As we all know, our beloved genre has been overrun by economically safe films. In the past decade we have been bombarded with remakes and sequels. Some of these are wins, while most are fails. It is up to us to champion the original ideas that fly under the radar and not give in to to another Michael Bay produced slap in the face.
We understand that the studios dole out larger budgets to these “safe” films, while many horror filmmakers are able to scrap funds together and create something brilliant. Today, the 10 million dollar horror extravaganza and the 1 million dollar personal horror film, can each become failures or triumphs. If we look at films like The Blair Witch Project or the first Paranormal Activity we see what can be done with a low budget. Both of these films rely on audience perception to create tension. Both films were fundamental to the found footage boom, and whether we like them or not they have opened the doors to more original concepts.
Low budget horror does not immediately summon thoughts of shaky cameras and non professional actors. In the early 2000’s a band of misfit directors proved what could be done with a minimal budget. Alexandre Aja, Darren Lynn Bousman, Neil Marshall, Greg McLean, Eli Roth, Robert Rodriguez, James Wan, Leigh Whannell, and Rob Zombie became collectively known as “The Splat Pack.” It is interesting to note that some of the members of the so-called Splat Pack seemed to loose their edge when given larger budgets. Alexandre Aja went from the intense French Extremism of High Tension to The Hills Have Eyes remake, the terrible Mirrors, and finally the gratuitous Piranha remake. In a similar fashion Rob Zombie went from House Of A 1,000 Corpses and Devil’s Rejects to a Halloween remake and a poor sequel. The sequels to Saw directed by Bousman were not in the same inventive canon as the original. Neil Marshall’s military werewolf opus Dog Soldiers was followed by The Descent and then the chaotic Escape From New York homage Doomsday. The larger budgets required more interference from the studios which in the end created watered down horror.
Eli Roth may only have four features he has directed, but none of them show a decline in his aggressive vision. From the surrealism of Cabin Fever to the torture porn of Hostel and Hostel 2 and the cannibalism of the upcoming Green Inferno, Roth has remained true to his exploitative boundary pushing style.
James Wan has found a way to grab studio funding without having to do remakes. By creating Saw and propelling Lion’s Gate into a big business franchise company, Wan was able to write his own ticket. While Dead Silence and Death sentence are not great examples of original films, Insidious and The Conjuring are truly well crafted. Wan continues to create himself as an indirect homage filmmaker. It saddens me to hear that he is picking up the reigns of the upcoming Fast And Furious film.
The 2000’s saw the birth and death of Torture Porn and French Extremeties, both sub-genres filled with creativity and box office success. These sub-genres have time and time again been pushed further under the radar to make room for the overblown and hyped remakes. Scream IV parodies this when Ghostface asks Kirby: “Name the remake of the groundbreaking horror movie in which the vill…” To which Kirby provides an extensive list that doesn’t even come close to being complete.
Currently, horror may begin its transition back to the low budget bloodletting that started the genre more than a century ago. This year original horror has reigned. With The Conjuring, The Purge, You’re Next, ABC’s Of Death, V/H/S 2, John Dies At The End, Antiviral, Frankenstein’s Army, Mama, Warm Bodies, Lords Of Salem, and Aftershock we see a change occurring. Original concepts have finally began to outweigh the remakes and sequel cashgrabs.
As a community, horror fans everywhere can help to finance the careers of filmmakers with interesting ideas by not giving into the hype of the remake trend. I was let down by Evil Dead, Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Black Christmas, Prom Night, Silent Night, Friday The 13th, Nightmare On Elm Street, Amityville, April Fools, The Crazies, The Fog, The Wizard Of Gore, The Wicker Man, When A Stranger Calls, Night Of The Demons, Last House On The Left, The Thing, I Spit On Your Grave, Sorority Row, House Of Wax, The Hitcher, and Piranha to name a few. I understand my own hypocracy, but I now write it off as a symptom of the 2000’s. Even if we collectively choose to wait for VOD, Itunes, Amazon, Nexflix, DVD/BLU to satisfy our curiosity about the remake we can affect change in the horror industry. Imagine a world where the Hellraier remake comes out the same weekend to Jeremy Gardner’s follow up to The Battery and it wins the box office against a non Doug Bradley Pinhead. I assure you a change would occur.
Even though a few of the remakes have been great it doesn’t justify the fact that there are so many that it can labeled as its own sub-genre. When horror scholars look back at the last decade they will mention French Extreme, Torture Porn, Found Footage, and Remakes. Their emphasis will be on the economic turmoil and the films that were made because of it.
I know it is difficult to fight the hype machine. Even after my personal vow to only support the underdogs of horror that I made this year. I still find myself drawn to viewing remakes sometimes just to be able to justify my hatred of them. Other times, I say to myself, “if it turns out to be terrible this will be the last time.” This is my feeling toward Carrie. “Maybe this one…” or “The original omitted parts from the book that this version may include.” Tell me if I’m alone here.
For those of us truly addicted to horror we need our fix and when Walter White isn’t around we end up buying Todd’s 76% purity. We are the reason the remake prevails. I know everyone has an opinion on the remake craze, lets open this up for debate in the comments section.