Is the Horror Film Industry in Trouble?

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Answered by: Shewanda, An Expert in the Horror and Suspense Category
At the onset of the 21st century, American horror films have been experiencing a dramatic decline in quality and commercial success. Such headlines as “Hollywood Horror Films Suffer Box-office Anemia” and “Is Horror Dead?” have become commonplace. This industry, once heralded for pushing the boundaries of societal taboos, faces a crisis of creative and economic significance.

Much like the American auto industry, mass importation of foreign products, coupled with an absence in technological and creative innovation, has helped spur a crisis of the genre. Consider the numbers. Last year, the studios released 23 horror movies. This year the tally will be 42, nearly double, and too often the take at the box-office has been anemic, leaving studios and distributors with lots of red ink gushing throughout the bottom line.

A decline is, by definition, a tendency towards an inferior state or weaker condition. One may measure this in terms of the quality of industry output, with audience reception serving as one indicator of a film’s worth (or lack thereof). Using this standard, the Hollywood horror film industry faces a severe dilemma. Audiences throughout the United States have explicitly articulated their growing distaste with the direction of horror cinema through their absence at the box office. Over the last few years, the horror film industry has witnessed an onslaught of poorly received works, many with big names attached.

The Reaping (2007), which starred Hilary Swank as a doubting Thomas of a professor, ravaged by the Biblical 10 plagues, met with budget hemorrhaging. Released at a cost of about 65 million, it managed to reap only $25 million in box-office sales. Titles such as The Hills Have Eyes II (2007), a Wes Craven production, and Hood of Horror (2006) with hip hop icon Snoop Dogg, fared poorly as well. M. Night Shyamalan's Devil (2010) earned nearly $63 million worldwide, a far cry from his first foray into the genre with The Sixth Sense (1999), which grossed nearly $300 million dollars.

This collapsing of the genre can be blamed on several phenomena, many of which are interrelated. Hollywood’s thirst for quick films with low-budgets and high financial returns has paved the way for foreign imports, remakes and sequels. Prominently figured among these issues is the genre’s heavy reliance on the sequel and its iconic characters. Horror, more than any other genre, frequently relies on the rehashing of familiar ideas. Sequels are the tangible product of this rehashing.

The problem with this however, is that they eventually tend to stray from the elements that proved successful, contradicting their definition altogether. In Jason X (2002), the tenth installment in the Friday the 13th series, Voorhees awakens on a spaceship in the 25th century for his murdering spree. Once the neglected and sympathetic son of Mrs. Voorhees, Jason eventually evolved into a monster with incomparable resurrective and regenerative capabilities.

One user on IMDB with the handle ExpendableMan, reflected the audiences low expectations of late installment films with the following: “Let's face it, if you're going to rent one of the later movies,you'd be an idiot to expect high art. The fact that this is the tenth movie in the Friday the 13th franchise…AND it's set in space doesn't exactly suggest that this'll be an all-time classic.” He goes on to add, “the characters are so one-dimensional and..cheesy you're more likely to laugh than scream… There's even a later scene …with a hilarious "beating one camper to death with the other" sequence (Jason X).

For a series that began with the notion of Jason as a camper left to die by neglectful counselors only to have his mother exact revenge, a scene where he beats one camper to death with another seems to indicate the series, and indeed the genre, has gone awry.

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