Since movies are subjective (for the most part), there is usually a specific genre or type of film that doesn’t sit with certain people. A lot of people like superhero films, some people hate them, some people hate claymation, or post-apocalyptic films, or romantic comedies, etc., and everybody has at least one of these genres that they don’t like as much as the others. There are movies in every genre that I like as well as hate, but if there’s one genre that almost consistently disappoints me, or rarely is notable or watchable, it would be the horror film. It seems as though horror movies don’t get nearly as much attention in the production process as other films; horror scripts are very often under-developed, cast B-movie or worse actors who can’t read a line without trying too hard or not at all, and the scares (which horror movies sell themselves on) are often cheap and pointless. The horror movie genre is underappreciated and undervalued because it’s hard to find a good one.
I wrote a post recently (here) about the best horror films of 2016, and the reason that list even exists is because I was shocked that there were enough to even make a list on the first place! This year, horror has excelled and it has been the only genre that has repeatedly surprised people with the increase of quality and originality. Those two elements are what horror films almost always lack nowadays. Finding a good and unique horror film in a challenge, but I still have to give credit to the filmmakers for trying. Since different things scare different people, a good horror movie can’t just rely on spooks, but it must have a genuinely haunting atmosphere as well; that is not just done with smoke and lights, but with great directing, and a great story that invests the audience. Of course, horror films are at a disadvantage here because comedies don’t have to do that… a comedy can rely only on laughs and be okay, but if a horror movie relied only on scares, it wouldn’t work because we wouldn’t care about the characters in the situations.
In addition, the ending can’t be convenient or else the entire film will turn sour and will kill any word of mouth (how you feel at the end of the movie is the most important part for word-of-mouth advertising, and a mediocre ending could ruin the entire movie). For a good ending, and not necessarily a happy ending in a horror movie, the situation should be resolved; this could mean that the ghost/murderer/whatever is destroyed or eradicated, OR the movie tells the audience that the character we just followed around died BECAUSE there is no getting rid of the ghost. Either ending works, but it has to make sense for the rest of the story, and has to be a good culmination of all preceding events. Horror endings usually suck, and I would almost say that a trope of horror films is a bad ending that is rushed or predictable… something like The Forest, which I regretted seeing last year, had the most predictable plot and ending of any horror film I’ve seen recently, and because of films like that, the horror genre gets a bad rep. However, it was kind of earned this bad rep, and the sequels/prequels/remakes/etc that they churn out in this genre are not helping at all. How many Texas Chainsaw versions have we had? Not enough, says Hollywood.
To summarize, I think that horror films are at a disadvantage because it’s a more challenging film to get right, and often times, the people and studios who get behind these films don’t give it the attention, respect, or diligence that they deserve. There are always exceptions, of course, and there are directors working today that make incredible horror films, both in atmosphere and story (James Wan is the crowned king). Unfortunately, even the ones they make are seen with skepticism since horror films more often than not, just disappoint people. So, I think that if directors are going to make a horror movie, they should put in the work necessary, and the studio should let these artists do what they do without providing restrictions or regulations on the movie. Like every other genre, there are good movies and bad movies, but horror films to me are hardly ever good or unpredictable. The tropes and themes you find in any horror movie are in dozens of others, and it’s nearly impossible to make one that’s unique nowadays. I hope I have to eat my words in 2017, if the trend of good horror continues.