ByDrew Grimm Van Ess, writer at
Horror aficionado/nerd. Follow my blog for film reviews, book reviews, and interviews.
Drew Grimm Van Ess

It's a sad day when the most common thing said about horror is, "they just don't make them like they used to". What's even more sad, is that I can't disagree. Horror is not dead, never will be, that's a ridiculous statement. However, horror is riding in the backseat right now, and I'm going to tell you why:

Like everything else in the world today, everyone wants to see everything. Mystery is stupid and a waste of time. Everyone wants to see eyeballs being eaten and heads being sawed off. But, guess what? It's that right there that has put horror where it's at! It's all guts and gory now. There's no tact to scary movies right now, because everyone wants to gross people out and show how extreme they can be, get over it.

It's not a coincidence that the best horror films are older films that didn't rely on the effects and blood, but story and characters. There was this thing in the early 80's called the Video Nasty list, and what this list was, was a group of horror films that were coined as trashy and despicable films. Such films as I Spit On Your Grave and The Evil Dead were on it, amongst others that we now call classics. The list was meant to make parents aware of films to avoid and to have their children stay away from. Some would argue that some films to make the list weren't worthy and didn't belong on it but, that's a whole other discussion.

The reason films made this list is due to their graphic nature. Rather it's rape, gore, violence, brutality, or all of the above. The flicks were viewed as tasteless and a lot of people whose films were on the list were faced with harsh lashings of criticism. This all started back in 1979, when The Driller Killer had full-page ads that depicted the gruesome cover of the picture in standard, everyday magazines. After that, people started cracking down and saying that motion pictures of such brutal nature are the reason crime has elevated amongst youths. So, public campaigns against these films were launched to try and stop them from being viewed by too many people, the less who saw them, the better.

The thing about these films is that only the hardcore genre fans liked them and could stomach them. To the rest of the world, no one gave a crap about them. The weren't looked at as entertainment, they were viewed as garbage and to some, still are. Yet, here we are, in an age where everyone says horror is dead, because all the horror films that come out that aren't PG-13, are overly gory and very flat. It appears as though for some ridiculous reason, that everyone wants to make the type of movie that most people hate and despise, and that's an exploitation film.

Of course horror is going to be looked down on! No one wants to take part in a snuff film. People want to be entertained, not grossed out. Yet some directors fail to see how once the shock factor of their film wears off, it's not worth another watch because it offers nothing else. You want to make a good horror film? Use your brain to make good characters and a good story! If Halloween can be considered by many, including myself, to be the greatest horror film of all-time, with such a lack of blood used filming it, what the hell makes people think that showing complete depravity is what it takes to make a horror film?

With society as it is, you have 12-year-old girls wearing shorts with the words 'juicy' on them, that are too low for even adult women to appropriately wear. You've got kids under the age of ten cussing and smoking cigarettes. The latter, has been around for a long time, my dad can even think of children who smoked when he was at a young age. However, the fact that all of this has become so standard is a reflection on the films we get today. Because people always shoot for realism now in their films, and to be real you have to show the world how it is. So in a world that has almost no morals left, we're given films that show the most tasteless acts possible, all for the simple reason that we can.

I can understand how being able to do something in film that you couldn't before is exciting but, we just let it get away from us. Now the standard horror film is about brutality and the shock factor, both of which will never cause you to sleep with the lights on, and will instead cause you to turn your head and often talk down about the movie. I've got no problem with gore but, it needs to be used in an appropriate way. The human body only has one gallon of blood in it, so why the hell do we need 50 plus gallons of blood for a few people to die?

The more I think about gore lately the more I'm completely turned off by it. It takes no talent whatsoever to make a gory movie. I could go out in my backyard right now with some fake blood and a camera and just record actors screaming and spraying gore everywhere, but I would't waste my time, because I have standards, and because there's plenty of other people doing it, who will be forgotten in the long run.

I'm convinced that 75% of what gets made today would be on a Video Nasty list. Hostel, Saw, A Serbian Film, The Human Centipede, and others. I'm not saying that I don't like these films, I just don't like that they're the standard for horror today. That's what all horror tries to be like. Everyone wants to go bigger and bloodier than the last guy to make a horror film. And no effort goes into good characters or storyline. It's all "let's see how many limbs can get severed" and, "no, that's not real enough. They absolutely have to look like they're really being murdered".

I don't know why it's not common sense, but unless you're a twisted bastard, no one likes watching snuff films and people being murdered. So the whole thing about being as realistic as possible and taking the fun out of it doesn't work. It just creates modern exploitation films, and it's the rut we're stuck in. It seems that exploitation is the way to go for right now, and it's the reason horror is limping along. Ditch the realism, make the movies entertaining again and worth watching, like the film, Sinister.

I was watching The Fog__ on Blu-ray recently, and I heard cinematographer Dean Cundy say something very peculiar. He said something along the lines of, "films that go for the shock factor and gore aren't ones you can watch time and time again". Now that's not an exact quote, but it's close, and the point is still there. The best thing about horror is that it's thrilling and a lot of fun. I've got nothing against serious horror films in general, I like plenty of them, such as Inside and the I Spit On Your Grave remake. However, we need less films about brutality and more motion pictures that inquire a good story and entertainment value.

When we can go back to the days of not explaining everything and just have a little mystery, not relying on gore, but having nail biting suspense instead, we can get on track and pull horror's head out of it's ass. I'm a cinema buff, not a guy who wants to watch a billion films about disembowelment's. I prefer my horror with a bit more class and effort.

We'll get there. With the review of You're Next being very favorable, it's possible horror is ready to make it's comeback for real. Especially after the greatness that was The Conjuring, which just dominated ratings and the box-office. And for those of you who think horror is dead, let me say this, a lot of people said back in the 1980's that horror was dead, and Return of the Living Dead changed that in 1985. So history has a habit of repeating itself. Horror isn't dead, we're just waiting for a good film to hit that inspires more films like it. Until we hit another slump. That's just the way it goes folks.


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