There’s nothing real or relatable about supernatural horror, but a simple slasher can still keep horror fans up at night.
The Paranormal Activity franchise is set to plague us all with yet another instalment. In a list of things we need, another Paranormal Activity film lies somewhere between a return of the Black Death epidemic and another series of The Voice UK. What has happened to the horror film industry? It’s awash with plot lines that even the Syfy channel would turn its nose up at. An impromptu visit from your mother-in-law will give you more chills than watching a 90-minute build up that keeps flicking back and forth to a pool cleaner moving. Let’s take a trip down memory lane, back to a time when the horror genre wasn’t the running joke of the film industry.
Slasher films have a sense of reality that paranormal films can never recreate. Murders are real, serial killers are real
The slasher genre, mainly in the 1970s and 80s, was big news. Classics such as Halloween, Friday the 13th and My Bloody Valentine were born, and though the 90s did produce some above average slashers, such as Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer, interest dwindled. Now we find ourselves at a complete standstill – each year, more and more paranormal films are churned out. The majority these days start with the ‘based on a true story’ line, as if that’s going to add any weight to the plot, and some idiot in the cinema logs onto Yahoo Answers to ask if it’s really true. A couple three rows in jump and squeal at all the right times, and a woman next to you says she’ll be sleeping with the light on tonight. All of this as if the events on screen could actually happen to you.
When was the last time you heard about a family being terrorised by a demon, compared to the last time you heard about someone snapping and committing a grisly murder? Slasher films have a sense of reality that paranormal films can never recreate. Murders are real, serial killers are real, and while films will exaggerate for added entertainment, there is nothing more terrifying than watching a film about something you could easily read about in a newspaper.
Aside from having plots that are no worse than the tales your least favourite aunt used to tell you, the paranormal upsurge is lacking a degree of simplicity. Paranormal Activity films aren’t the worst offenders when it comes to overloading with CGI, which is mainly because you see next to nothing until the last 10 minutes. Mama, on the other hand, was absolutely ridiculous with CGI. It didn’t exactly have a lot going for it, but the second you actually see Mama is when the film loses any minute scrap of credibility. Like a cross between a Dementor and a giant dust bunny, you could probably kill it off with a good spritz of Febreze and a Henry Hoover.
Friday the 13th’s Jason might look dated now, but the principle remains the same – horror films need to go back to basics
What happened to art departments with tiny budgets making the best of a bad situation? Michael Myers wears a blue boiler suit and a mask. Nothing fancy because fancy isn’t needed. A big budget and a wizard at creating wispy ghost effects doesn’t mean anything if the effect just ends up looking a joke. Jason Voorhees silently stalking teenagers whilst wearing his hockey mask might look dated now, but the principle remains the same – horror films need to go back to basics. Sinister had a go with its Mr Boogie character, but unfortunately he ended up looking like Meatloaf in I Would Do Anything For Love. Strip it back further and go back to the classic techniques; scare the audience with characters that could be real and situations that sound all too familiar to them.
Paranormal Activity has become a cash cow. Everyone knows there’s money in it, and while misguided fans might still mindlessly rave about the next instalment, they won’t stop making them. We need something different, a complete overhaul of the horror genre that brings back a buzz and excitement. Instead of just remaking and rehashing old slasher films, new ones need to be brought to the table. What’s missing is the next Myers. Give the audience a solid, instantly recognisable character they can fear and perhaps horror films can go back to their glory days once more.
Featured image: Warner Bros
Inset image: Paramount