How Do We Fix Horror?

So Crimson Peak is the winner of the prestigious ‘Lead Balloon of the Week’ Award, which is a shame. On a whole I love Guillermo del Toro’s work but this was always going to be a tough sell. But, at least it was trying to be a horror film. Which, to be honest is more than any other film due out in the UK for the next few weeks. What happened to horror? How can we fix it? And when is Dog Soldiers 2: Soldier Harder coming out?

Cabin In The Woods Has Happened – Cabin in the Woods, Joss Whedons love letter/parody/satire of horror films is amazing. I love it. But it killed the “bunch of idiots getting killed whilst making stupid decisions” genre. Give us something new.

Make it Real- CGI ages badly, is difficult to act with and doesn’t really fit in with a traditionally cheap and cheerful genre. And even on the bigger budget horror films, it doesn’t really work. If you need further proof just compare the monsters in John Carpenters The Thing with the 2011 version. Which looks better?

We Don’t Need Tons of Gore – There’s a play in London called The Woman in Black. It’s the scariest thing I have ever seen, upon taking a friend and his wife to it, she had to be escorted to the loo for three days. It doesn’t feature a single drop of blood. Blood isn’t scary in a horror film. It can be used to increase tension, but if you use too much then you can fall into parody.

Jump Scares Need to be Limited- I have nothing against the occasional jump scare, but after people have jumped, they relax and the tension has to be reset and rebuilt. That takes time and effort on the part of the film. Also, a film based on jump scares has limited re-watch value. A film that takes it’s time to build  creepy atmosphere is a much better, much more rewarding experience.

Characters Not Stereotypes- Seriously, give me characters with quirks and strengths and weaknesses, characters who have names and hopes and dreams and act like human beings when threatened by the ‘Bad Thing.’   

Don’t Explain The Monster Once you have explained the monster, it’s strengths, weaknesses, abilities, favorite Taylor Swift song, you are no longer in a horror film, you have remade Predator. Describe what it can do vaguely, yes, but don’t go into detail and certainly don’t tell me about how it wasn’t hugged enough as a child. A pile of clothes in the dark can become a wolf or nest of snakes, but once you turn on your light or explain what it is, it’s just not scary any more.    

Scare Us With Everyday Things Blink from Doctor Who used statues that became real when you blinked and sent you back into the past, “killing you with kindness” Unfriended used a modern technology as the method through which a group of jerks were picked off one by one. When horror focuses on what use use everyday, it gets under our skin and inside our heads.

Don’t go Silly in The Third Act So many horror films fall apart when they realize that at some point they have to end, which mean some sort of resolution and a last gasp ‘is it really over?’ final shot. Since this is the last part that the audience is going to see, that means its the first part that they are going to think about. Dedicate more time to this.

Did I miss anything?


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