If we look at today’s horror output from major Hollywood studios we must ask the question “Is Hollywood making the same mistakes it has before?”
A quick glance at movies currently in production shows a terribly high number of remakes and sequels, (monikered as ‘franchises’ by production companies) much to the dismay of many horror fans.
It seems like major studios have bombarded us with unoriginal ideas for many a year now. Yet, we know original ideas are out there, so why not produce one?
Such a decision seems to be logical from a business point of view. ‘Franchises’ are based on a premise that has already proven to work, that needs minimal effort (and cash) and for which a fan base is already established. For the money men this means low risk for maximum return.
For us fans, it means we get to sit through another two hours of recycled trash whilst the bigwigs count their pennies.
I’m not adverse to sequels, some are as good as their originals and on a rare occasion better. How long, though, can fans of the genre be expected to sit by and watch the discipline they love, be pillaged by gluttonous fat cats looking to line their pockets and stuff their bulging bank accounts on the back of unwanted ‘franchises’?
In the 1930-40s, horror reached peaks it could previously only dream of. At the start of the Thirties, Universal released seminal classic ‘Dracula’ and quickly followed it with another classic ‘Frankenstein’.
The public response to the movies was excellent and other studios pounced on the genre. Even RKO whom had previously made much lauded films such as ‘Citizen Kane’, considered by some the greatest movie of all time, demanded a move into horror to prevent interest in their output waning.
Such was horror’s impact on cinema at the time, the actors in the lead roles were into icons, the likes of which has not been seen since. Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney immortalised themselves in not only celluloid but, also in cinema history playing some of the most easily recognisable characters ever committed to film.
Horror built a reputation as a crowd pleaser and money maker and helped usher in new technology such as Technicolor. Horror was leading the way in the movie industry but, soon things would go wrong.
As the Forties drew to a close producers got greedy. Studios churned out sequels and remakes often with little consideration to the originals, initially audience figures were good, but they slowly began to slide.
Little known actors began to fill the shoes of some of the most iconic characters as disgruntled stars turned away from the genre. Disenchanted audiences then followed suit and turned away from the box offices.
With the audience no longer there the output dried up. By the Fifties, aside from the sci-fi and B-movies, very little horror remained and so it would stay until almost a decade later when a little European production called Hammer would lead the revival of horror from the grave.
Studios may again be blindly wandering down this beaten path. With the recession beginning to bite it seems the studios are more inclined to play safe. No need to shoot craps with an untested film when there are still plenty of ‘franchises’ that will bring audiences wandering mindlessly through multiplex doors like zombies to a shopping mall.
It’s easy to see that the true horror fans are already becoming discontented with the, frankly, ridiculous number of films that a little more than the bludgeoning of classics. A simple mention of the planned remake of ‘Hellraiser’ to be aimed at the teen market is enough to set a social networking site ablaze with opinion, few of which are positive.
However, what happens when these people aren’t content with merely speaking about their unhappiness on Twitter or Facebook or at the water cooler work but, act on it and turn away from Hollywood?
What happens when the true fan gets tired of being force fed the same movies over and over, like reheated slops? Can horror rely on mainstream audiences to keep the genre alive, especially as people start to tighten their belt financially?
And, when audiences, like their predecessors in the Fifties, start to let their money do the talking by keeping it in their pocket, could that spell the end to American horror and start another invasion of things from outer space with only small studios and independents to fight back the laser beams?
Hollywood needs to act now, before it’s too late.