Modern horror creators don’t seem to understand the genre, replacing tension with unoriginal and cheap jabs.
So many wonder why is it that film designed for children understand it perfectly? It seems as though these movies tend to be smarter, more creative, and even scarier than “adult” horror films.
There is a huge difference between the films, as those with higher age ratings can put more sensitive material in their films and go one step beyond to push their point. Yet they often fail to do so, meaning half their problem is not taking the film they are working on seriously enough.
A killer gingerbread man and a house that eats people. Both of these absurd monsters are real antagonists for two different movies, which happened to come out at the same time. The house ends up being the scarier of the two, even though it was the one designed for kids.
The 2006 film Monster House uses tension, clever animation and an emotional twist to ensure it stuck with its audience. Meanwhile the 2005 film Gingerdead man shows a lack of interest in itself, which is shown by the lackluster acting and camera work.
This devotion is why Monster House is the superior film, as it puts in a lot of effort for a story about a carnivorous building. The creators set up an anatomy to the house, creating a credibility to the film.
Gingerdead may have had the chance to do the same, had they stuck with the original design and story. They instead chose to copy Child’s Play, a famous movie about a serial killer who is reincarnated as Chucky the killer doll. Suddenly the character of the Gingerdead Man was also a murder stuck in the body of an everyday object, cracking bad puns as Chucky often did.
Some may argue that films like the Gingerdead Man are comedies, and that more serious films do a better job. This is not true though, as several films try (and fail) to make their audience scared of preposterous ideas.
The perfect example of this is Night of the Lepus, an Australian horror film determined to give the audience leporiphobia. In simple terms, they wanted to make people afraid of rabbits.
So why is it that the film, despite trying to, couldn’t scare viewers like they intended? The answer is STILL a lack of effort.
Night of the Lepus does nothing to make the rabbits scary, they just expect them to be scary on their own, as where Monster House’s antagonist changes to be scarier. Its porch splinters into teeth and its chimney billows black smoke to show rage.
Outside of general effort there is one big problem with modern horror films, which is the way they build tension and fear. Most films these days use loud and unexpected pop ups called jumpscares.
Most of the time these jumpscares turn out to be nothing to be afraid of, such as a friend, a dog or (in the case of Silent Hill: Revelations) a poptart. They may catch people off guard initially, but eventually they become too predictable.
Some films, such as Drag Me to Hell, even follow a formula. The scene goes quiet suddenly, followed by a jumpscare. It allows the audience to prepare itself, and get comfortable.
Imagine for the sake of argument, that they weren’t predictable. They are still rather ineffective. One YouTuber made an excellent example of this using a scene from the 1978 classic Halloween.
During this scene one of the film’s protagonist, Dr. Loomis, is concentrating on the house they are watching when his friend sneaks up on him. The original scene was rather quiet, and kept tension after wards. He then adds modern jumpscare noises, effectively killing all tension.
Instead films should choose to build tension steadily, and make sure people never have the opportunity to get comfortable. If filmmakers take a hint from kids’ films, then maybe horror films can return to their golden days.