The Disintegration of Cinematic Horror

- by Sarah Appleton, Director

Time has long passed where you could pop down the cinema and see a 'second' feature movie along side the main feature film. During the 1940s and 1970s second features were made by small film production companies to be shown alongside the main feature. Films like BHP's The Shadow of the Cat were seen alongside Hammer's The Curse of the Werewolf to complement the film and create a fun lengthy cinema experience for all. The end of the seventies saw the introduction of multiplexes and therefore the eventual downfall of the second-feature. People liked going to see hours and hours of horror films, short films didn't even come into it.

   Supernatural horror broke away from the cinemas between the 70s and 90s, with the introductions of supernatural television shows and series like Tales From the Crypt and The Twilight Zone. These shows made it possible to watch horror from the comfort of your own living room, the scariest place to be faced up with supernatural happenings. This was only brought back to the cinema screens in the late 90s with The Blair Witch Project and the rise of the Japanese and Asian ghost films; Ringu, Ju-on and One Missed Call, all of which were remade in the US.

   The idea that horror is designed to be in short form, with short, sharp, shocks, seems the perfect format and delivery for frights within books as well as film. M R James, E F Benson and H P Lovecraft all mastered horror story telling with their famous ghost stories which occasionally appear as a TV adaptation; James' Oh Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Boy, and perhaps even his Casting the Runes on BBC2 at Christmas, but never are these brilliant stories taken up by film production companies. The lack of historical knowledge that these stories are popular on film, dissuades production companies from attempting them, and therefore gives perpetual life to the few stories that have worked in cinematic form: the haunted house, the exorcism and the home invasion.

   Hollywood's timidity towards trying anything new, works out well for certain genres and audiences, with the action genre or even perhaps romance at the forefront. This works with realistic genre films like romance because we all have similar experiences in that respect in our own lives and these films are about relating to the audience rather than frightening the life out of them.

   Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension is out this Halloween, and the number sequel this film is, is beyond my comprehension. Hollywood has completely lost touch with the idea of horror, catering for people who don't actually want to be scared. This sadly means that we are faced with the most dyer Halloween releases this year including Goosebumps: The Movie made for children, A Christmas Horror Story, "Christmas" being the operative word, Final Girls (basically a comedy version of the Scream franchise) and Knock Knock, a typical Eli Roth home invasion movie.

   Although the grandfathers of the horror story wrote some of the most frightening things ever put to paper, adapting these old ghost stories isn't necessarily the best idea, because as we all know that reading horror fiction can be the scariest way to consume fear and because of this, turning it into a film might just destroy the scare factor. But honestly, at this point, anything would be scarier than PA The Ghost Dimension!

   Next Halloween will naturally be more of the same until some bright spark suggests remaking Lovecraft's Call of Cthulhu again, but even that will go straight to DVD just as the 2005 independent remake did, and the 2011 The Whisper in Darkness. At least watch one Lovecraftian tale that managed to squeeze through the film doors, The Dunwich Horror (1970). We simply mustn't forget the great horror stories of the 20th century due to our decreasing attention spans and acceptance of everything Hollywood.