There’s no denying the popularity in the horror genre, the unusual thrill people get from being scared. Whether it’s telling ghost stories round a campfire or watching it on the big screen, it’s a strange and popular activity and we can’t get enough of it.
Horror movies have been around and forcing viewers to retreat behind cushions or sofas for over 100 years now; starting as early as the 3 minute short film in 1896 by Georges Méliès, ‘Le Manoir Du Diable’, to the well-known unofficial Dracula adaption in 1922, ‘Nosferatu’, by F.W. Murnau.
Despite some of the classics still being chilling today and managing to send that shiver down your spine, there’s no doubt that it’s only on rare occasions where we get a film that is truly unique, original and terrifying. To put it simply, Hollywoodis running out of ideas. We’ve had our Universal Monster movies between the 30’s and 40’s, our Slasher flicks between 70’s and 80’s, The Zombie movies kicked off by the legendary George A. Romero, the supernatural and demonic possession sub-genre; all of these have pretty much been done to death.
By the late 90’s every sub-genre had been covered, apart from one of course; Found Footage/Handheld Camera/Mockumentary. 1980 saw the release of Ruggero Deodato’s infamous ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ which, due to its harsh nature and the use of animal abuse, was banned. Not much else was seen from this sub-genre, apart from the odd alien abduction movie which never really made it and ‘The Last Broadcast’ (1998), which mostly went unheard of. In 1999 at the Sundance film festival, a film called ‘The Blair Witch Project’ was shown, followed by general release on July 30th of the same year. The marketing scheme of this film lead people to believe it was actual recovered footage and that what they were watching was 100% real. Thus began the inevitable death of the Found Footage sub-genre.
What I’m trying to get across is that what is scary now most probably won’t be scary in ten or twenty years time. Just because the fear you felt towards a film is now gone, that doesn’t take away the quality of it, it will always be a classic and loved by many, but won’t you miss that thrill you get from being scared? Just as the 30’s/40’s had their monster movies, the 70’s/80’s had their Slashers and the 90’s/present day have Found Footage, is there a new sub-genre in the pipeline? Or a new way to experience fear in the form of a film? Or will Hollywood stick to the reboots and carry on recycling old ideas?
One film that stood out for me in 2010 was ‘La Casa Muda’ (The Silent House). The plot was supposedly based on a true story that happened in the 1940’s (the mention of films being based on true events always gets me intrigued).
‘The Silent House’, according to Director Gustavo Hernández, was all shot in one take; supposedly it was “real fear in real time”. The end result of this was that you had the realism and scares of a Handheld/Found Footage movie, yet it wasn’t playing along with that gimmick, it was unique. It wasn’t enough to keep me awake at night, yet it still delivered jumps effective enough to make a grown man scream. Unfortunately, the film was brought down by an ending that completely took you out of the “I’m in this situation with them” frame of mind, with a poor twist that managed to take away any fear you had previously felt in the film. It was so close to perfection and really showed us that there is yet still more we can do with the genre.
Part of me hopes someone does try and take this route again, preferably a European director and not an American one (Yes Americans, I am looking at the god awful Silent House remake), just so they can experiment with that style a bit more, put us in the characters shoes again without having to try and convince us they found some footage and that it’s real. But experimenting more with the genre begs the question: will it eventually get milked until it is no longer scary?
I will always be a fan of horror, even if a lot of it fails to scare me now. I still believe there is more that can be done with it, hopefully moving away from the annual Paranormal Activity sequel, movies similar to the Saw franchise or, god forbid, more Texas Chainsaw sequels. There are elements of classics that are still terrifying to this day, such as the use of shadows in ‘Nosferatu’, the idea of having an unseen killer in ‘Black Christmas’ (1974) and the mystery behind ‘The Blair Witch Project’.
It’s these elements that send a shiver down one’s spine, the mystery of the unknown. So what if someone could take all these elements and put it into something new, something that hadn’t been done before in the horror genre. ‘The Silent House’ almost does this, but we are yet to see anyone else attempt it; will it be like Found Footage, where someone has another crack at it in fifteen or twenty years down the line? Instead of a new sub-genre being created such as ‘real fear in real time’, it’s possible, for example, that monster movies will make a comeback; someone could easily take these horrific elements and project it into a particular sub-genre, where it would not normally be found, or will someone think up a technique that no one has thought of yet and use that in it, thus the originality of the genre being reborn.
All I can say is, until then, I will re-watch the classics and love them as I always have, I will welcome new horrors with open arms, whether they’re a dried up sub-genre or something new entirely and I will look forward to what the future of Horror has to offer us and just enjoy the ride. The average Horror movie will rarely scare me, but it can still make me jump and surely that’s good enough. Let’s just hope the genre as a whole doesn’t fizzle out and die, because I believe there are still unique and original ideas out there that are just waiting to give you nightmares.