When did the appreciation for horror go wrong? It would be all too easy to blanket the toxicity of fandom overall – what with inane, nattering idiots battering STRANGER THINGS star Millie Brown, a fourteen year old actor, with a deluge of homophobic memes or breast-biting babies who fear leaving their basements but love to attack Kelly Marie Tran for acting in their world, for playing in their sandbox just because she had the gall to be the opposite gender of their own. To wit, I’d like to highlight the various insidious cliques that are infecting horror and pop culture fandom with their poisons. Try wading through the turgid flood of shit in the comments on your average article at Bloody Disgusting and you will feel the light of humanity’s glow fading slowly, in the same way that daylight turns into dusk. I’ve never seen people so viciously attack a genre they claim to love so much more so than in our modern, technology-heavy present. To paraphrase MEN IN BLACK, a horror fan is smart. Horror fans are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals.
Take, for instance, the mainstream and horror audience backlash against studios like A24 and their growing catalogue of horror films like the dread-laden THE WITCH or the adult onset fears of HEREDITARY. Both films are masterful at manipulating an audience’s terror and transposing them into celluloid nightmares. But ask your average horror fandom what they think of the recent HEREDITARY, and you’ll hear stories of audiences throwing popcorn at the screen after the divisive ending has unfurled. This is the clique of fandom that’s tacky. People rightfully booed (which… cool your jets, kids. It’s a movie, not a political rally) the ending of THE DEVIL INSIDE, but not because of the lack of understanding in the ending, but rather because of the lack of an ending. Or people who say that a film like HEREDITARY is great, but the story is basic, but cannot enunciate why it’s basic. Or they’ll use the goddamn keystone word everyone loves to spit out when something doesn’t meet their expectation – overrated. When someone says something is overrated, it just means they’ve tuned their taste gauge to listen to what other people are saying, rather than approach a film with measured expectations and the wherewithal to use their own words to describe how a piece of art has made them feel.
This culture where we’re fed images, sounds and videos at an ungainly rate means we’re instantaneously dismissive of something within milliseconds because it didn’t make us feel a particular way. So if a film works slower to drive a certain mood or tone across, our YouTube mainlining culture cannot abide it because we can’t slow down to appreciate it. Because much of modern horror film is based on jump scares and supernatural frights that when your teenage audience goes to see something more mature or darker, or slower it’s dismissed outright as boring because it doesn’t deign to lower its intelligence and pop off the screen at you. They would rather see a shoddily put together major horror film than one made with craft and care. I don’t want to sound like I’m dismissive of big studio horror at all because some of my favorite horror films in the last five years have been big wonders like IT and THE CONJURING 2. Admittedly, I don’t care to revisit IT COMES AT NIGHT — not because the film wasn’t the true burning horror film that the phenomenal ad campaign sold (poster and trailer :A +), but because the dark, dramatic overtones of the film make me innately queasy. Which means that yes, it’s an effective horror and an effective drama but because it didn’t hold your hand, audiences tapped out, because it didn’t fit their mainstream horror narrative. It didn’t work because it didn’t do what I wanted.
I’d like to digress for a moment and talk about your average moviegoing audience, which invariably leads me to Rotten Tomatoes and CinemaScore. Yes, we all agree there is an importance of critics in media. Critics have been and are the cultural gatekeepers in all media for as long as there has been artists and artistry. But your average movie going audience sees critics as the enemy of their favorite film. Just look at the DC debacle that rages on in some Reddit forum as I type this right … now. The fundamental misunderstanding of what a critic’s role in society has been muddied beyond repair it seems. Truly a critic’s role is for one person’s opinion to be given, not the be all and end all opinion on a movie’s worth. It’s meant to be fat for you to chew on to see if something is worth your time, not to dismiss or disregard your feelings on a feature. It supposed to give you an internal dialogue where you weigh the merits of what you want to see. Far too often I see people not seeing a film because of critical opinion or the opinion of a buddy’s post on Facebook. Go and explore art. To quote WE HATE MOVIES, “it’s okay to like a movie.”
Let’s talk for a moment about Victor Miller and this FRIDAY THE 13TH lawsuit and the tumultuous hubbub surrounding it. It’s too complicated and too full of legalese madness for any one person to form an opinion about. Unless you’re Larry Zerner, in which case, do go on. Anyone who knows me, knows that I live, breathe and eat the FRIDAY THE 13TH franchise, so you could imagine how this lawsuit is causing me a ton of heartbreak, not only in how it’s affecting the present of THE GAME, but what this means down the road for any future movies. There’s no good person in this matter, you’ve either got Victor who is rightfully seeking compensation for a work he created nearly forty years ago, or Sean Cunningham for not fairly compensating him all those years ago (a matter that has been a thorn in Miller’s side for years now, going back to his complaints in CRYSTAL LAKE MEMORIES). The true victims in all of this are the fans. However, the people throwing death threats and vile sayings his way are the clique of horror fandom that are most putrid. These cretinous mutants that hide behind anime avatars, keyboards, and the wall of anonymity the Internet affords them. Sure, I tackily said “fuck you” to Victor Miller on Twitter the other day when news of the lawsuit affecting in-game content for FRIDAY THE 13TH dropped. But this does not equate the utter madness social media found itself grappling with when the all-female GHOSTBUSTERS was announced. There was a seismic shift that ripped apart the fabric of common decency, one that’s tearing further and further apart with every new day. There’s no reason why you should attack an elderly man for trying to finally get a decent payday. Or why you should attack females for finally getting a franchise of their own in GHOSTBUSTERS or OCEAN’S 8. Just respect that a thing on the internet or in film isn’t always going to be yours. Nothing is the intellectual property of one person or one ideology. When it shows in the public sphere, it belongs to everyone. It goes without saying, but people need to grow the fuck up.
Mainstream journalists seemingly have short term memory. I say this because my eyes roll back into my skull every time I see an article roll across my Twitter timeline where rags like The Hollywood Reporter, The Wrap, or Variety act like the horror genre is a brand new invention. This is the clique knows as the “above it all” sect. They act like horror is a dirty little word, one that should be uttered in the darkest corners of the web and not the genre that’s one or the biggest moneymakers in the industry. There’s also this innate desire to dismiss horror as a less-than-noble genre. I mentioned HEREDITARY earlier, and there are articles right now that act as if a horror film can be well crafted or have excellent performances because that is reserved for costume dramas and Oscar bait. There’s also this feigned sense of discovery where mainstream journalists act as if horror has never been able to sell its frightening wares alongside biting social commentary. People act like the brilliant GET OUT was the first film to say “hey, we can go for the visceral gut punch and maybe dole out biting satire at the same time.” Horror is an intelligent genre dating back to George Romero’s racially charged intestine-muncher NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD or films like GANJA AND HESS, Wes Craven’s THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, or Bob Clark’s DEATHDREAM. I could name more horror that comments on socially-charged events, rather than the bottom-of-the-barrel drivel that most people commonly associate with horror.
It’s hoity-toity elites who willfully ignore the impact of horror, ones who would rather treat genre like the misunderstood stepchild smearing its shit all of the walls of high-class cinema. People who either declare that horror is dead or horror is dead as a doornail without realizing that neither of their statements is true. With all that said, sites and papers would have it in their best interest to have people with some knowledge of horror to cover these films. So often you’ll see people claiming ignorance on the subject of horror, but vomiting out bile for a few cash-in clicks. People who call 1974’s THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE shoddy and shamefully bad. Or writers for Vice who call THE EVIL DEAD and PEEPING TOM ’90s meta films. Or you have authors for popular horror sites squirting out exclusive articles with behind the scenes photos that have been in the public purview for years. It should not be a requirement for authors to know every genre to be able to write an article, but if you’re going to get paid when hard-working writers aren’t – take five minutes and do your goddamn homework.
I’ve already beaten this drum at Daily Grindhouse in the past when the announcement for the remastering of HALLOWEEN hit, so I’ll be brief. The complaints of purists have not ceased in the days since, and will probably never cease until the Sun freezes us all out. I used to hate the idea of remakes, but then finally had the rational thought cross my mind that new interpretation is an okay thing. Doing this allowed me to enjoy phenomenal remakes like THE HILLS HAVE EYES, MANIAC, MY BLOODY VALENTINE, THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, or FRIDAY THE 13TH (ish). “Let the past die. Kill it if you have to,” a morally gray villain once told us and you know, he’s not wrong. A HALLOWEEN that branches itself off to a new path isn’t going to erase anything the writers, directors and cast have done in the past. It’ll give us nuance, a different path to chart, a different interpretation of the events. It’s the biggest “what-if” film in circulation right now. Folks, you’ll still have Dangertainment, softcore novelists slash security guards, Silver Shamrock, Bucky and those dumb as dirt cops and their circus music accompaniment, hillbilly corpse fucking coroners, my love for Kristina Klebe and The Cult of Thorn. Even if you lock them up, burn them, bury them and pray they never die, they won’t. They’ll be on your media shelf or in your digital library and the perceived boogeymen at Blumhouse ain’t changing that one goddamn iota.
[Please be aware: Daily Grindhouse opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily Grindhouse staff, editorial department, or ownership, but we firmly believe in open expression and the right of our contributors to state their personal perspective. So there.]