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Topic: Did Horror Come Full Circle? Post ReplyPost New Topic
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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 31 October 2017 at 3:07pm | IP Logged | 1 post reply

I haven't a cat in hell's chance of making a blanket statement about a genre as old as the hills, one with so many films/franchise - but I am going to try!

In recent years, I've been impressed with how *some* horror franchises have tried to do different things rather than rehashing with each entry. Love them or hate them, the SAW films have, whilst rehashing at times, tried to add to the mythos and create new situations. Many other horror franchises appear to be doing the same. In a nutshell, it is like the writers are saying, "What can we do that is fresh/moves things forward whilst respecting what made the franchise work?"

Then there's the 80s. Franchises back then seemed to just rehash things. The first seven FRIDAY THE 13TH movies all take place at a summer camp in the woods (the fifth film is set at a different location, but it's still "butchering young folk in the woods"). The HALLOWEEN and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET films were the same: rehash after rehash. The fourth and fifth Krueger films are dire, in my view. It's like horror back then just wanted to milk a franchise without offering anything new; if you binge-watched the first seven FRIDAY THE 13TH films, you wouldn't experience anything new.

So, what of my "full circle" comment? I've tried to watch a lot of classic horror - and back then, it seems franchises (if the term existed) tried to progress/move forward. THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN is very different to THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN - and BRIDE seemed to be adding something new to the mythos rather than totally retreading the ground that FRANKENSTEIN had walked on. 

Various Hammer sequels at least attempted to be doing new things, too.

I think there's a world of difference between THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN and BRIDE moving the mythos/storyline forward - and FRIDAY THE 13TH giving us yet another bunch of generic youngsters to be butchered at Camp Crystal Lake (why didn't the army just blow up the place?). 

So, given quite a few old horror franchises did seem to move forward, and many do now, did horror come full circle with its mindset?
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Brian Hague
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Posted: 31 October 2017 at 9:46pm | IP Logged | 2 post reply

Horror films experienced a period where the genre (rather aptly) began to eat itself. There was a mindset in place after Scream (some would say after Rolfe Kanefsky's "There's Nothing Out There") wherein it became fashionable to comment on the storytelling while it was taking place around the characters. Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard's "Cabin in the Woods" took that about as far as you'd ever want to see it go, but the impulse to do so is still out there.

Switching metaphors now, the Horror Film has chopped up so much of it's own train to feed the engine that it's nearly untenable as a storytelling vehicle any longer. Film makers today who want to work in the genre have to try something off the "horny dead teenagers" path or risk becoming an outdated joke before the film is made. 

This has led to experimentation with "torture porn" (none for me, thanks. Just ate.) and "found footage," both of which were shallow pools from the start. Audiences still want a good scare in a dark theatre though, and film makers still want to give them one, so the genre keeps on rolling forward, sometimes with genuinely experimental work or reliance upon standards that may not be as played out as the "dead teens" one. Is it just me or have there been a number of creepy, murdering dolls coming to life of late?


Edited by Brian Hague on 31 October 2017 at 9:47pm
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Peter Martin
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Posted: 01 November 2017 at 8:54am | IP Logged | 3 post reply

While its certainly true that the 80s saw many generic, yawnsome sequels in its major horror series, I think you're ignoring some notable exceptions in your rush to paint with the broad brush.

There was quite a large development between the first and second instalments of Friday 13th in my book.

Similarly, Halloween 2 greatly altered the series' mythos (in an ill-judged manner to my mind), while Halloween 3 was as markedly different as you will ever seen in any sequel ever. The negative audience reaction to that change was what forced the series back to Michael Myers.

In all media the trend has tended towards a splintering, with fewer, smaller shared experiences and content targeted to smaller segments and I think this is even more true in the case of horror. Very occasionally you'll get a widely-popular horror film (such as the recent It or Get Out), but if you go to Netflix and check out the horror offerings, chances are you'll find a list as long as your arm of low-budget horrors you've never heard of.

Which is to say, I think horror is in a very different place now than it has even been before. Zombies and possession movies are reasonably in favour, but we don't tend to get zombie sequels, just tonnes of different micro-budgeted films.

Then of course, there's TV's role in horror now, which seems bigger than ever before with The Walking Dead and Stranger Things.


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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 01 November 2017 at 9:34am | IP Logged | 4 post reply

I think you're ignoring some notable exceptions in your rush to paint with the broad brush.

***

I remind you of my initial comment:

I haven't a cat in hell's chance of making a blanket statement about a genre as old as the hills, one with so many films/franchise - but I am going to try.

I know I stated "I am going to try..." in my initial post, but I also acknowledged that it was a blanket statement. 

It was not a desire to cover the entire history of horror, nor could anyone hope to unless they had 100,000 words to play with. 

In ANY topic on this forum, there will ALWAYS be exceptions. One can only hope for a few examples in a subject such as this.
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Peter Martin
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Posted: 01 November 2017 at 11:58am | IP Logged | 5 post reply

The notable exceptions were in the specific series that you chose to use as paradigms of zero progression, so I felt it warranted mention.

It's one thing to claim Friday the 13th is a long and samey series, but to say there is no progression in the first 7 ignores that the main antagonist of the series doesn't turn up properly until the second film. That's kind of a biggie.

If you can name a sequel as different from its predecessor as Halloween 3 is to Halloween 2, from any genre from any decade, I'd be interested to hear. So, once again, I think it warranted a mention when you were holding up the Halloween series as an example of rehash after rehash. Even more so when Halloween 2 introduces the concept of Samhain and that Michael is Laurie Strode's brother, which are substantial additions to the mythos of the series. These two films account for half the Halloween films in the 80s.

I appreciate that you caveated your post with a comment about the difficulty of a making a blanket statement, but your few, specific examples -- from which you seemed to be extending your generality -- seemed flawed for the reasons above.

As you rightly say, there will always be exceptions. And in an online forum, when you begin a post with a generalised contention, the likely responses are "I agree with your argument because..." or "I don't agree with your argument because..." and the latter will include exceptions that test your contention. Is that unreasonable? You seem angered by the discussion.
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David Miller
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Posted: 01 November 2017 at 2:51pm | IP Logged | 6 post reply

My expectations from genre narratives are paradoxically low and high. I don't expect much innovation within formula (like say ALIEN's transplanting the slasher movie into deep space, which is still not particularly innovative in story beats), but I do want strong performances, clever dialogue, intriguing cinematography, imaginative effects, and so on, the basic kind of grace notes that make any movie worth watching but few directors bother to include, especially not when they're working in the horror genre. 
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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 01 November 2017 at 3:09pm | IP Logged | 7 post reply

Not angered, Peter, but you are forever the contrarian in my discussions so not really surprised.
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Steve De Young
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Posted: 01 November 2017 at 9:08pm | IP Logged | 8 post reply

I also disagree about those 80's sequel-fests being rehash.  Quite the opposite is true.  Halloween and Friday the 13th started out as simple morality plays.  Nightmare on Elm Street started out with Freddy as a sort of vengeful fury.  Over the course of the sequel, all three of the main villains of these series were turned into something more akin to King Kong and Godzilla.  Jason ended up attacking New York City, and having a military special ops unit devoted to his destruction.  Freddy Kreuger gained a whole mythology from his conception on down and became a sort of malignant dream god.  Michael Meyers ended up being part of an ancestral Celtic curse that produced supernaturally unstoppable family eradicators.  

Not only does Jason not appear in the original Friday the 13th until the ending tag, the Jason of part 7 or of Jason Goes to Hell is a far cry from the deformed kid of part 2.  Likewise with the rest of them.
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James Woodcock
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Posted: 02 November 2017 at 3:00am | IP Logged | 9 post reply

This is starting to sound a very familiar refrain.
All (choose your poison) are the same.

Which just isn't true when you pick things apart.
I only watched a couple Nightmare of Elm Street films, I only watched Halloween 1 and 3. There was zero resemblance between 1 and 3, as mentioned above.

Broad brush, you could say any film in a series is pretty much the same - they hit similar beats, they have a similar central concept. Halloween? Bar 3, it is about a guy with a knife that slashes people. When they tried to make it something different in 3, it bombed. But the characters described above in Steve's post above, I do not recognise as being the characters from the films I did see.

It's a bit like saying all the Marvel super hero movies are the same.
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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 02 November 2017 at 4:02am | IP Logged | 10 post reply

I appreciate what you are both saying.

Let me explain further what I meant: the first seven FRIDAY THE 13TH films all take place in a very similar environment. Yes, it's his mother in the first film. And the fifth one features a different twist (and I think it's set in a different location, although very Camp Crystal-like). Crystal Lake is renamed in VI and follows a very similar pattern. VII offers a unique twist of having a girl with psychokinetic powers, but it all feels very samey.

That's why I was glad when VIII featured Jason on a cruise ship and in Manhattan. It felt very, very different. Simply changing the location made it feel fresh for me; I'm also glad IX and X did different things (X in particular).

Yes, one can definitely argue the first seven films have differences. I is very different to V. VII gives one of its characters a power. And I have no problem with watching them when they are on TV, but if I was to binge-watch them over seven days, I'd find it a bit over-familiar. Over seven days, I'd rather watch I, VIII and X.

As for HALLOWEEN, the second does feel like a rehash of the first. III is very good and a distinct entity. IV, V and VI are pretty good, but they just feel like more of the same: generic teenagers in generic location get butchered by Boogeyman. There are new twists (Michael's niece, Michael's origins), but I wouldn't want to watch II, IV, V and VI in succession over a period of days.

There's enough entertainment value for me to enjoy them, but not enough variety to return to again and again - or to watch in succession. Yet with some modern franchises, I have felt there was a better attempt at variety.

Despite what Peter stated, which felt a bit patronizing ("I'm here to correct your posts"), the fact is, no topic like this could ever hope to cover the entire history of horror and the various blanket statements I made. We'd need 100,000 words to do that.

There are 80s horror films that rehash things. RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD II may change the location slightly, but it's very similar to the first one (I'm glad III went down a different road). HELLRAISER, from the 80s/90s, and beyond, is also a franchise that appears to have done different things (didn't Pinhead end up in the digital realm in a later film?).

At the same time, although I felt classic horror (e.g. Universal) did appear to go down different paths and not rehash things, I am sure if I thought long and hard about it, I could name 40s/50s/60s horror films that did just rehash and break new ground. There's good and bad in every era.
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James Woodcock
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Posted: 02 November 2017 at 8:11am | IP Logged | 11 post reply

But isn't that so with sequels in general?
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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 02 November 2017 at 8:52am | IP Logged | 12 post reply

Sometimes.

There are some that follow a formula (e.g. INDIANA JONES) and that can be fine, having a McGuffin for the protagonist to search for. There are times I feel a formula is wisely adhered to.

At other times, I'd prefer variety, even if it's a different location. Taking Jason Voorhees out of a woodland setting and putting him on a ship sailing for New York is a slight change. We'll still see Voorhees butchering people, but the environment will be slightly different; and the same applies to JASON X: putting him on a spaceship in the future created some new scenarios for him.

Something like WES CRAVEN'S NEW NIGHTMARE did something different whilst still giving us a menacing Freddy Krueger and some familiar tropes.

I don't want something vastly different. Having Jason Voorhees turn into a giant rat and travel back in time to plague the Dark Ages wouldn't be for me, but nor did I want to keep seeing him butchering a rather interchangeable bunch of people in each entry. 
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