The Evolution of Horror

It seems as if almost every year the horror film industry puts out another remake to be pitted against the original. The two most recent remakes have been of the classic slasher film “House on Sorority Row,” and the upcoming remake of the horror film classic “Mother’s Day”. Thus, in light of these two remakes, the questions of how horror films has evolved in the past decades, and whether it is evolving in the right direction circulate the industry.

While some may feel the industry is not heading in the right direction, it is important to point out the industry will always be progressive. Meaning, contemporary horror films will always be scarier than classic ones. Not because modern plots are better,  because modern director is more creative, or because modern actors are better. Simply because of inovation in technology and film making. I went back and watched some classic horror films, and frankly, they didn’t hold a candle to even contemporary films that would be considered mediocre in today’s society. The reason is because every year a new technology comes out that can make a gory scene more graphic, a reaction more realistic, and the unknown more suspenseful–ultimately making the film scarier regardless of the plot.

That is not to say, however, that the horror movie industry can sustain itself based on technology advancement, and it is definitely not to say that the horror industry is heading in the right direction merely because production value is higher. If that was the case horror films with horrible story lines such as the “The Happening” would actually be considered a decent film.  Horror films still need a decent plot and decent direction to exploit a persons fear.

The main differences between horror films today and the classics are the plot and the directing — it is these two aspects that separate the cold cut classics to modern day flops and visa versa. However, critics of modern day plot lines. In terms of the plot, progressing should be rather easy; stay with themes and plots that are relevant to contemporary society. For the most part the horror industry as followed this basic rule. For example, the notion of the living dead has transformed from a a spiritual sense of zombies being raised from the dead to a more scientific sense where men become zombie-like through some sort of viral disease. This type of transition in plot lines is progressive and more frightening than the traditional zombie because science plays a more influential role on society today than a few decades ago.

The only real aspect of horror films that can be compared apples to apples is the directing. How has portraying the script change, and is it for the better?

With the increasing ability to make scenes — especially graphic ones–more realistic, horror films have followed a much more gory trend than in the past. The gut-wrenching scenes are more abundant and much more in detail. Many have argued that this takes away from the “art” of horror; especially with the case with graphic scenes with women (which is becoming more and more popular) because in almost all cases the woman is shown being sexually assaulted in very graphic detail — hence the name “torture porn”.

While the the term “torture porn” can be applied to certain films such as “Hostel” and the “Devils Rejects”, it is not applicable to the majority of the horror industry.

Frankly, the role of women in the horror films have progressed for the better. Instead, of being the stereotypical helpless women that stands and screams or follows the lead of a big strong man to safety, women are playing a stronger protagonistic roles in horror films. The reason more women are seen being tortured and assaulted in horror films is because there are actually strong women roles in the movies. While there might be more gory female violation, there is also a larger effort to construct a female character.

With larger amounts of female protagonists in horror flicks there is naturally more sexual assault in movies because it is not only a scary notion to women but it is more realistic. When you hear about foul play with a female victim on the news, more likely than not the women has been sexually assaulted.

Most importantly, when it comes to male or female gore, the end result almost is always the same. You leave the theater with something “unpleasant” down your pants.

While there are some critics who will always condemn new horror films as was far inferior to its predecessors, it is pretty evident to see how the horror film has progressed over the decades.  The horror industry has to evolve with new techniques to frighten people or it would not be able to sustain itself. Just pop in an old horror classic– and imagine the criticism it would get for this day and age.