Sense of Wonder: Can Halloween save Horror?

While posting some new pics from Rob Zombie’s upcoming HALLOWEEN remake, Lucius Gore at E-Splatter.Com opines that the future of the horror genre is riding on the box office performance of the film when it opens on August 31. Lucius points to the poor performance of HOSTEL PART II, 28 WEEKS LATER, and GRINDHOUSE as evidence that, if HALLOWEEN likewise bombs, horror will descend into “the moribund direct-to-video-only mess that it was in throughout the first half of the 1990s.”
Though I have no doubt that a certain weight of expectations is riding on the shoulders of HALLOWEEN, I think Lucius is a bit off the mark with this analysis, which is premised on the idea that these are all really good films that tanked for mysterious reasons, perhaps a “paradigm shift” in our culture.
GRINDHOUSE was, frankly, a dud whose box office failure was not only utterly deserved but also, at least in retrospect, completely predictable. It was a rehash of movies that were never terribly popular to begin with. HOSTEL PART II and 28 WEEKS LATER are both sequels to movies that were successes only in terms relative to their costs. HALLOWEEN is a remake of a film that launched a franchise that long since wore out its welcome.

In short, they’re rehashed horror at best; even if well done, it’s just the same old stuff we’ve seen before. Is this really the best the genre has to offer? And if the answer is yes, should we despair if the box office kills off the current trend?
Truly, there is little mystery as to why audiences would not turn out in droves for these movies – these are films that were not necessarily designed to appeal to audiences. They were made by and for hardcore gore-hounds. They’re the equivalent of an initiation-hazing ceremony: you’re not supposed to be entertained; you’re supposed to be proud that you could stand the acid test while those around you were chickening out and hiding their eyes.
Consequently, it seems a bit of a stretch to blame the audience, not the films themselves for the poor box office results. If HALLOWEEN and/or SAW IV bombs like the rest of the recent horror films, it will not be the death of the genre; it will merely be the death of the current “splat-pack” style – which could make it one of the briefest trends in the history of cinema, on par with the brief 1953 craze for 3D.
Fortunately, “horror” and “splat-pack” are not interchangeable terms. The later is a sub-set of the former. If the splat-pack kids have to be sent home for failing to entertain audiences, there will be others waiting in the wings to send the genre in some new direction. In a sense, the failure of HALLOWEEN might even be a good thing: if reliable gambits like remakes and sequels no longer work; Hollywood might be forced to try some creativity.
Out with the old, in with the new, I always say.

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