Wednesday, 4 February 2015

FEATURE: Too Many Horror Movies?

It's a question I, a lifelong horror fan, never, ever thought I would find myself asking. But, here it is:

Are there too many horror movies being made?

There have been so many technological developments in digital film making that have had a massive impact on the way movies are made and distributed, with equipment costs plummeting downwards, seemingly by the month. First here's the good news:

- Nowadays, anyone can go out and make a movie.

But, here's the bad news:

- Nowadays, anyone can go out and make a movie.

It's a double edged sword. Whilst the relative cheapness of digital camera gear and home editing software has enabled many a talented film maker to get their movie made on their own terms, it has unfortunately also allowed a wealth of half-assed efforts to flood the market, knocked together by people who should never have been allowed anywhere near a camcorder at a family wedding, never mind attempt to make a film.

There have, of course always been terrible horror movies around, since the birth of the cinema. Sadly, even after well over 100 years, the horror film is still considered the poor relative of the mainstream cinema, regardless of how much its influence permeates our cultural landscape. All too often, budding directors or shyster producers have seen the horror film as either an easy way to get a foot in the industry door or a means of turning a quick profit. This continues to this day, a sneering attitude towards the genre, where people with no passion for, or interest in the form think that, hey, anyone can make one of these horror films, right?

Indeed they can. Whether they can make a good, or at the very least watchable horror film is another matter entirely.

Every week, a few more releases arrive through my letterbox, and my heart sinks a bit further. The print is starting to wear off the forward-scan button on my remote control through overuse, as I speed up yet another interminably dull snooze-fest in an effort to see it through.

There's still good stuff out there being made independently, don't get me wrong. I was somewhat buoyed back in May last year, when House Of Good And Evil, Cheap Thrills and House Of Last Things (aka The Last House) all arrived in quick succession. These were three very different genre entries, but all very good films in their own ways, made by evidently talented people who appeared to care about producing something of substance.

Sadly, for each notable film like those, there is a glut of poorly knocked together dreck. I have no problem with bad movies per se. No, there is a big difference between a "bad" movie which at least manages to entertain (1972's Night Of The Lepus and Psychomania are two of my guilty pleasures), and a cinematic atrocity which commits the cardinal sins of being badly made, woefully acted and downright painfully boring. These are the films which our technological advances have allowed to spread like a contagion, with too many distributors all too eager to release them. Shaky camera work? No problem, let's just call it found footage. That damn Blair Witch Project has a lot to answer for... You'd feel conned watching some of this stuff on YouTube, never mind paying good money to rent or buy it. And yet, these things actually end up in your local supermarket! I tell you, if our major national retailers allowed the same lapses of quaity control in their food, we'd all have botulism.

Then, there's the matter of overkill. Take the zombie flick, for example. There has never been so much choice for a fan of the undead, but really... aren't we getting a bit bored? Ask yourself, how many of the numerous zombie films of the last few years have been at all memorable? Off the top of my head, Detention Of The Dead, Wasting Away (aka Aaah! Zombies) and Warm Bodies all spring to mind, because they all at least tried something a little different with the form, but beyond that I'm struggling, even though I've seen loads of them. One critic (whose name escapes me) commented that there are now three zombie films per head of population in the UK. An exaggeration, naturally, but it sometimes feels like it. 

So, what's the solution? Is there one?

Meanwhile, it's not all doom and gloom. 2015 has already delivered the very enjoyable Chastity Bites and WolfCop, while late 2014 saw interesting works like Soulmate and All Hallow's Eve. It's these moments of pleasure that make it all worthwhile, so I'm off to see what's arrived in the post today. I hope it's good...


  1. Great post, Richard. I can't recall whether you're a gamer or not, but it seems to me that some of the greatest work in the horror field is being done in that medium - it's a very rare film that matches up to the quality of 'The Last Of Us', for instance, and there's a thriving indie development scene creating low budget, ephemeral games that are guaranteed to create more brown trouser moments than any number of cheapie knock 'em out horror flicks. I'd be interested to hear your views!

    1. That's an interesting point, Geoff. Perhaps one of the joys of horror in gaming is that the jumps and scares are always different, or at least turn up in a different place every time you play. Meanwhile, perhaps it's harder to genuinely make that happen in a movie nowadays, since we're all so familiar with the stock jump effects and conventions of the genre.

      The massive success of Five Nights At Freddy's is interesting in this respect - simple gameplay, but plenty of fun scares, and a lot of the enjoyment comes from the impending doom when you know time and resources are running out.

      Saying that, I've not had a console since my Game Boy Advance. Maybe it's time I got my joypads out of retirement?

  2. This is no different to the explosion in indie and self publishing - just look at Amazon's kindle store for many, many titles that demonstrate not one shred of creativity, or indeed an ability to write. Put the tools into the hands of people who want to do something, but neither the self awareness or capacity to *learn* to do something, and this is what you'll get. Sure, there will be talented people who can now do something they didn't have the resources to do previously, but for the vast majority there's a good reason they never got anywhere. Is that a good thing, or a bad thing? Maybe it just puts the responsibility onto the consumer to be more discerning in their choices, as opposed to the editor, or producer. I mean, who *should* arbitrate the 'poorly knocked together dreck' and keep it from supermarket shelves? I can guarantee that you can find someone who will view 99% of the films on this blog as just that, and if you put them in charge of a supply chain you'll soon see the ones you DO like vanishing. If it's a choice between taking the rough with the smooth, or taking nothing, I think the former is a better option.

    1. Thanks for your very welcome comments, neofish. I do agree with what you're saying, I just find it disheartening when many supermarkets only stock 30 DVD titles at any one time (I've counted, being the saddo that I am), which makes it difficult enough as it is for independent productions to get shelf space next to the heavily promoted releases of the major (mostly Hollywood) distributors.

      When indie cinema gets represented in this retail environment by particularly poor productions, I do worry that it could put off casual purchasers from taking a chance on something outside of the mainstream.