Halloween is traditionally the time for studios to release their latest horror film. People are craving a good scare more than usual, yet several factors have led to the fall of quality Halloween horror. In fact, the quality of horror films year around has declined dramatically.
As we have seen in the last ten years, the majority of horror films released in theatres have been what most refer to as “torture porn”. These are films whose main purpose is to show the central characters being tortured in increasingly bizarre and sadistic ways. For the most part, these films which exist solely for profit, are devoid of any creativity and unfortunately, scares.
The Saw series emerged as the most popular in the sub-genre leading to a domination of both the horror market and the Halloween release date. While I wouldn’t pigeon hole myself as a horror guy, I do love a creative, effective horror film. For that reason, I understand the frustration and disappointment that horror fans feel with the lack of quality output as of late.
It is certainly a sad state of affairs when the small percentage of original horror is ignored by the mainstream audience. Films like Mike Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat go straight to DVD, yet Saw 6 makes upwards of 32 million in North America.
With films like Paranormal Activity 2 and Saw 3D, new horror fans assume they will get exactly what they expect from a film. They don’t want or expect horror to challenge, which is exactly what it should do. This summer’s fantastic release Splice, directed by Vincenzo Natali, delivered a shockingly original and disturbing monster film yet it bombed at the box-office. Even Sam Raimi’s long awaited return to horror, Drag Me To Hell was largely rejected by audiences as it didn’t fall into what is becoming the norm for horror films. The film, which expertly combined horror and comedy, mostly left audiences confused.
Instead of heading to the cinema on or around Halloween for their dose of Halloween horror, audiences are best to stay at home and organize a horror night with friends. It is certainly unfortunate but with many great under-seen and under-appreciated horror films both new and old it is not hard to find something to entertain everyone.
Two recent horror films perfect for Halloween are Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat and Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell. Both accomplish similar things but in completely different ways. While comedic and ultimately lighthearted, they are also very scary and at points disturbing. It takes someone who really understands their craft to be able to balance comedy and horror, luckily both veteran Raimi and directorial newcomer Dougherty strike a perfect balance.
Two older and very different films are John Carpenter’s classic The Thing and Dario Argento’s Suspiria. The Thing is a great example of suspense and perfectly disturbing special effects. It is certainly the most widely seen in my list of Halloween suggestions but many still have yet to experience Carpenter’s masterpiece, and for those who have, it is still worth revisiting.
Dario Argento’s Suspiria is a different beast altogether. It was a film which, when released, was entirely original unlike anything anyone had ever seen. Even today after countless imitations, it has still yet to be truly duplicated. Even though the film features some bad acting and bad dialogue, somehow all of the pieces fit and all these negative elements disappear. This is not a film that is ironically good, it is just good, almost perfect in fact. Its style and soundtrack are utterly original and refreshing, a film that Argento has yet to surpass.
Halloween should be a time to pack into the local cinema and collectively hide behind each others hands in fear. Instead it is a time to collectively sigh at the latest iteration of the Saw franchise. It is time to stop accepting the subpar horror dealt to us by the studio and seek out and support the little amount of quality horror released each year. This year instead of accepting the studio’s latest torture filled sequel, go out and watch Mike Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat. You will not be disappointed.