What Do Horror Fans Want?

After surviving this week’s winterpocalypse we kick off this year’s “What Do Horror Fans Want?” with writer/photographer/ actress Amanda Reboholz of Horrorphile Entertainment.

For years, horror and romantic comedy have only been a hair’s breath apart in the quality control department. Scoff all you want at the comparison, but think it through and you’ll realize it has some validity; how many have you seen that involve vapid characters, unrealistic plot lines, corny dialogue, and predictable endings that would never happen in real life? How many seem like the writers pounded them out for a quick paycheck without putting an ounce of thought into development or the storyline itself? And the formula holds true for casting as well— if it’s small-budget or independent, slap a few attractive people in it. If it has a bigger budget, toss in a well-known face or two to attract an audience and wham. You’ve got yourself a McMovie, as tasteless and thoughtless as some cookie-cutter fast food meal that’s been sitting in a warming tray for an hour waiting for someone to gobble it up. Yet just like that shitty fast-food burger, we know it’s bad for us, we know it has no value or substance, but it’s cheap, it’s easy, and it’s quick. It provides instant gratification and then it’s out of mind as quickly as it entered. No harm, no foul. So we accept it. We allow ourselves to be fed.

Fuck those movies. The ones that we should celebrate are the gourmet, Michelin-starred meals of the genre; we should demand better because better is available. Our palettes have been dulled by years of straight-to-DVD sequels, horrible remakes that lack the spirit of their source material, and braindead half-assed films that don’t give a damn about production value or honoring their audience. Yet we as an audience allow it to continue; we shell out the money to see the new Platinum Dunes remake, we rent the big-budget formulaic horror films, and we buy into it.

We should demand better. We should send this shit back to the kitchen and let someone give the people making it a Gordon Ramsay-style tongue lashing. We should turn up our noses at the cheap jump scares, the terrible autotuned scores, the godawful acting, and the unoriginal killers. We should instead celebrate the unique, the ones that push the envelope, the ones that take the time to respect their audience. There are renaissance artists in the genre; love them or hate them, people like Adam Green and Eli Roth are going mainstream and bringing a new level of savage, unapologetic, fun horror to the screens. Thousands of independent filmmakers are churning out amazing films that are delegated to quiet DVD releases if even that; most of them show once or twice at a film festival if they’re lucky, then fade into obscurity. Why? Because the studios aren’t willing to take a chance on the unknowns. They want to guarantee big box office returns, they want to secure deals for action figures and lunchboxes and t-shirts. But these films are GOOD. Films that deserve to be seen.

So where is horror headed? Hopefully, the horror industry will take initiative and dig in their heels when it comes to integrity. Maybe more filmmakers will stop worrying about writing a ‘marketable’ script and instead just shoot what they love. Maybe they’ll get to experience the fun of writing or shooting or directing or starring in a little horror film, and then their audience will get to appreciate the thrill and adrenaline rush that comes from a project that was made with real love and time and thought and devotion. Maybe the studio bigwigs will realize that festivals across the world are bringing a whole new level of film to the masses, films that don’t have to adhere to MPAA rules and thus don’t subscribe to very many at all. Filmmakers need to start pushing the limits, tweaking the buttons that make us cringe. Actors and actresses need to stop sleepwalking their way through performances and begin believing in their characters. Bring them to life the way the scream queens we all know and love were brought to life; where are this generation’s Nancy Thompson and Laurie Strode? Make the kills creative and beautiful and well-shot, make the killers someone we care about. Freddy, Jason, Chucky, Pinhead, Candyman, they’re legends for a reason; they are iconic both as villains and as characters.

We need a revolution that begins with the absence of apathy. We need three-dimensional characters that don’t easily fall into archetypes; give me a cheerleader who doesn’t drink or have sex with her jock boyfriend, a jock boyfriend who’s really great at science, or a fat chick who can think her way out of a situation. Give me a normal-looking group of teenagers, not supermodels. Give me a killer with flaws, with a great backstory, with a cool motive. I want to hear realistic dialogue and see pulse-pounding scenes that don’t culminate in a cat jumping out of a cabinet or a big bass-thump from the soundtrack as someone turns a corner and nothing’s there. We need viral marketing campaigns, grassroots horror, a love from fans and filmmakers. We need to see egos and paychecks and contracts put aside just long enough for a genuine lovechild to be born without ulterior motive.

I want to know that the filmmakers love the films as much as the audience does, and I believe that if that begins to happen, if the genre returns to the fun family that spawned it in the first place, then we can begin a revival of the magic that made it so wonderful in the glory days. Horror fans are some of the most devoted filmgoers in the world, after all— when’s the last time you saw a romantic comedy convention?