Last week Halloween (2018) proved to be a monster success when it hauled in $75 million+ over its debut weekend. The film also opened to rave reviews, something that the franchise has failed to do in several decades. In fact, the current reboot/sequel is the only film besides the original to receive fresh status on Rotten Tomatoes. But while this is a huge victory for the franchise and those involved, it is bad news for the average movie goer.
“Are You Saying You Hate Halloween?”
No, I do not hate Halloween as a film or a franchise. However, I do hate lackluster cash-grabs, and Halloween‘s success ensures that they are exactly what October line-ups will be flooded with in the coming years.
Horror Movies Come in Waves
Traditionally, horror movies have come in waves, and these waves typically stem from one monster success. In the 30’s, it was Universal’s Monster flicks. Alfred Hitchcock dominated the 50’s and 60’s. Slasher films and special effects dominated the late 70’s-80’s. And reboots of all of the above plagued the early 2000’s. Each of the waves was jump-started by a single or a few successes, those films being Dracula (1931), Dial M for Murder (1954), Halloween (1978), and Scream (1996) among others.
The Early 2000’s
While Scream led to the wave of horror reboots, it is not in itself a reboot. Rather, it serves as a redefining of the genre that lampoons its own clichés, something that most remakes would try to accomplish in their own way. Unfortunately, most of these reboots and forays into the horror genre are not as clever as Wes Craven. Sometimes, even Wes Craven isn’t as clever as Wes Craven. Scream reinvigorated the genre at a time when it was beginning to dwindle, and a great part of that rekindling came from the nostalgia of the film. Scream is a love-letter to the slasher films of the 70’s and 80’s, particularly John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978). Studios saw this nostalgia pay off with dollar signs and began to church out reboots and sequels by the dozen.
During the early 2000’s we received:
- 3 Friday the 13th Films (1 Reboot)
- 5 Final Destination Films
- 7 Saw Films
- 3 Halloween Films (2 Reboots)
- At least a dozen other one-off reboots and remakes
Most of these films were poorly reviewed, and none of them manage to stack up to their original installments, let alone horror’s other monster successes before them. Worst of all, most of these films rely on jump scares and shock value, instead of being genuinely frightening or scary.
The Current Wave
Fortunately, this wave of jump scare horror ended circa 2010. Eventually, audiences grew tired of wanting to play a game, and most of the major reboots failed to turn the profits they were hoping for. The nostalgia reserves dried up as audiences realized that new did not mean better, and that gorier doesn’t mean scarier. Thus, new tactics were needed to fill in those crucially spooky opening weekends in October. The 2010’s have seen innovations in the genre that rival those that have created each wave in horror films before.
While the reverberations of this wave didn’t really begin until the 2010’s I believe that this wave actually began in 2007 with Paranormal Activity.
The Experimental Wave
By all accounts, Paranormal Activity should have flopped. With a laughable $15,000 budget, an untested director, and an infantile production studio, this film was on the ropes the moment the bell rang. That being said, this seemingly desperate situation led to overwhelming results for all parties involved. The low budget of the film led to a new style of horror, and the new style has proven to be a monster success. Paranormal Activity uses the found-footage style of The Blair Witch Project, polishes it up, and takes it a step further. The multi-million dollar success of the film led to the rise of Blumhouse as a major player, as well as paving the way for the highly successful Conjuring series. As such, studios have taken greater risks with untested ideas and the guaranteed icons of the past have taken the backseat to exciting new ones.
Because of this willingness to experiment, audiences have been treated to the following monster successes of the past decade:
Blumhouse productions became a household name because of Paranormal Activity. They have produced dozens of well-known films, including Damien Chazelle’s major directorial debut, Whiplash. While Whiplash wasn’t a massive financial success, it was a critical success and got Chazelle’s name into the spotlight. Because of this success, Chazelle was able to bring La La Land to life. So, by association, Paranormal Activity is responsible for delivering, La La Land, a modern classic in the musical genre.
One Wave Ends…Another Begins
Unfortunately, studios that have given us new and exciting takes on the horror genre this past decade have also given us lackluster sequels. The Purge and The Conjuring franchises are devolving to the state of the Saw and Final Destination franchises ten years prior. While many of the new and exciting films have released within the past year, they appear to be doing so as the experimental wave of the 2010’s dissipates. A turning point is once again needed to revitalize the genre, which brings us to Halloween (2018).
Something Old, Something New…
In the decade of the 2000’s, studios redelivered something old. In the decade of the 2010’s studios delivered something new. As the 2010’s draw to a close and the experimental wave ends, one studio delivered something old, but in a new manner. By neglecting every sequel and soft or hard reboot, Halloween (2018) finds itself in a refreshing return to form. There are no cults and no familial ties, it’s just good, old-fashioned Michael Myers out for a bloody stroll down the streets of Haddonfield.
The film is great, in my own personal opinion, and I am happy to see it succeed. The $75 million+ haul is a monster success not only for the franchise, but for Jamie Lee Curtis, and all female lead films. That being said, studios are bound to learn the wrong lessons from this film’s success. The easiest way to describe what is inevitably about to happen within the horror genre is by looking at how The Avengers changed the shape of superhero movies, and blockbusters in general.
Before 2012, an ensemble team-up of characters from several popular franchises was practically unheard of. It had been attempted before with mash-ups such as Freddy Vs Jason (2003) and Alien Vs Predator (2004), but to minimal success. And for a company who’s only strong franchise at that point had recently come crashing down (Spider-Man 3); Marvel’s idea of featuring an ensemble of B-list characters, was a huge risk.
But, in the wake of Infinity War, every world knows how well that risk has paid off for both Marvel and Disney. Other studios know it to, and they have been blinded by the MCU’s monetary haul. Several studios have tried and failed to recreate this monster success by building their own cinematic universes. And how has that gone?
Poorly. That’s how.
Sony’s expanded universe burned up on the launch pad with The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The DCEU continues to hobble along on the success of Wonder Woman, despite the failures and ill will of Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad, and Justice League. Universal’s Monsterverse died on the operating table with 2017’s The Mummy. The list could go on and on. The point is, instead of taking note of the world-building and effort, competing studios try to jump straight to the end result, and that approach has failed every single time so far.
Horror Icons Won’t Stay Dead for Long
Michael Myers’ reboot back to 1978 is ultimately going to wake Mrs. Vorhees, Freddy Kruger, and Leatherface back from the dead. Halloween‘s monster success is too large for other studios to ignore, and it will ultimately lead to those studios taking shortcuts at the expense of true quality. So, the success of Halloween (2018) is not bad in and of itself. However, this success will have repercussions throughout Hollywood that will inevitably lead to both creative and consumer disappointment. A few of these will probably be good, several decent, but most will be disappointments.
Thank you for reading! What did you think about Halloween and the future of horror? Comment down below!
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