What’s Happened To Halloween Horror?

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.

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31 Responses to What’s Happened To Halloween Horror?

  1. Igor the Beaver says:

    It would help if all “horror” being produced these days was not actually Leftist Agit-Prop. Remember the Good Old Days, when the Good Guy killed the Bad Guy? And if there was a sequel, it was a *different* Bad Guy, not the same Bad Guy who “miraculously” avoided its fate? Now, the message being sent is “The Bad Guy will always be there; so why bother fighting him? Oh, and he’s also far more entertaining than any boring old goody-two-shoes Hero, so we’re making him the centerpiece. Evil is Good; Good is Evil; black is white; up is down; short is long; we have always been at war with Oceania”. The only “real” horror left is the brain-dead zombie masses who insist on continuing to encourage Hollywood to make this propaganda by giving them money for doing so.

    • Uncle Sporkums says:

      Amen, brother! Glad to see that I’m not the only one who feels that way.

      • Jon says:

        Yo uncle Cletus, you not paying attention? What Igor said was a flat out myth. Ever heard of Frankenstien? Wolfman? If the myth of the good old days starts before 1931, then what exactly are the good old days?

        “Remember the Good Old Days, when the Good Guy killed the Bad Guy? And if there was a sequel, it was a *different* Bad Guy, not the same Bad Guy who “miraculously” avoided its fate? Now, the message being sent is “The Bad Guy will always be there; so why bother fighting him…”

        I guess you can go before those times but even Oedipus was a story with a downer ending… how far back you rednecks want to go to find this mythical good old days?

  2. Steve says:

    Could be a couple of things:

    1) Today’s egotists don’t actually want to be scared, that’s a bad sensation and feeling bad is G-unacceptable. Seeing pretty people being hurt is perfectly OK.

    2) Marketing is to blame. Marketing supporters say that the best way to produce product is to let focus groups and market analysis produce products everyone says they want. Problem is that most people have no taste or vision – result is bland products that everyone accepts as the norm.

  3. Nigel Holland says:

    I agree I recently watched House of Sorority Row and the remake back to back. Although the new version looked slick and the acting was better, it was so bland and instantly forgettable in comparison to the original.

    • That is the main problem with the horror remakes released today, now of course there are exceptions but for the most part it is true. The studio simply creates a version that looks like a music video and has better acting and calls it a day. We have seen this countless times, Nightmare on Elm Street and Texas Chainsaw Massacre are two examples that come to mind. The original may have had bad acting but it also had an energy and passion behind it and made you ignore the faults, unlike todays slick remake.

      Now the horror remake isn’t always a bad thing, if people didn’t feel the need to remake horror we wouldn’t have The Thing, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Fly.

  4. jon says:

    The only real horror left is your shocking misunderstanding of history.

    Enough with the “kids these days” mindset. Those who don’t understand the past are doomed to repeat it.

    You said “good old days (a myth by the way) good vs bad… Bad guy doesn’t return” ever heard of frankenstien? Wolfman?

    “Leftist agenda?” Are you serious? Let me tell you what “lefty hollywood” wants: your money and lots of it. Independents have a message. Major Hollywood films are as watered down and focused grouped as you can get to make massive amounts of money. Sounds more like Big Business Righty to me than leftist agenda.

    Drop the doom and gloom good ol days and study your film history. History moves in peaks and crests. Not a downward slope.

    Creative indie directors make their mark then pump out a few good bigger budgets then make a few subpars then we have the dull repeaters until the new talent comes along to surprise us.

  5. Stimpy says:

    “Now the horror remake isn’t always a bad thing, if people didn’t feel the need to remake horror we wouldn’t have The Thing, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Fly.”

    ehhm…. Yes we would. Or do the originals don’t count as movies ?

    • I meant the remakes, I should have made that clear. Yes, they are movies but the remakes are vastly superior films, in my opinion that is.

      • TruClassicHorror says:

        I don’t. Of those three, I only think The Fly is superior to the original. The 1982 version of The Thing may very well be the most ridiculously overrated film of any genre, ever made. It may be a more faithful adaptation of the original novella, but the elements which made the 1951 film so great-strong characterizations, crisp dialogue, subtlety, story logic and good taste-were thrown out of the window in order to concentrate on the special effects.
        Fans of Drag Me to Hell should check out Night of the Demon, the 1957 film that inspired it. It’s the last of the classic black-and-white studio horror films, before Hammer revolutionized the genre.

  6. Mike says:

    I could not agree more. Every time a good horror movie comes out I desperately try to support it and tell others about it. It’s an uphill battle against the garbage that is put out today. I was wrought with disappointment at the budget and gross numbers when I compared ‘Drag Me to Hell’ and the latest ‘Jason’ installment. Both were released about the same time, however the low budget slasher always prevails.

    Here’s a few others that I think are up there: The House of the Devil, The Descent, What Lies Beneath.

    The House of the Devil is a must-see for a horror fan. Horror fanatic himself, Ti West, took over all creative aspects of the film as he wrote, directed, and edited the film.

    • Katelyn says:

      I completely agree, the House of the Devil was the first that came to mind after reading this list. I love that it feels like it was actually made in the 80’s, but doesn’t have any of the cheese of lot of 80’s horror has (although the cheese is fun, in and of itself). I watched it just after I saw Black Dynamite (which could easily have been filmed in the 70’s if it wasn’t so awesomely aware of the blaxploitation conventions); it was a good weekend.

  7. Tiger says:

    What about A Serbian Film?
    It blows all other films out of the water!
    http://www.cultcinema.net/2010/09/serbian-film-2010.html

    • In terms of what, disgusting scenes? Most likely, but that doesn’t make it a great film.

      • Tiger says:

        I don’t know…
        When I had just finished watching it, I was left in a rather shocked state, and dismissed the thing as nothing but a bunch of disgusting scenes as well.
        But then I remember that was the same effect Cannibal Holocaust had on me, when I first saw that… (and surely you won’t argue about the pure class of that timeless classic?)

        Some films need to be digested for a while, before you can realize their greatness.

        And even if you don’t think the film was great as a whole, surely you cannot it was extremely well made in all aspects? The acting, cinematography, special effects, etc… And I especially dug the soundtrack.

        The director of A Serbian Film has said he wanted to express the sick realities of war through his film. What makes it interesting is that instead of showing images of war, he interpreted the emotions and expressed them in a way the audience cannot help but feel hopelessly tormented from.

        Now, some say these claims are simply an excuse to justify the images in the film, but whatever you chose to believe, it surely is an effective horror film.

        It does horrify!

  8. Mike says:

    Re: to reply from Tiger: Obvious troll is obvious. You just suggested what this article is against. i.e. ‘torture porn.’ This foreign garbage can’t even be found on IMDB.

    • Tiger says:

      huh?

      What foreign garbage would that be?
      A Serbian Film is on IMDB:
      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1273235/

      And I did not suggest this so called “torture porn” at all.

      All this focus on new splatter films being “torture porn” is purely ludicrous anyway. Back in the early 90s, there were vhs-tapes circulating the horror circuits, featuring scenes of naked women being tied up before they were cut, burned, beaten and treated in the most horrific ways, before, after and during intercourse. They were not actors, and there were no special effects. The films were sold as “Sexual Perversion tapes”. THAT was torture porn!

      There are also several series of Japanese films which show girls getting several limbs sawed off, while they are being raped. There’s no story, no build-up of suspense, no plot-twists, no credits. THAT is torture porn.

      Now, I understand that the “new” term “torture porn” which is so commonly used these days, have nothing to do with the real porn flicks where people are being tortured. These days “torture porn” is simply a term which tries to bundle films which seemingly have no other value than to show off extreme sex and violence, with little or no other artistic merit what so ever. Or in other words: what used to be called “exploitation”.

      The Saw series, Hostel films, August Underground, etc. are all commonly dumped into this silly bucket of a term.

      Now, there are also films that try to bring a real message, and use violence as a tool to convey and impact the viewer. Films like Cannibal Holocaust, Irreversible, Martyrs and (maybe?) A Serbian Film.

      Some viewers might find it difficult (if not impossible) to grasp what these films are trying to say, as the on-screen violence is so extreme. But to lump those films in with the general mindless cannon fodder films that are called “torture porn”, just shows that you are not a very experienced film viewer.

  9. boogerbluebeard#2 says:

    Dude, I know this shit already. Who doesn’t? I agree Splice, Drag Me To Hell, Trick ‘r Treat, The Thing and Suspiria (ESPECIALLY Suspiria), are all great horror films, but like I said, I know this already. Is this a site for, like, newbies or something? Where’s the even deeper old school classic stuff that should be getting pulled out of the closet? Why not recommend double features? Say, both versions of When A Stranger Calls? Or how about The Thing From Another World and then Carpenter’s The Thing? Hell, how about some good ‘ole giallo (Cat ‘o Nine Tails, The Bird With the Crystal Plumage, The Black Cat) or maybe some classics? If people here have yet to see The Thing then I’m willing to bet they haven’t even seen Psycho, or Diabolique.

    Just saying, I don’t want to be told something I already know. Pop horror as of late sucks. We all know it. You’ve got some great recommendations, but nothing I haven’t already seen and that isn’t moderately well-known.

  10. Chad says:

    I pretty much agree with this article but being a horror fan I can say nothing really has changed much. Even in the ’70s when films like The Omen and The Exorcist were being made there were a lot of bad horror films. That’s the genre, in fact sometimes the better the B-movie the better the horror film. I also have to take exception with Bergamini’s take on the Saw films. To say they are “devoid of creativity” proves that he hasn’t been keeping up with the franchise, which is unfortunate because it’s actually a pretty good series. The concept and the way the writers continue to surprise the audience has been very entertaining, way better than such supposed classics as Friday the 13th and the later Halloween movies. I’d take Jigsaw over Jason anyday.

  11. Pookie says:

    I lasted 2/3 of the way through “Trick ‘r Treat,” and turned it off. What aspect of it is so wonderful? It is quite cartoonish, and to me, not even remotely scary. Give me the ORIGINAL “The Haunting” any day. I DID enjoy “Drag Me to Hell,” though.

  12. Misfitfiend says:

    I’m not quite sure what the point of this article is or what your upset about? Your upset because the better horror films don’t make more money in the box office!? Really? Is your next article going to be about Michael Bay being a hack and why do people watch his films? because that would be a really original article. I’m questioning the writers taste if her examples of great horror is Splice and Trick r’ Treat. They were both pretty mediocre in my opinion. I agree with some of the posts about House of the Devil being great but hands down the best horror I have seen in the last few years was Rec 2. It was amazing. I love Rec 1 but now I tell people to watch Rec 1 just so they could watch Rec 2. Let the right one in was pretty good also.
    Why all the hate for Paranormal Activity, The first one I didn’t find very scary but it was original and showed the movie industry that torture porn isnt the only way to make financially successful horror movies. You should be championing this film in your article not debasing it. I dont understand how splice is more challenging a film then paranormal activity. Im not a fan of the torture horror genre but the human centipede may have changed my mind. That film was brutal to watch but still compelling. I also thought funny games was a great horror movie and had a meta take on a derivative idea. It was an extremely original take on the genre of torture horror. I dont think Daniel Bergami should be so quick to write off an entire genre of horror films. They are just like everything else in the movie industry, 95% crap , 3% good and 2% great.
    Dont be so quick to praise old school horror and wanting to bring it back. Has anyone seen a newer George Romero movie lately or Dario Argentos Mother of Tears. They were complete garbage. Anyone who thinks otherwise is just kidding themselves. Some good horror is being made now by new talent. Grace was great, Leslie Vernon was entertaining, the Poughkeepsie tapes scared the hell out of me. Bug, The Orphanage, Shuttle, The Collector and Grindhouse. Even dumb horror films like lesbian vampire killers and Pandorum, were entertaining.
    Your blog is completely uninspiring.

  13. GJW says:

    Loved “Trick r Treat”. GREAT Halloween movie. Watched it last year. Watching it again this Saturday night. Makes no sense this didn’t even get released in thratres.

    • That is exactly the same as my group of friends. I forced my friends to watch it last year, they loved it so we are watching it again this year. Our plan so far is Drag Me To Hell, Suspiria, Trick ‘r Treat and finally the premiere of The Walking Dead! It will be a great night.

  14. Your Jesus says:

    This is such a horrifically misinformed article written by what’s clearly NOT a horror fan.

    • Of course I am a horror fan, that is the reason why I wrote this article. I do not consider myself a “horror guy” simply as I look at the horror genre like any other. The good ones will emotionally effect you, while the bad ones won’t.

  15. Your Jesus says:

    What’s so different about Saw/Paranormal Activity sequels these days vs. Halloween sequels beforehand? Other than being pretentious, of course.

  16. James T. Kirk says:

    I’ve seen many of the classics where you got exactly what you wanted. A real good scare. Such movies like Night of the Living Dead (1968), Halloween (1978), The Shining (1980), and so forth. And now with modern horror movies, I watch and I pretty much say “that’s nice” with almost no tingle at all.

  17. John says:

    This entry is after my heart. I could not possibly agree more. There really is “good” horror out there but it’s almost always discovered weeks and months after it’s departed theaters. “Trick ‘r Treat” is a great example, but far from the only one.

  18. VideoMafia says:

    There’s great horror out here but you have to wade through alot of stuff you may not like to find it. This is the real issue: “What draws more viewers? PLOT/STORY or raw visual SHOCKS?. So called “torture porn” has always been around -Snuff, Maniac, I Spit On Your Grave these films were the parents along with giallo films of this new genre . Some fans love seeing the actual act being committed and the more violent and gross the better. Others prefer the mood and atmosphere of films like Robert Wise’s The Haunting or The Turn of the Screw. I’m sure there were some issues with the “giallo” films due to the excessive nudity and violence especially against women back then.
    Look at the Jason/Micheal Myers/Freddy type film -each had to up the bodycounts and the mode of killing to keep the boxoffice secure. Much the way the Saw films traps got crueler or Hostel had more bloodshed by the 2nd films. The gore IS a selling point-ask most Saw fans what’s the point of behind Jigsaw’s program and you’ll get varying ideas -older films were pretty cut and dry. You know who your hero and villiains were and justice of some sort usually caught up with them leaving the survivors to ponders how it could have ever happen! Slasher, Torture Porn or Splatter, whatever its called is just extreme horror for extreme people -its not all bad and there are diamonds among them like Laid to Rest for example which is currently in production on its sequel. Me? I like to be shocked/scared but with a good story as well-Splice, Drag Me To Hell, House of the Devil-all good horror but Posters “Tiger”+ ” Steve” had great points especially the why and the grouping of these other titles under an somewhat unfair single term. It takes so much more to shock viewers now and Hollywood believes in exceeding the demand. Now zombies next H.P. Lovecraft and Poe project and if they fail its back to Freddy/Jason/M.Myers/Pinhead and the other money makers -its about opening weekend not the holiday or good films anymore,
    sadly. Just stop making BAD remakes and I’d be happy! Funny, The Evil Dead was about 1/5 of the budget of most of the films we’ve spoke of and was actually scary!

    BTW -Trick ‘r Treat was so-so, little was new and the punchlines were telegraphed. Please folks need to stop brashing “old school” without it you wouldn’t have most of the “hits” you love and crave so much today and they did it on 1/4 of the budget! Keep in mind what society, technology and special effects were like then -its about using the public’s feelings and attitudes to affect boxoffice that’s why Charles Bronson’s Deathwish series did so well -people were fed up with crime and it voiced what folks were thinking. Movies have always mirrored society and if so that’s something to scared of.

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