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The Horror Film Explosion of the past 15 years

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Here’s an interesting investigation done by Marco Lanzagorta that charts worldwide horror film releases by decade. His investigation only uses the Internet Movie Database to chart general trends of the genre, but it is interesting to think about.

A particularly interesting piece of information quoted in the article: “during the ‘60s only about 35 percent of the horrors film made in the world were produced in the US. Since then, however, this percentage has increased rather dramatically. Indeed, while in 1961, 32 percent of the fear flicks were American, by 2006 the percentage increased to 68, more than doubling its value and completely dominating the current market.

Once again, these are just general numbers that only take into account what the IMDb considers “horror”, but it gives some evidence to my opinion that horror fans are so starved for quality films, that they’ll jump on anything in order to satiate that desire. There’s been a long standing opinion amongst American horror fans in particular that American horror sucks. Innovation has been ceded to Asia, and to a lesser extent, Europe and Mexico so the popular opinion goes. There is a notion that America, rather than lead the world in quality, has fallen back on rehashing its own “classics” and is more concerned with quantity over quality.

Maybe that’s true to a certain extant. What can’t be denied is that there has been an amazing increase in output of American horror cinema. Whether it be big budget studio films, or low-budget shlock, the sheer amount of horror films has skyrocketed. What this means is that our favorite genre is enjoying a popularity and interest that has never been seen before now in terms of output, artistic interest, and acceptance . There must be some reason why thousands upon thousands of people in America are making horror movies, right? I’ve gotta believe it goes beyond simply wanting to “make a quick buck” with a low-budget film.

There’s also got to be something as to why America in particular has increased its horror output so dramatically. Maybe it’s just a new generation of young people raised on fun 80′s films? Maybe we can just afford cameras and have easier access to the tools necessary to make films than other countries? What is going on right now that has caused us to latch onto horror so fiercely?

But by having such a dramatic increase in films, it becomes harder and harder to find the quality. When you see 20 no-budget films with no production values and horrendous acting, does that make a film like Hostel seem “superior” by comparison? I’m not trying to pick on Eli Roth, but I think there is a real feeling amongst horror fans that they are so desperately trying to find something to like, that they’ll overlook certain films just because everything around it is so poor in comparison.

I haven’t really tried to answer anything definitively with this blog entry. But I’ve posed a bunch of questions and am interested in hearing what you all think. What do you think is behind the explosion of horror films here in America? Do you think it’s diluted the quality for the sake of quantity? How does this information change the way we currently perceive the “health” of the genre?

Give me your thoughts.

2 Comments

  • Posted November 30, 2007 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    I think a lot of it is the new connections we have with the internet and also the DIY spirit – anyone with a basic camcorder can put something together. I even saw a TV commercial last night for a children’s toy video camera that comes with a green screen and editing software. So if you have a little drive you can put something out there and exposed to a lot of people, all from a relatively meager point of origin (little money, no “real” actors, no distribution deals).

    I mean, look at TGH – you’re just a couple technical points away from having a “real” DVD that you made yourself. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s *relatively* easy to make a film.

    Horror as a genre wins because it provides the most attention-catching possibilities. You could have made some thick romantic drama set in the Grand Theater, starring Jeremy and T.J. – but that would be much more difficult to pull off in an interesting way than a ghost/monster movie.

  • Marco Lanzagorta
    Posted December 2, 2007 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    Hello,

    This is Marco Lanzagorta, author of the article that you quote above. I am glad to know that you found it interesting.

    Regarding your questions, I believe that the huge number of horror films we see today is due to pervasive presence of new digital technologies and filmmaking economics, as described on my article.

    On the other hand, the renewed interest in the genre appears to be related to the fears, paranoia, and other anxieties that have engulfed America since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Pretty much in the same way as the wave of violent films made during the late 1960s and 1970s (Night of the Living Dead, Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, …) were a reaction to the Vietnam Conflict and Watergate. You can read my argument discussed with further detail on a previous article at popmatters, which you can find in: http://www.popmatters.com/columns/lanzagorta/050902.shtml

    If interested, I will be happy to further discuss these issues with you.

    Regards,

    Marco

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