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Horror Movies: U.S. Audiences Hungry for Blood....

Old 03-27-06, 11:55 PM
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Horror Movies: U.S. Audiences Hungry for Blood....

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12015261/site/newsweek/
Horror Show
Scary movies are multiplying faster than ever, and getting increasingly sadistic. Why are audiences so hungry for blood? Pull up a chair. Just be careful which one.

By Devin Gordon
Newsweek


April 3, 2006 issue - Once the credits roll and the theater empties, movie marketers go to the same place as the rest of us: the bathroom. Only they go to eavesdrop. "That's where you hear the good s--t," says Tim Palen, co-president of marketing for Lions Gate Films. Four years ago, after a test screening of a nasty little horror movie called "Cabin Fever," Palen was lingering in the men's room when he heard two pals dissecting the film. "I liked it," one said. "I just wish it was bloodier." Palen made a mental note: gore is good. He played up the carnage in his ad campaign, and "Cabin Fever," about a flesh-eating virus that chews through a group of friends, earned 15 times its budget and put first-time director Eli Roth on the map. When Roth finished his next film, about a pair of sex-starved American backpackers in Europe who wind up in a torture chamber, Palen didn't blink. "Hostel," starring no one you've heard of and featuring some of the most brutal violence in any mainstream film, debuted atop the box office in January and made nearly $50 million. A sequel is planned for early 2007. "We're now a big believer in blood," says Palen.

In a risk-averse town like Hollywood, the high church of horror has become the one sure bet. Since last fall, seven horror movies have topped the box office. Lions Gate's "Saw" franchise, the genre's current kingpin, has rung up $250 million worldwide; a third film is planned for Halloween. Three more creepfests are scheduled for the next month, starting with Universal's "Slither" this Friday. Even Disney has gotten into the act with the PG-13 flick "Stay Alive," which, alas, is not about the systematic slaughter of disco fans. "In 1990, I had to pull my hair out just to find a movie to put on the cover," says Fangoria magazine editor Tony Timpone. "There were only three or four major horror releases a year. Now there's three or four a month. We're like pigs in slop."



Every decade or so, horror gets hot in Hollywood. This latest shockwave, though, is larger—and much more grotesque. You could sew together a whole new person from all the severed body parts in the "Saw" movies, "Hostel" and Fox Searchlight's remake of Wes Craven's "The Hills Have Eyes." It's not jokey violence, either. "Filmmakers now have the ability to put viewers directly into the shoes of the victims going through these horrible things, in an almost documentary way," says Bob Weinstein, whose "Scream" franchise for Dimension Films launched the last horror fad in 1996. Some critics—smart ones like New York Magazine's David Edelstein, not just nervous Nellies—argue that the trend verges on "torture porn." Even people within the industry are torn. "It's not the violence that bothers me so much as the tone. A George Romero movie was so political and funny and subversive," says Picturehouse Films president Bob Berney, who marketed "The Passion of the Christ." "To me, these newer movies are purely sadistic." Then again, he adds, "I remember my parents saying stuff like this, and I ignored it. They wouldn't let me see 'A Clockwork Orange,' and I went 25 times."

No one's stacking "Saw 2" alongside Stanley Kubrick, but it is true that such films tend to look smarter with the passage of time. It's practically a cliché that you can tease out a generation's subconscious fears just by watching its horror movies (Click here to see David Ansen's related story). Craven, the man who created Freddy Krueger, says horror movies are "boot camp for the young psyche." (Sixty-five percent of the audience for "Hostel" was younger than 25, which is par for the genre.) "I don't think it's an accident that it's always average kids who come to these movies," Craven says. "They're wondering, 'Just how violent is this adult world?' " Asked if he's got any theories about why sadism is in vogue, he laughs and says, "Because we're living in a horror show. The post-9/11 period, all politics aside, has been extremely difficult for the average American. We all know what's floating around out there. That's big stuff, and it comes out in a million ways, from people drinking a bit more to kids going to hard-core movies."

Maybe it's pure coincidence that "Hostel" became a hit after two years of headlines about Abu Ghraib and the rise of anti-Americanism in Europe. But here's the tip-off that the director, at least, knew exactly what he was doing: his two protagonists are jackasses of a specifically American, "what happens in Bratislava stays in Bratislava" variety. You'd want five minutes alone in a room with these knuckleheads, too. Craven's "The Hills Have Eyes" in 1977 was about atom-bomb testing in the Southwest; if you didn't know that the remake (directed by a Frenchman, natch) was a broader critique of U.S. aggression, the moment when the hero jams an American flag through a mutant's neck really spells it out.

Right now, no one has better fingertips for this material than the people at Lions Gate. The studio just won the top Oscar for "Crash," but its executives make no apologies for the bloodier side of their business. "Have I no shame? Is that what you're asking?" says president Tom Ortenberg. "When we see a void in the market, we do our best to fill it. And we didn't feel that there were enough, or really any, R-rated, balls-to-the-wall horror films out there." Without the yoke of a parent company, Lions Gate is free to unleash its inner provocateur, whether that means putting a pair of severed fingers on its "Saw 2" poster—which even Berney, a competitor, calls "a classic"—or playing up the fact that people passed out during previews of "Hostel." "I feel bad that some people had such an extreme reaction," says Palen, "but as a marketer, it was an opportunity to alert people who relish that kind of movie that we've got one for them."

There may not be many more. "The impulse to make these films gets less and less pure as the box office goes up. That's the pattern," says Craven. "A series of original films comes out, often quite furious in their energy, and they find a big audience. Then suddenly everyone wants to make one." And ingenuity takes a nosedive. Screen Gems' remake of "When a Stranger Calls" took in plenty of money last month, but horror-fan hangouts on the Web like Bloody-Disgusting.com gave it two severed thumbs down. "It was like a TV movie of the week," says Fangoria's Timpone. Upcoming titles like "Snakes on a Plane" don't inspire hope, though horror fans will appreciate New Line's decision to add more gore to the film after an early version received a measly PG-13. Palen has no delusions about the future. "Like anything else," he says, "this will run its course." If horror films have taught us anything, though, it's this: you can kill them, but they never stay dead.
Remakes aside, are we seeing a sort of "re-invention" or the horror genre along the lines of the slasher films of the early 80s? I, for one, have really enjoyed the recent slew of horror films: Saw 2, Hostel, The Hills Have Eyes (the best thus far)...and as long as I know the film is gonna be make "well" I have no probably going to the theater to watch a horror movie, it could also have something to do with the crowd reaction, and I'm super picky when it comes to dropping $8 for 2 hours of my life.
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Old 03-28-06, 12:09 AM
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I love horror movies because they're unreal yet reliable to me, they all feature situations that just don't seem real and are, to me, escapist entertainment. Emphasis on the entertainment part, the movies are rarely pretentious, never pretend to be anything more than they are, and are perfectly adept at what they set out to do... and I love it.

As for the current state of horror movies, I think they are getting more gruesome, but that's part of the fun - audience reaction to horrible situations. At least directors are getting creative with the deaths as well, "torture porn" as they may be, they at least put thought into their kills, more than I can say for a lot of flicks out there. Until we get James Cameron back directing ridiculously entertaining action epics, they'll have to do.
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Old 03-28-06, 12:18 AM
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Yeah, grindhouse is definitely making a big comeback. I loved watching that stuff when I was a kid, but now it just seems like "how can we push the line just for the hell of it". It seems like all the horror movies coming out now revolve around someone getting kidnapped and tortured (and that's all). The only thing that changes is the creativity (& extremity) in how they are tortured. I fully expect to see someone rip an eyeball out of someone's socket and start crunching on it pretty soon in a movie, just to shock.
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Old 03-28-06, 01:53 AM
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Remember, the 90's were dominated by horror comedies (Scream, et al) and quiet mood pieces (Ju-On, The Ring, M. Night Shaylaman). I think what we're seeing now is a backlash against that.
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Old 03-28-06, 03:24 AM
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interesting that it makes no reffrence to asian horror and its success, as well as being the original source material to many american horror films.
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Old 03-28-06, 08:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Venom
interesting that it makes no reffrence to asian horror and its success, as well as being the original source material to many american horror films.
or even the International success of the UK's 'Shaun of the Dead' - that effortlessly merged comedy, gore and zombies... Has any recent Hollywood horror film NOT been a remake?
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Old 03-28-06, 05:55 PM
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Horror is hot? After watching Saw 2 & The Hills Have Eyes I have to disagree. While they are entertaining they are from from being good or rewatchable. Why can't Hollywood make horror films where all the characters aren't dumb shits.
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Old 03-28-06, 06:14 PM
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Not my cup of tea, which is one of the reasons I rarely go the cinema nowadays.
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Old 03-28-06, 08:29 PM
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Originally Posted by DVD-ho78(DTS)
...Why can't Hollywood make horror films where all the characters aren't dumb shits.
Because if they did, you would be sitting in a theater for two hours watching people die who didn't deserve it.

If you think about it (but not too much), there is a sense of justice, karma, what-goes-around-comes-around, or whatever, in what happens to these characters.
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Old 03-28-06, 08:46 PM
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Interesting article.
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Old 03-28-06, 09:39 PM
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Originally Posted by chente
Not my cup of tea, which is one of the reasons I rarely go the cinema nowadays.
Agreed. I think it's kinda sad actually to see accomplished actors like Jennifer Connelly and John C. Reilly relegated to Asian horror ripoffs cause that's probably the only movies that are getting greenlighted nowadays.
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Old 03-28-06, 09:41 PM
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"Hostel," starring no one you've heard of and featuring some of the most brutal violence in any mainstream film,
Um...Yeah right! I loved Hostel, but it's really not that violent. I thought it was the first time I saw it, then my friend said it wasn't very violent. I saw it again, and he's right! Sure there is some violence in there, but a lot of it is implied.

I think it's the Texas Chainsaw Massacre effect where the movie simply 'feels' more violent than it really is.
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Old 03-29-06, 06:37 PM
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While it is nice to see horror flicks today getting back the roots of the good and nasty..........I'm personally waiting for the next big supernatural horror flick, last great one was Exorcist III....IMO.
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Old 04-02-06, 03:15 AM
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Hopefully, the next round of movies will be some good Sci-Fi. I like how there are cycles of genres that come out, fade away, then come back.
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Old 04-02-06, 11:40 AM
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Most horror films are crap, and the recent fad is no exception. I see no equivalent of the original Dawn of the Dead, Carpenter's Halloween, The Thing, The Shining, and B-movies like Evil Dead, Re-Animator, Hellraiser, etc, because there's nothing NEW being done. Remake after remake. (Yes, The Thing was a remake but a fresh take on the original) I find the brutality troubling...like everything else in our culture, we have to push the envelope, push the boundary of hard-core, just for the sake of doing so, rather than just telling a fucking story. "torture porn" is about right.
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Old 04-02-06, 12:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Egon's Ghost
Most horror films are crap, and the recent fad is no exception. I see no equivalent of the original Dawn of the Dead, Carpenter's Halloween, The Thing, The Shining, and B-movies like Evil Dead, Re-Animator, Hellraiser, etc, because there's nothing NEW being done. Remake after remake. (Yes, The Thing was a remake but a fresh take on the original) I find the brutality troubling...like everything else in our culture, we have to push the envelope, push the boundary of hard-core, just for the sake of doing so, rather than just telling a fucking story. "torture porn" is about right.
I completetly disagree, as everything isn't a remake and your whole logic is bullshit. So nothing can stand up to horror of the '70s and '80s? Nothing made in the '90s (such as say Candyman or Scream) counts?

It's too early to tell if any of the horror films being released now will stand the test of time. The only one I know will is Shaun of the Dead. However, by your logic, that shouldn't count (as it pretty much is a parody of Romero's Dead trilogy and others).

Just think of it like this way:
- Final Destination, in six years, has pumped out two sequels.
- Saw, in three years, is on it's way to pump out it's second sequel.
- There's a sequel to Hostel being made, if it hits, expect a third.
- Land of the Dead was better than Day of the Dead.
- Slither is getting great reviews left and right.
- Cabin Fever was a great throw back to the horror films of the '80s, despite only members of DVD Talk seeing the film.
- Ginger Snaps went direct-to-video.
- Dog Soldiers went direct-to-television.

EDIT: I also forgot 28 Days Later on the list. That was a good film as well.

Last edited by Matthew Chmiel; 04-02-06 at 12:08 PM.
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Old 04-02-06, 12:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Seantn
Um...Yeah right! I loved Hostel, but it's really not that violent. I thought it was the first time I saw it, then my friend said it wasn't very violent. I saw it again, and he's right! Sure there is some violence in there, but a lot of it is implied.

I think it's the Texas Chainsaw Massacre effect where the movie simply 'feels' more violent than it really is.
It's actually really terribly violent... one of the most violent films ever...

now see it again and see if it changes again.
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Old 04-02-06, 01:42 PM
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Jesus dude, sorry to piss all over your Cheerios. Bad hair day? NOWHERE in my post did I say "nothing can stand up to horror of the '70s and '80s? Nothing made in the '90s (such as say Candyman or Scream) counts?" If you want to interpret it that way, I can't stop you. Scream? Meh.

I don't give 2 shits how many sequels Saw has generated, as they aren't worth talking about. 28 days Later is a rare example. Shaun, as well.
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Old 04-02-06, 02:10 PM
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Matthew you have a good point,the new horror flicks coming out now are better then the 90's horror 100 fold,even though I dont agree with Land of the Dead being better then Day you make some good points.
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