I don’t usually watch horror films. In fact I very very rarely watch horror films. That’s mostly because they’re either rubbish or sometimes because I’m too scared. Mostly that they’re all rubbish though. There are some good ones. There are some I really really like. Some old ones, some new ones. But a lot of them that I’ve either watched or refused to watch are just really, really bad. Not scary, not enjoyable, not good in any way at all. There’s a lot of problems with horror films these days…
Back in the day (I’m talking like 60’s to 80’s) films were scarier (I imagine). Everything was new, everything was full of horror and everything was scary. ‘Psycho‘, ‘The Exorcist‘ and ‘The Omen‘ were all super scary films about seemingly innocent people going bad and people died in horrible ways. ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre‘, ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street‘, ‘Halloween‘ and ‘Friday the 13th‘ kicked of franchises based off of slasher villains which murdered lots on young people. Then you’ve also got films like ‘Alien‘ and ‘The Shining‘ which are confined to certain settings to make a more claustrophobic horror. These films are all great (mostly) and actually quite scary. Maybe not as much these days, especially to someone as fearless as me, but scary enough to be good horror films.
Then the horror genre evolved. New gimmicks made the movies interesting again. ‘Evil Dead‘ and ‘Scream‘ started adding comedy with the horror, ‘Saw‘ focused more on gore and body horror and films like ‘The Blair With Project‘ and ‘Paranormal Activity‘ made use of handheld cameras to make the movies seem real. Again, these were all great new ideas (mostly) and made the films not only interesting and enjoyable, but also scary again.
And then we come to the horror movies of today, where nothing is new, nothing is enjoyable and nothing is scary. Horror movies of today rely on cheap jump scares, excessive amounts of gore and poor plots to get them through and hour and a half runtime. They’re churned out just to make money with no thought or care at all. They follow familiar formulas for no good reason other than it’s easy. The acting is terrible, the characters are stupid, the scares aren’t scary and everything is just pretty forgettable. It’s not good. There’s too many remakes which don’t stand up to the originals, poor sequels and attempts to cash in on franchises and gimmicks and too much focus on everything else that isn’t story, character or plot. Go down to your local shop and I bet they’ll be on the bottom row of the shelf for a measly couple of quid. Basically, they are not horror films, but they are scarily bad.
There are some good modern horror movie gems though. ‘The Conjuring‘ is an example of a ghost haunting a house story done well. Good characters drive the plot and the scares are actually scary! ‘Cabin in the Woods‘ is a great example of a parody of the genre that is funny, but also quite scary and smart. Other great movies like ‘It Follows‘ and ‘The Babadook‘ place more emphasis on the characters and have plots and situations that are genuinely scary things to think about. They nail horror. They make use of actual fears people have. Being followed, something happening to your children, people you know and trust seemingly turning against you. Proper scary stuff!
There are a lot of main problems that most horror films seem to encounter. Firstly, they don’t have real characters. The characters are boring, wooden, and worst of all stupid. We want real characters who are smart and can figure something out that we also care about and don’t want to see die. Next, modern horrors tend to rely a little too much on gimmicks. Found footage is becoming way too overused and most of the time just induces nausea. Jump scares are forced in to try and make a film scary and gore is added for no good reason. And don’t even get me started on really fake looking gore effects! The stories are also rubbish, leading the characters on a pointless journey which doesn’t make any sense and we don’t really care about.
And finally, what I see as the main problem with modern horror movies: they aren’t scary. I don’t particularly like being scared, but if I’m watching a horror film, I kind of expect to be. Most of the time now I just watch a horror film because it looks rubbish and it’ll be a laugh to watch with some mates. But they should be scary. All these previous problems add up to a film which doesn’t have the desired effect. These films need to focus more on developing everything to make it actually scary. Nothing cheap, nothing forced and nothing fake. Just real, scary, terrifying horror. Is that too much to ask for our horror films please?