Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bloody Disgusting? How About Utterly Bloody Disgusted!

I am frequently pained at and with the current state of my favorite literary and cinematic genre, horror.

I am very fond of the website Bloody Disgusting - I go there for news and general surveillance of the genre. So, for the record, I have no problem with the website, on the contrary, I dig it. I do however, have a major problem with the headlines that I read day after day, month after month, year after year. It's completely fucking tragic.

Why? Well, let's take a random sampling of some July headline posts, basically from about a 48 hour span. All headlines belong to Bloody Disgusting and are reproduced under the fair use act.

SDCC '08: 'Friday the 13th' Hard 'R', Deleted Scenes For DVD
Posted: July 25, 2008 @ 2:35pm

SDCC '08: Review of 'Lost Boys: The Tribe'
Posted: July 25, 2008 @ 4:49am

Warner Bros. To Revive 'The Twilight Zone'
Posted: July 25, 2008 @ 12:43am

'SAW V' Trailer Online NOW!!!
Posted: July 25, 2008 @ 12:13am

"Poltergeist' Remake Confirmed in Press Release
Posted: July 24, 2008 @ 10:32pm

Posted: July 24, 2008 @ 8:13pm

New One Sheet For 'Death Race' Remake
Posted: July 24, 2008 @ 7:48pm

Universal Launches 'Wolfman' Website
Posted: July 24, 2008

Okay, so, dear God. The sequel, prequel, remake climate that has proliferated without the SLIGHTEST measure of restraint "utterly disgusts" me. Remember, this is merely a sampling of July 24th and July 25th. When there are no more remakes in Hell... you know the rest. I mean take a look:

The Friday the 13th Remake
The Lost Boys "Sequel"

The Remake of "The Twilight Zone"

The Saw V sequel
The Poltergeist Remake
The Robocop "Sequel/Remake"

The Death Race 2000 Remake
The Wolfman Remake

(and believe me, there are many many more, The Day The Earth Stood Still remake, The remake of Dante's Piranha, ad infinitum, ad nauseum).

Do I have a problem with remakes? Sequels? Prequels? Ongoing series? The revival of classic Universal characters? NO, not at all. Do I have a problem with how these films have come to saturate (and saturate is putting it mildly) the market? Absolutely.

Genre theory tells us a lot about how cycles evolve, When a sub-genre (say, the Slasher Film) has burned itself out it typically does one of two things; it occasionally takes a breather and "re-invents" itself with clever re-negotiations of its social context (Scream), or it becomes the subject of satire/parody (Scary Movie). And, of course, these two films produced cycles and sequels of their own until THEY in fact, burned out.

But, if I may quote myself from an entry on another blog, the way I see the future of the state of horror (in a paragraph) is kinda like this:

"Suffice it to say that the state of the genre is also a good barometer for measuring the state of human affairs - which is a bloody mess. The most profoundly philosophical genre - horror is always with us - utterly ubiquitous. In a car, on a plane, on the beach, in a house, in an airplane, in the woods, in the desert, in our minds, etc. - it is not dependent upon a place or a time or a character (unlike other genres). Horror is locatable everywhere and usually is most profoundly found when looking in the mirror. To quote the great Stephen Prince, “The anxiety at the heart of the genre is, indeed, the nature of human being.” I am not thrilled with the climate of the remake, prequel, sequel culture (lazy, mundane, easy), which thrives not on the genuine creative impulses of a writer or director, but typically, more on the distinct ring of the cash register. This business practice and attitude is not new, but it is certainly far more pronounced than it has EVER been. And yet, in the midst of such transparent efforts, we get a modest little film from Spain in 2007 which scared the absolute shit out this 38 year old genre veteran. Yes, “.Rec” is that good - if you have not seen it, do yourself a favor and do so. So, there is hope for the state of the genre, but not because of anything the industry will or could do - there is hope because the diet staples that feed this genre are synchronic with social anxieties, fears, taboos and ideologies. And, dear friends, as long as these remain good and fucked up, we will continue to find repressed monstrosities to feed the machine." (written over at The Horror Blog final Roundtable discussion).

I mentioned earlier that the most dominant identifying feature of a genre is its social context. There is a triad between genre, text (film), and audience that is in constant flux, fusion, negotiation. One could argue then, rather pessimistically, that the remake culture that has been shoved down our throat (very aggressively the past 10 years) is symptomatic of purely economic motivations and a general complacency or laziness on the part of studios to recognize or take chances on the new breed of horror writer. Genre theory exists for various reasons that I shall not discuss now, but certainly one thing we can examine by studying genre is the various power relations and struggles that exist in society. To this I say, wow, I am even more disturbed now. With all things horrific and terrifying at this point in time, is it really necessary to constantly cull studio libraries for remake fodder? How about a horror film about... I don't know, how about 5 fucking dollar a gallon gas? What say you dear reader?


Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Chick,

Remake and sequel fever is certainly raging out of control. One might even consider it has become a sub-genre of its own.

I don't know where the blame lies but I suspect it is with those who refuse (or the suits who assume they refuse, at least) to watch a film that isn't in English.

I refer, of course, to the spate of J-Horror remakes (Ring, Grudge etc) and look to even something like the Swedish "Let the Right One In" - a film I am mightily looking forward to but, before the ink is even dry on the movie posters, Hammer are already down to remake it. There has been talk of remaking Night Watch and Day Watch – I can’t understand why you would do that.

These are all, of course, remakes of films that are contemporary with the remake.

This remake of older films fever continues apace with the films you've mentioned, plus I've seen talk of Sci-Fi Channel remaking Black Sunday and heard that isle of the dead is to be remade (No!!!!)

Does this mean an assumption that not only will people not watch a subtitled film, they won't watch a film in black and white? Is the assumption actually wrong?

Okay, some remakes or re-imaginings work but, in the main, farm it to mainstream Hollywood and it fails as there is a need to make things happy at the end (if nothing else) and fall into schlock(when it comes to horror genre) in other respects. The Haunting springs to mind… 1950s chilling, truly frightening film. Remake – bloomin’ awful. The Vanishing… original (Belgium?) fantastic film, dark ending. US version – happy bloomin’ ending. Even the re-imagining of Dawn of the Dead (which lost social commentary but was, in the scheme of remakes, not too bad) had to have a happy, sunset drenched ending (and then we in the know sat steadfast through the credits waiting for the darker ending that had been snuck there).

As for sequels… not a problem with the idea of a sequel generally so long as there is an idea. Lost Boys the Tribe – not that I hated it as much as Bloody Disgusting – is an average vamp movie that probably would never have been made if not for the franchise name. Then we hear that Universal are making a sequel to Lugosi’s Dracula and wonder how they can forget that they already made a direct closing scene to opening scene sequel (Dracula’s Daughter).

Oh well, I’ve rambled on, having only had one cup of coffee so far, and probably not made a lot of sense in my rambling

Chick Young said...

Hey Tal,

Agreed on all accounts. Especially interesting is the foreign film component you bring up. I've been teaching film for nearly five years now and can honestly say that younger audiences are open to foreign film - in fact they often comment on how amazing they may think a particular film is. The problem is, they either need to be forced to watch it or need to be heavily pre-sold on the idea. So, it's a tough one to call. There is definitely a percentage of audience (regardless of age) that DO NOT want to have to deal with subtitles. Speaking of which the trailer for the remake of .Rec, Quarantine, is a major ho-hum for me. It's a pity - frankly I don't know they can improve upon it - why not just release the damn thing as is - why do we have to have an English version at all?

Gore Verbanski's remake of The Ring was interesting, I didn' mind it, and of course Cronenberg's The Fly and Carpenter's Thing are incredible revisions. Much more potent. I'm just so angry at the laziness - give writer's a chance. Stop remaking everything in sight! Stop! Decist!

gilligan said...

In my humble opinion it is all about the almighty dollar.

Nowadays, most people don't take risks on the movies they're going to check out because it's so friggin' expensive (it cost me $60.00 to go see damn Kit Kitteridge last week!). So, what are you going to do if you're a producer, (A) shell out the bucks for a Saw XXVII which you know will show a return on your investment, or (B) take a risk on something that may pay out tenfold or drive you bankrupt?

You bring up a fascinating topic, but I think it is a tale as old as cinema itself. What winds up at the cineplex is ultimately up to groups of investors (not typically known for creative vision and experimentation). Think about what happened after Halloween came out? One slasher movie after another each meticulously following a template. What happened after Rosemary's Baby? Again, an explosion of satanic features (Lisa and the Devil, The Exorcist, The Omen, etc.). Halloween and Rosemary's Baby made a buck, so let's jump on the bandwagon.

I will agree that it may a degree worse than ever before simply because of the sheer expense of going to movies nowadays (which makes these investors even MORE cautious). But I'm confident another horror film will come along, break the mold, and inspire another laundry list of imitators.

JMR said...

i concur with your assessment. with the remakes, i think that the lone standouts are gore verbinski's "the ring" and zack snyder's "dawn of the dead". "the ring", quite simply, freaked me out. i also loved the cinematography. "dawn of the dead" is now one of my favourite horror films. but we've had that discussion before, so i'll dispense with the digression.

there are also a few standouts in the original horror field, namely neil marhsall's "the descent" and frank darabont's "the mist".

but you know what the horror film community really really needs?

more cthulhu.

Chick Young said...


absolutely. Sadly, it is the cash register that I think is responsible for this quagmire.


thanks for the comment mate. Sometimes I get so frustrated with the state of things in this particular genre. And, yes, more Lovecraft is ALWAYS a good thing!

Uranium Will said...

I have read a remake of Jack Hill's Spider Baby is in the can. Don't how how this will turn out.