so unpredictable is because horror itself is so fragmented these days. If there is one genre that is in its post post post post post modern phase it’s horror. It’s elements have bled out into so many other genres it’s hard to tell what even makes a horror movie anymore.
The "Twilight" movies have vampires and werewolves running throughout, but no one would consider them horror movies. Psychotic killers appear in as many crime procedurals and wom/jep stories as they do slashers. And ghosts? They’ve been popping up in things other than straight horror stories since before "Topper."
I’m a huge fan of the "Buffy" TV series but I count on one hand the number of times I was genuinely creeped out by it. Mostly I tuned in for Joss Whedon’s jokes and to see Sarah Michelle Gellar’s stunt double kick ass. The horror premise was just a springboard for a fantasy adventure series.
And we’re now in the post-"Buffy" era. How can you even find a real horror story amid all the "Twilights" and "Underworlds" and "Zombielands"?
To a certain extent I think the genre is letting itself down. Who were the scariest villains of the last two years? Anton Chigurh and Heath Ledger’s Joker. Who’s the scariest villain of this year? Still some time but right now it’s between "Inglorious Basterds’" Christoph Waltz and "District 9’s" crazed mercenaries.
Notice nobody from a horror movie is even in contention.
The horror genre used to be all about great villain roles, Lugosi, Karloff, Price, Englund. The closest thing we have to horror icon right at this moment is Tobin Bell from "Saw," and his character was killed off three films ago!
The genre is also letting itself down in the imagination department. Where’s the next HR Geiger? What happened to all those crazy images dreamed up by Clive Barker? Someone with clout needs to stand up and make a stand (Stephen King, are you listening?)
The genre is in real danger of dissolving, of becoming the next Western. Sure you see the tropes of the Western in just about every film out of Hollywood. But an actual Western? I’ve counted two in the last two years.
Some pundits say horror is dying because we’ve spent the last few years being really afraid. That between war and recession we have too many real fears in our life, we don’t need any fake ones.
Maybe that’s true. But when I’ve had the rare chance to be in a packed house watching a horror movie, most of the time the audience is into it. They jump and then chuckle nervously just like they used to back in the day.
There was a time when an audience shrieking in unison at a cat jumping out of a closet would make me role my eyes. Now it fills me with a little bit of hope. It still works.
The audience is still out there. Maybe they just don’t know it yet.