The Art of Darkness

The State of Horror Today

November 5th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Over on Facebook, intrepid commenter Bruno and I were recently discussing this article about the (possible) “new” trend of horror movies which feature unbeatable threats. The argument goes that, just as 50s horror movies were reflections of real-world angst about the Cold War and the atomic bomb, today’s fears of unsurmountable threats like climate change and economic collapse are producing horror where “the menace is ever-present, unsparing, and eternal. It’s to be endured, not conquered.” The two movies held up as examples of this theoretical trend are The Babadook and It Follows.

I responded thusly (spoilers for The Babadook):

I’m giving this kind of a cautious head-tilt. Functionally, I don’t see a lot of difference between the unstoppable slashers like Michael Myers and something like the Babadook or the monster in It Follows. I know the article mentions the movie characters’ belief that the horror has ended whilst the audience knows different, but clear back in the original Halloween (1978), the movie ends with Loomis and Laurie realizing that Michael isn’t dead. Indeed, I’d argue that The Babadook has a more hopeful ending than Halloween, because although the monster isn’t dead, it’s been vanquished and is more like a sulky pet.

He replied:

I appreciate your point and maybe both the article and my initial reaction are a bit of confirmation bias. Looking back to my horror consumption habits and that of friends and online communities, I see a bit of a rise in demand for non-closing horror, whether it’s Babadook or Lovecraft.

Trends in horror have a lot to say about their historical moments, and I wonder if we’re living in a sisyphean moment where closure is not an option, and so the experience of annoyance, angst and even horror are unbounded and unbeatable.

And then he suggested:

Here’s an experiment: what if we got a goth blogger with an active readership to ask her community what they’ve been reading / watching in horror that they would recommend? ;p

And so here we are. What say you, blog readership? Is there a noticeable trend in “unbeatable” monsters that bears out this idea? Even if there’s not, what have you been reading and/or watching lately that you can recommend?

Posted in Whatever | 5 Comments »

5 Responses

  1. Craft Says:

    Funny that this subject is being discussed. I don’t watch much horror (I know, bad Craft bad) but my worst dreams from my younger days were always an unbeatable monster, something I would beat the crap out of extensively and it would just keep coming. The trash lady from Labyrinth featured in my recurring dream like this (hence my answer in an earlier comment). Anyway, maybe there is a deeper subconscious tie with feeling like events are out of our control no matter what we do.

  2. Pixel Pixie Says:

    I’m not crazy on the current trend of torture porn and found footage. Gore and violence aren’t the problem, it’s just cheap and uncreative, like relying on jump scares. Found footage can be done well, it just tends not to be.

    That being said, I’ve recently discovered Supernatural (i know, I’m late to the party). I’m really surprised at how good it is, considering it’s a network show, and that it maintains good quality despite being on as long as it has. Contrast that against True Blood, which really only had one good season, and a few that were entertaining but not good.

  3. cookie Says:

    I think that it’s a lot simpler; film studios just want to make money and could not care less about the angst of the age.They took something that at the time was profitable and popular and translated it into film and kept it up until it stopped making money.
    Back at the beginning films, especially horror films, were based on known quantities, Nosferatu, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The cabinet of Dr Caligari, Dr. Mabusi all of them familiar to audiences at the time, people having read the books and so it was with Dracula and Frankenstein. It was these two that taught an important lesson to the studios, namely, go with a known quantity till it stops making money. It works. Frankenstein came back to get married,fight the Doctor, hook up with Dracula who himself came back again and again despite being killed off.They were even used to stretch out the formally money making careers of the Bowery Boys,the Ritz Brothers and Abbott and Costello. The limit was reached with Dracula’s daughter taking on Jesse James, one of the oddest transitions into a newly popular genre/cowboys.Eventually, people got tired of Frank and Drac, they weren’t even scary anymore.They no longer made money. The fifties did bring in the atomic age but more than that it brought in the feeling of…bigness.People didn’t have time to read and when they weren’t out living big they were watching it on TV.TV opened up America to the great big world. There’s no other way to put it; living in the fifties in America was a study in expansiveness, cars were bigger, food servings ,houses, even hair! Bigger was better and that was the known quantity then. Old novels were left in the dust and replaced with giant tarantulas, gila monsters, 50 feet tall women and atomic men. Big monsters/big bucks. We came back again and again to big but not necessarily one big something; except Godzilla, who will outlive us all.
    The sixties brought hippies and drugs and peace love and comic books. Comic books were the thing and so the monsters followed suit. Monsters were superficial and forgettable, something even a Scooby Doo could handle. Nothing was worth repeating. Then came Charlie Manson. The end of the sixties and all it’s innocence. Here was a monster who would translate into film well and everyone could relate to. What Christians pointed to when asked about drugs, taken out of carnival sideshows and immortalized in films.People paid good money to learn about the dangers of drugs and what to say to their kids; Churches were making a fortune off of the fear of parents.Even so it took a while to take the full on gore plunge and there were a lot of violent exploitation films in between.They made money but studios knew they needed the big uncensored Kapow a monster spawned by drugs and unholy practices. And so Charlie is the father of the slasher gorefest genre movies. Freddy Jason and Michael all have him to thank for their existence; and they made money. A lot of money till people didn’t care to see them come back even with Jason taking on Freddy just like Dracula took on Frankenstein. Now what is the big thing that everyone is involved with? What will make money again and again? Video games and so we have come to the ever present omnipotent threat that can be challenged again and again but never defeated, just like hitting reset in a game. People aren’t really all that concerned with climate change or unending wars, if they were then all the politicians in DC would be swinging from the lamp posts instead of getting re-elected and movies like ‘They Live would be on it’s tenth sequel now. What’s next? Who knows but I suspect that iPods will be involved somehow; perhaps The Key and Peele unfriend Dracula and Frankenstein on Facebook movie. Just so long as it makes money.

  4. Mim Says:

    I’ve been going back to the old stuff! Recently rewatched the 1930s Dracula in Spanish.

  5. StoneMaven Says:

    Well, I’m in my mid 40’s. My reading tends towards fluff romance or real life ghost/cryptozoology investigations, but for horror movies I’m all about the giant monsters/kaiju. I was raised on JAWS, King Kong, Jurassic Park, and Godzilla and it shows. The recent Sci/Fi (I refuse to call it Syfi) trend of cheap B-grade creature features makes me squee. However, I wish there were more like Jaws, B-movies that were so well done they were A-list.

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