Welcome, one and all, to the first Nightmare Cinema article. I will be looking at the horror of saturation in this piece, or in other words, I will be taking a gander at how over exposure of a sub-genre can kill it. Deader than a boner due to accidently thinking about cysts whilst in the midst of passion.
There are always times when pop culture rears it’s fickle head and screams, like an excited farmer, “ooh, this looks like it might make some cash, let’s milk it like a happy cow until it becomes a sad cow, and eventually, a fucking dead cow”.
It happened with the genre referred to by some as “torture porn”, a genre that, deep beneath the surface held some intriguing films and gory delights that appealed to a small amount of genre fans, but then Saw happened, and six more Saw’s happened, and Hostel, and two more Hostel’s and a bunch of copy-cats that I can’t recall the name of, and now the whole thing is flatter than a postman’s sack at the end of a hard shift. Yeah, those innuendos were intentional.
It happened with a genre called “zombies”, if that is a genre. Maybe it isn’t. Whatever. Zombies are everywhere, and I don’t mind that because I am a fan of zombies, in fact I’m a bit of a zom-fan-boy of sorts. Still, video games, comic books, movies, television shows, hell… even novelizations of classic literature wasn’t safe (Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, anyone?), are everywhere and there will come a time when the general public will tire of the whole thing and push it away as if it were an actual zombie attempting to stick it’s gnarled mouth in your eye socket.
It happened with a genre called “vampires”, again, not sure if that’s a genre. Just move on. Vampires, or as they eventually became known to me, Glampires, went from being classic gothic creatures of the night with a black hole in their chest and a desire for the drippy red stuff that flows around our bodies, to a shimmering, glittering teenage kid with perfectly structured hair, rock solid abs, skinny jeans and more of a desire to watch other teenagers sleep while staring gloomily at them rather than sucking the life from their veins. With Twilight and it’s follow-up films, and the other young-adult vampire movies that followed, vampires have become a bit of a joke to horror hounds, with the odd exception of decent vamp-flicks like Byzantium and Let the Right One In. The vampire genre is in need of a shake-up in my view.
It happened with “remakes”. Remember in the 00’s when you couldn’t go a fortnight without discovering that a classic or foreign horror film was being put through the remake-factory machine? From The Ring, The Grudge, Dark Water, Pulse and Shutter, to Texas Chainsaw, Hills Have Eyes, Amityville Horror, Dawn of the Dead and Psycho, it seemed like nothing was off limits, anything was fair game, even if it meant Vince Vaughn prancing around and defecating on Anthony Perkins.
It happened with a genre called “paranormal”, and this is where the saturation tag really feels the most fitting. In recent years when you pick through the mainstream horror titles that have made it into cinemas and actually been promoted by the media outlets that people see, you’d see that most of the titles are of the ghostie type. Now, I like paranormal films, I like ghost stories, haunted houses and demonic forces as much as the next guy, but surely there needs to be a limit and a time to say, “erm, one Paranormal Activity was enough, five is getting fucking ridonkulous”. With the aforementioned ParaBOREmal “Lack of…” Activity series a new genre was launched into the horror realm, a genre I refer to as “I wish you hadn’t FOUND this FOOTAGE”. Teenagers holding handycams while filming their bed sheets wiggling is not my idea of entertainment, and I’ve been more scared by my weekend bowel movements than I have of these awful films.
I’m not saying that all these films are bad, only that there doesn’t seem to be a time, as a horror fan, where there is a nice equal mixture of genres. Slashers have taken a back seat due to lack of original ideas coming from there, we’ve already talked about the haunting, zombie, torture porn and vampire films taking it in turns to saturate the marketplace, but what happened to the other stuff? Where are the monster movies and creature features? Where are the gothic and atmospheric films that filled crowds with terror for decades? Most importantly, where are the horror films that will, in years to come, be counted as classics by fans? There have been some terribly poor and extremely good horror titles in the past few years, but so few of them would go into the pile of pure brilliance alongside the likes of The Exorcist, Psycho, American Werewolf in London, Dawn of the Dead and Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
It is the same with most things, but I find myself sighing in inevitable annoyance when a particular genre becomes “all the rage” and gen-pop begin to ride the shit out of the horse until it’s just well worm leather. Sure, zombies will survive to see another day of chewing on meat (oh dear), vampires will manage to get through without being completely Buffy-ized and the ghost genre will probably have another renaissance once it’s died out and people have had time to want to see more. I just, personally, wish that there was a nice even number to the whole thing, a way of seeing a bit of everything. But we live in a society where, if this were a possibility, we would still be playing with Pogs and Tamagochi’s, hair metal would still be a big deal and people would still give a shit about Pamela Andersons jugs.