So, October is nearly upon us, which means Halloween is nearly here, which means between now and early November, we’re going to get pounded with horror movies. Sinister, Paranormal Activity 4 and Silent Hill: Revelation are all coming out, and we’ve already seen a string of horror movies released this September: The Posession, The Apparition, The House At The End of The Street, and those are just the wide releases.
I will say Sinister looks good, if for no other reason than Ethan Hawke can anchor a movie pretty well. A good central performance can vastly improve a movie: Just witness the Amityville remake, one of the few times Ryan Reynolds has been called upon to genuinely act. The movie is only OK, but whenever Reynolds is on screen, it works.
But by and large, I’m bracing myself for disappointment, like I do every year. Why? A mixture of Hollywood economics and a lack of creativity.
The first and most basic is that horror movies are the closest Hollywood gets to acting like the porn industry. Get a vaguely recognizable cast, grind ’em out for less than $10 million, and then see that sweet, sweet home video revenue roll in.
Every now and then, this system coughs up a real surprise: Cabin In The Woods, for example. But by and large, it’s hackwork. Write a script around a formula, get a music video director, make sure the cinematographer either has plenty of blue filters to work with or will underexpose so that everybody knows it’s supposed to be scary, instead of actually scaring audiences, and you’re done.
What’s frustrating is that at under $10 million, you can’t lose. This is the ideal place to really freak audiences the hell out. Horror is at its best when it’s making you uncomfortable; David Cronenberg’s Shivers, for example, is not the best movie in the world but it’s not one you’re ever going to forget, either. The Exorcist is still disturbing thirty years later. Probably the scariest movie I’ve seen in recent memory was Kill List, where a seemingly competent bad-ass quickly discovers he’s in far deeper than he realized.
What I’d like to see, every October, is studios taking risks. Instead of the same canned plot, why not try something different? I know that’s like asking seniors to stop handing out raisins, but really, why not? There is literally nothing economically for movie studios to lose here. Scare the ever-loving crap out of us. Freak us the hell out. At least try, dammit!