Armchair Mogul
The (backseat) driving force behind Hollywood. Way behind.

DISCUSSION POINT: Armchair Mogul asks…


Horror will always be my favorite movie genre. We all have our emotional scars from horror movies, mostly from when we were young and watching movies from a slit in our blankets.

There were those scenes or images that were wonderfully burned into our brain for the rest of our life. But does that opportunity even exist anymore?

Can you think of how many of the 2,000 or so horror movies released since the 90’s, have had that same effect? A Handful? Why is that?

Does that mean that the expectancy of walking into a special effects extravaganza-type horror movie doesn’t allow anything to stick? Or do recent horror movies just fail?

Is it because we’ve seen everything there is to be seen? Is it because we live in a “DVD Behind the Scenes Documentary” culture, that we know how they have achieved everything?

I have met people who have been more emotionally scarred by things that they have seen in non-horror movies (Ex: Large Marge in Pee Wees Big Adventure, the baby in Trainspotting, or the ‘firecracker’ scene in Boogie Nights.) than movies like Hostel or My Bloody Valentine 3D.

Large Marge


Arguably, the only way to successfully ‘SCARE’ the audience is to make them feel like it could happen to them, or … do something they are not expecting.

When The Exorcist came out, people were actually having heart attacks in the theatre because of the intensity of the content. No one had ever experienced “Pure Evil” in that way. Billy Graham was quoted as saying that evil lived in the ‘very celluloid’ the movie was filmed on.
When The Texas Chainsaw Massacre came out, the guerilla style filmmaking, the “true story” sizzle at the beginning, and the decision to not cast stars, but seemingly ACTUAL murderers had people wondering if they were watching a snuff film. The same effect happened with The Blair Witch Project. The budget was so small, and it didn’t seem Hollywood produced. You really didn’t know if they were acting or really being picked off. When Blair Witch hit, it felt like the genre had a savior.

But, can horror survive now without a gimmick attached?

Blair Witch hit at the perfect time. It was the dawn of the “everyone’s got a camera” age, and it scared people to death. Since then, we’ve had Paranormal Activity, Incident at Lake County, The Last Broadcast, Jersey Devil, Quarantine, Diary of the Dead, and Cloverfield. This “real-life, for really reals, shaky cam” genre can’t last in the ‘Information Age.” I saw the actors from Paranormal Activity on the cover of Entertainment Weekly before I saw the movie. How do you sell “This could REALLY happen to you!” after that?

We had the “Avid fart” trend in horror where ghosts would move fast, then speed up really fast and then slow down. That lasted about 9 movies too many.

What does that leave us with? 3D? Stuff flying at your face will make you blink, perhaps jump. But what could possibly scare us to the core of our being. What can make a dark horror movie more than just “cool” to 14 year olds, but rather make them not want to sleep at night?

How do we fix the genre? Discuss.

– Voodrew the MoGhoul

7 Responses to “DISCUSSION POINT: Armchair Mogul asks…”

  1. I’m afeared the genre is dead. At least the part of the genre that you’re remembering/describing, anyway. I’ve thought so for a while now.

    I totally think it’s because of what you’re touching on here….none of it is “based in reality any longer.” Most are either focused on being utter gorefests, which the behind the scenes types stuff has totally castrated now, or have some crazy unbelievable premise that drives the plot that can’t be anything other than fictitious, in any reality, and it’s near impossible for us to suspend our disbelief enough to allow the film to be “horrific.”

    “Friday the 13th”, “Halloween”, even lower end stuff like “My Bloody Valentine”, etc…..all that stuff “could of happened.” Even truly “paranormally” themed horror, like “Carrie”, was believable in context. Or at least explainable.

    It started going downhill with the “Nightmare on Elm Streets” IMO. Not saying some of those weren’t good for their time, or good within the genre in general, but when the premise is “Burnt-Up-Dead-Guy-Gets-Magical-Dream-Powers-Afer-Parents-Murder-Him”, or some facsimile of that(“If you can’t explain it…call it MAGIC!!!), you start having a disconnect.

  2. I just realized I didn’t really answer you. How do we fix it?

    Easy….make us think it’s something that could friggin’ happen without Doug Henning being involved(actually, that could probably be pretty scary).

    I was probably bothered more by the opening 15 minutes of “Saving Private Ryan” than I was by anything I ever watched in the “Saw” series.

  3. I don’t know if we’ve seen it all before, but it would be nice if someone could do something different… I planned on skipping Paranormal Activity after seeing the preview because I expected it to be “Blair Witch Bedroom” (which it was, imho) but ended up going because my 10yo nephew REALLY WANTED TO SEE IT.

    I spent most of the movie waiting for something to happen, there were only two points in the movie that I would call ‘scary’ and both of them were visual effects. It DID scare the piss out of my nephew. Maybe I’m just old and jaded.

  4. I don’t think horror can ever truly die – or if it does, it’ll just return to exact bloody vengeance on those who killed it, natch – but it’s definitely on life support. Not to sound like a fogie, but our ADD-riddled culture that gives us such amazing action movies is actually counter-productive to horror. I mean, being scared is the heart of horror, right? Well who has time to be scared when there’s no time to get freaked out? Look at Exorcist, that is ONE SLOW MOVIE. I doubt many young people today have the wherewithal to get through that film without fast forwarding. But all that down time is where the movie simmers, where it lulls you into a false sense of security before it throws your world upside down. Real horror doesn’t come from excess blood, unnatural movements or things jumping out at you, it comes from having the rug pulled out from under you psychologically. It comes from not being in control of your situation. It comes from the ANTICIPATION of unknown.
    I don’t think it’s the premise of horror movies today that sucks or needs renovation, I think it’s the execution. Again, look at the Exorcist – there’s NO SCORE in that flick. The scary parts aren’t punctuated by blaring sound effects or an unnerving string section – it’s like real life – it’s just you, a possessed girl and the empty air between you.
    So, long story short, gimmicks are fine, CG is fine. To fix horror, you just don’t have to try so hard to manufacture scares – create a scary atmosphere and let your characters live in it. The further from real life your story is, the less we can relate to it. The less we relate to it, the less we care. The less we care, the less we’re scared.
    Give the audience credit. The less you ask of us, the less we’re willing to give next time.

  5. I don’t know a lot about the horror genre. The last horror flick I saw was probably the first Scream movie (and it DID scare me). In general, I steer away from things that make me afraid to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, but I will tell you that, like most people who saw it, The Excorcist is a movie that absolutley scarred me for life. I agree with Davenpoe that part of the fear factor comes from getting settled into a movie…gaining that false sense of security. But because I believe in that stuff…in demons, etc…and I think to some extent a lot of people did when that movie came out, it became a glimpse into the kind of evil you know deep down just might exist. The way to “fix” the horror genre, as Thinman and Davenpoe said, may lie in finding those things people really believe are true…things that really can happen, and exposing those things in a story and with characters people care about and can relate to. I think some of the “problem” (I’m not sure horror movies going down the crapper is such a bad thing…sorry!) is that people don’t believe in the things they used to. I heard a survey that 75-80% of professing Christians don’t even believe the devil exists. If you stop believing in the reality of evil, the fear of it will inevitably diminish.

  6. Hothumblepie makes some good points. First, lemme address where we diverge before I dovetail us back into splendiferous agreement: I can see why she (or anyone for that matter) wouldn’t mind seeing the horror genre go away. But there IS something there that people like. Sure, there are the grossos out there who get off on blood and guts, but if they weren’t getting their jollies in cineplexes, they’d spend their days staring at roadkill or worse. You can’t cater to the psycho minority. Regardless, I don’t claim to know WHY humans are wired the way they are, but I do notice patterns – and there is SOMETHING in us that likes to be scared. Whether it be teenagers sneaking into someplace they’re not supposed to be, a family boarding a rollercoaster at a theme park or a Friday night crowd lining up for the latest unnecessarily continuity-heavy “Saw” installment, people like feeling out of control – as long as it’s just an illusion.

    As for Mrs. Pie’s other comment, I totally agree. The scariest thing is that which could actually happen. Maybe this is why the “found footage” gimmick is so popular with horror fans. It’s also why Mrs. Davenpoe will only accompany me to horror movies of the monster variety, but never the killer variety.

    I mean, let’s face it…what’s scarier? A supernatural boogieman with a razor glove who lives in your dreams, or the noise you heard in the other room at 3 in the morning that sounds suspiciously like footsteps…?

    PS The “Scream” killer outfit? Still scares the crap outta me when I see it out on the streeet on Halloween.

  7. Large Marge is scary as fuck.

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