January 19, 2010

Horror: Will it ever be taken seriously?

Okay, let's face it, even though the horror genre has a huge following, it's still frowned upon by most critics, and a lot of people still like to claim they create killer's when they don't. In any case, I think it's going to take a really strong horror movie that breaks ground to get the critics & some of the general audience to view horror films more seriously.

I'd like to see more story based horror films. Yes, I love horror films with blood, gore, violence, etc, but at the same time, I wouldn't mind seeing more mainstream horror films that don't have a bunch of that, or if they do, there's a good story around it as well.

I dunno what it is about horror, but it does seem like everyone focuses on the shittier movies to come forth from the genre and tend to use them as a reflection of it. It's not like every other genre out there just pumps out quality stuff at every turn, but I guess they're just not looked at as trash cinema like a lot of horror is.

Of course, none of this matters because if there's one genre that won't ever die due to poor critical reception, it's horror. It's been a staple since the beginning of cinema and will continue to do so, and if you ask me, it's at a good place right now if you take in the entirety of the offerings out there. Sure, there's always going to be a lot more shit than high quality movies, but that's just how it's going to be for any genre.

The horror devotees grasp onto something that most just don't get. It's kind of like how I just can't do sci-fi movies in general. Now, that's not to say I can shit on Back to the Future, I fucking love it, but there's just a part of those movies that is completely alien to me. I suspect that's the way it is with critics and horror. A guy in a mask slashing women in the woods just won't appeal to all of those who have broad tastes in real film. For me, an 8/10 in a drama and a 8/10 in a horror are completely different things.

For me, there are only a handful of horror films I would rank up there with the best films of all time. The stairway is just too crowded to put a Jason movie in. Actually, putting a Jason movie amongst the top 50 horror films of all time would be a damn near impossible thing to do, at that. And to most people, Jason and cronies are horror. The best horror films are usually the ones that made no money and nobody watches or have been forgotten or never bothered to have been explored by different generations. And you go to a guy like Ebert's "Great Movies" list and you will find horror in the form of Faust, Nosferatu, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula, etc. But how many "horror" fans even bother with those? Not that many, no siree.

People will always frown at this genre. It's always been one that's been driven by fans, and it's certainly the one where fans need to stick with each other to get a valid appraisal of a movie. Most mainstream critics are going to be overly critical of a majority of horror flicks simply because they're not into them; this is not to say they don't comprehend them, but they don't see any validity in watching Jason Voorhees chop up kids. At best, you'll get a serviceable review where the reviewer comes down off the high horse and praises a slasher for excelling at what it sets out to do. And even that's not likely to garner high praise and set the film alongside a real movie.

It's like when Ebert gave the latest F13 a semi-positive review--you could tell it was analogous to pulling teeth for him, but I think he finally understood the context of those films and a 2 1/2 star rating (or whatever he gave it) for that wouldn't be the same thing as a 2 1/2 star rating for a drama or any other genre.

And when those rare great horror films do come out, it's something special. It's probably the least represented genre when you try to figure out the top 100 films of all time, but it's probably not that much less represented than others. If you look at AFI's top 100, it's a pretty diverse list. Off hand, I would probably guess it leans a lot towards dramas, but there's also westerns, musicals, sci-fi, and action. Lump in the suspense thrillers with the horror, and the genre is pretty well represented. It doesn't help the general perception of course, but that's what happens when a good majority of horror films really aren't great movies.

For every Halloween or Psycho, there's 50 really bad slasher movies; for every Evil Dead or Nightmare on Elm Street, there's a bunch of really low grade creature features from the 40s and 50s. I don't get why most people focus on all the crap more so than they focus on all the shitty movies churned out by other genres, but that's the way she goes I guess.

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