How come horror cinema is still 50 years behind horror literature?

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Fresh Meat
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How come horror cinema is still 50 years behind horror literature?

Post by manelesux »

I've been in this year's Frightfest and was wondering how come that horror cinema is still largely ignorant to what's happened in horror literature (perhaps with the exception of Stephen King and such names impossible to ignore due to over-marketing).

And it gets even worse with the recent output showcased at Frightfest - very focused on visual gags, comedic references to pop culture and some rehashing of what's been done before (presented with "meta" pride). However, very little story-driven film-making. Most films are advertised as "a tribute" to this or that - e.g., Tragedy Girls is the new Scream, Sequence Break is the new Videodrome etc.

Directors are still selecting overly simplistic stories to deploy some "exercises in directing" - e.g., I cannot imagine why it took three guys to concoct the screenplay of Nightworld, for example. I understand that cinema is mostly about visuals and sound, but are filmmakers and screenwriters really not reading anything in the field? We cannot expect writers to turn into filmmakers (Clive Barker was enough of an experiment), so someone should build this bridge.
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Re: How come horror cinema is still 50 years behind horror literature?

Post by wakko »

With films like The Babadok, VVitch, Under the Shadow, Under the Skin, It follows, etc. I slightly disagree on the comparison with literature. In regards to festival programme layout - you are always catering for an audience. For example the cult category, which I love, at the BFI festival always tend to be more sophisticated and art-house oriented. However that wouldn't work with Frightfest, which I also love especially for its crowd.
I think the stuff generally labelled as horror genre is niche in the wider scope of things. I also tend to find that the films I like are not the ones the stereo-type horror fan would identify with. Most Haneke and Trier films are horror, but probably not the first directors that would pop into their mind when asked.
I truly enjoy a dumb but good slasher like I did with Victor Crawley this year but I am also very annoyed by the crowd pleaser films. Especially franchises that go up to part 10. Without trying to offend anyone but a lot of the mainstream horror fans don't call for maturity or want to be challenged. They are not bothered by goofy acting, cheap jump scares, cliché editing and sound design. In fact intellectual storytelling and slowness are swiftly considered boring. Uncanny, realistic depictions such as this year's 'Killing Ground' considered as mood killers. A lot of people want a typical fast-paced roller coaster ride with no surprises, but don't you dare taking them through a quiet bit with story and background. Visiting Frightfest for 5 years now I generally find two types (sorry I should know people are more complex than this shameless categorisation): The typical discovery screen visitor (that snob is usually me) who is always looking for an extravagant film like any of the Latin-American releases such as 'Our Evil' and who wouldn't limit himself to being a horror film fan. They are usually wearing normal clothes and if they wear a T-Shirt its usually a Hipster-obscure one. Then there is the more simple minded fun fellow who calls "Freddy, Jason, etc." his/her hero and wears them with proud on their T-Shirt. Tends to stay in main screen for most time and feels happiness the moment you can cheer to a gory death with other fellow festival goers. Actually there is a third one as well: The veteran who moans about the disappearance of the sleepy queue, finally got his press card for his blog posts no one will ever read and usually gives new Frightfesters a patronising speech about the history of horror films. He tends to wear a classic horror movie motive to make a point, usually Suspiria (I will bump into him/her at the 2k restoration event premiere), The Shinning (even the book was so much better!) Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the hidden post-vietnam social commentary) or the "Excorist's" controversial use of subliminal imagery. So yeah quality can be subjective and down to the person! But if you look properly you can always find a gem. Those three types above could help you if you struggle.
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Re: How come horror cinema is still 50 years behind horror literature?

Post by WraithApe »

Lots of nice broad generalisations there :D If anything, I generally fit into your discovery screen goer category as I do tend to seek out the weird outliers, though I'm not clear on what hipster T-shirts are - you mean the kind of horizontally striped T-shirts that seem to be ubiquitous in Shoreditch, along with victorian strongman beards and micro-breweries?

What piques your interest in the cult strand at this year's LFF? The Endless looks interesting to me, and Let the Corpses Tan. The directors of both have some pedigree when it comes to balls out weirdness! The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a must see too I reckon, though it's going to be hard to score tickets for that one, being a headline gala.
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Re: How come horror cinema is still 50 years behind horror literature?

Post by ChrisReynolds »

There's always a lot of retreads and remixes going on in most genres. There is indeed a lot of great horror untapped horror literature around that could be effectively adapted, but it's safer to copy something that worked before than take a risk on something new. This applies both to film-makers who lack imagination and to investors who understandably don't want to lose money. But this has going on since horror began with lots of productions jumping on bandwagons. Even in the 1930s there were lots of Poverty Row productions trying to imitate the successful Universal monster films, and I think the situation is always going to be that 90% of films just tread water, but maybe 10% are pushing the genre forward.

With regards to the London Film Festival, my picks would be:
Killing of a Sacred Deer - Yorgos Lathimos is a modern master. This has had some rave reviews a Cannes while also proving highly divisive. A must see.
Amant Double - The Dare Gala. Psychological thrills, sexual nightmares and body horror from François Ozon.
Blade of the Immortal - The Thrill Gala. Bloody samurai epic. Miike's 100th film. Reviews have been average for this though.
Thelma - The Cult Gala. Hadn't heard of it till I saw it listed. Looks like a version of Patrick, but Joachim Trier is a highly regarded director.
Ghost Stories - I enjoyed the play. Even though it's very difficult to scare in theatre, this play managed it and if the film is even half as scary it will be worth seeing.
My Friend Dahmer - This has been getting some good buzz.
Jailbreak - Brutal prison-set action thriller that's being called Cambodia's answer to The Raid.
Strangled - Hungarian serial killer thriller.
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Re: How come horror cinema is still 50 years behind horror literature?

Post by svengalidonut »

Frightfest tends to follow an unimaginative and narrow definition of horror. The recent Danish film 'Land of Mine' (based on the true story of German POWs who must clear the beaches of dangerous landmines after WW2) has far more genuine horror than the routine splatter zombie-massacre movies the organisers foist on us.
Indeed, the Frightfest equivalent (such as Land Mine goes Click) fail to detonate and fizzle into poorly acted B movies.

The organisers would benefit from concentrating on finding horrific movies rather than stale formulaic horror movies.
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Re: How come horror cinema is still 50 years behind horror literature?

Post by Myerla »

Sven...if you want those type of films dont go to Frightfest.
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Re: How come horror cinema is still 50 years behind horror literature?

Post by MalJutley »

Original movies vs bankable is the debate I'm deducing. A studio is more likely to give money to a movie that can be marketed and promoted far easier than a genuine genre shift or unknown idea. The discovery screens had a few 'different movies' Our Evil was one for example (as used above) that was somewhat different to something that hadn't done before, but when it comes to originality the masses aren't going to take a punt on a new concept. One of the top films I liked which was somewhat different was Freehold but even that we've seen stalker-ish style movies before just a different take.
Frightfest is also driven but studio's and production companies and to draw audiences you will need some of the more mainstream films there. Warner Bros horror have been good wth frightfest recently as has their partner Icon and also Studio Canal seems to getting behind the genre too.
Add to this the following; who can only show what is actually made or out there. Apart from IT I'm not 100% on what other release dates of movies coincided with the festival or if they could be shown and European or UK Premier's. Main screen films are usually premier's of some sort.
Lastly; one of my favourite film was a Spanish film, Veronica, very heavily influenced by Hitchcock, shot in back and white, we've seen this set up before but it was very cleverly done and I really liked what I even tho the stories and content are similar they can be told in different ways (think the amount of Aussie out back thrillers but each one stands out)

Oh and the post about of the 3 different types of frightfester, I'm actually all 3...miss the sleepy queue, love Freddy, have been known to wear a Friday the 13th T Shirt as well as my (no horror) Battle of The Planets one, oh and average about 7-8 discovery films a festival :)
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