Disclaimer: The following article is clearly the views of Justin. These views expressed in this article, do not reflect the views of the other writers at OtakusandGeeks.com.
When I was younger horror films used to be something that terrified me. I used to be scared of films like "IT," "A Nightmare On Elm Street," "Halloween," "Friday The 13th," I love movies like "The Howling," "Night Of The Living Dead," "Children Of The Corn" and many more. Are these horror movies the best of the best? Of course not! Everyone has they own perspective of classic horror. I was watching the original "Nightmare On Elm Street" the other night. As I was watching the film a question entered my head. What happen to American horror films? When and how did we drop the ball? I decided to list five main reasons why American horror films are not where it needs to be.
1. Shock Value Over Scare Value: If you look at today's generation of horror. The main focus is shock value. Today's audience seems to like the philosophy of the more gore the better. Take a look at films like Hostel, the Saw Series, the remakes of Hills Have Eyes, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and many more. I'm not saying that gore scenes with torture is not scary. I'm saying that this type of technique is being overused these days. Most of the horror movies today are going for shock value. They're going for that I can't believe they put that on film feel, instead of a proper build up and intensity for the scare. Call me old fashion but I believe a horror movie is suppose to scare you more than shock you. Back in the days horror films had a technique called suspense. Movies from the 30's to late 90's had build up to the scares. The scares not only shocked you, but kept you thinking about it months after watching the film. Teenagers were afraid to go to sleep after watching Freddy. Police had extra patrol men on Halloween nights. The suspense kept you at the edge of your seat. Your heart will be pumping and you were invested in the story. I can still watch "The Exorcist" today and still feel intense build up. That's because in the old days they took time and effort to bring an experience that attack those emotions. Today horror is more focus on grossing you out than scaring you.
2. Cliche, Cliche, Cliche: I' am pretty sure we all heard the saying "Monkey see monkey do." This saying can't be far from the truth these days. It seems that every horror film has the same formula. Teenagers stuck in a middle of nowhere and a killer is after them, a family trapped in a haunted house, crazy killers torturing people or some poor soul gets possessed by a demon. Don't believe me? Do these titles sound familiar with these storylines? "Paranormal Activity," "SAW," "The Exorcism Of Emily Rose." Whether these movies are great or not isn't up for question. The point is these movies and many like them, suffer from the same overused set up, plots and even environments. I know no idea is original, but an idea can be original as possible. The same set up scares and predictable endings are hurting horror films.
3. Remakes & Sequels: "If it's not broke don't fix it." Hollywood seems not to understand this saying when it comes to movies. Horror movies have seen so many horrible remakes, that I don't have enough patience to name them all. Remakes and unnecessary sequels are killing horror films. Back in the days sequels were made if it was relevant and necessary for the story to end. Today sequels are used to put asses in seats and make the companies money. Did we really needed that much "SAW" movies? Did we really need a "Paranormal Activity 2"? To be fair did we need all those "Halloween," "Friday The 13th" and "Nightmare Elm Street" sequels? Sequels are suppose to be used to continue or end a story. It's not meant to be a cash cow like it is today. As for remakes go, why did we feel the need to remake "Halloween," "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and so many others? I know remakes are design to bring a classic to a new generation. If that is truly the case then how about you just remastered the classic and re-released them to theaters. Why do they constantly get a director who claims to love the film, then they totally messed up the origins (Halloween Rob Zombie)? I'm sick of the sequels and remakes. I want more original work in American horror films. Why do I have to go to Japan, Korea, Spain, Italy to get my horror fix?
4. No Substance: I do give "SAW"credit. The "SAW" movies have something that most horror of today do not. The "SAW" movies had a lesson to be learned, also known as the theme. In "SAW 1" the theme Jigsaw was trying to teach you was to appreciate your life, be grateful of the time you have. It made sense why he was doing it. However besides "SAW" the theme is either non existent or hidden. Horror movies usually make a statement on social commentary, political views or relationship differences. You really don't get that today. Where is the substance in these films?
5. Kills Are Too Predictable: Nothing takes an audience out of a horror movie then knowing who is next to go. I blame this on the writing, the setup and of course the film trailers. The trailers give away most of the scary scenes. The writing uses the same stereotype characters, that way you can guess who is next. The setup is usually when the person decides to split up and the environments are the same. The characters usually die in a bathroom, parking lot, alleyway, bedroom, etc. The music now indicates the characters demise, instead of making us feel tense about the upcoming death. Scream 4 is perfect example of this. Watching this you knew who was going to die thanks to the trailer. The build up to the kills was poorly done and you saw it more like a comedy.
Can American horror films go back to it's former glory? The answer is yes, but we have to give originality a chance. That is why Asian horror is so successful, they take time with story, scare and twist to incorporate an experience. However even Asian horror is starting to suffer from it's own formula. How do we bring horror back? It's simple folks we need to get back to basics. We need to be more creative, give those with original ideas a chance. We already took chances, made mistakes, but let's not get messy with this great genre.