Oh, the horror!

finaldestinationThough the heat of August may seem an odd time, it is nonetheless when a showdown of two horror franchises take place.

In this corner, weighing in about 275 pounds of solid, face-smashing muscle is Michael Myers of the “Halloween” legacy. Now in his 9h trip to the box office (including sequels, reboots, reimaginings and, perhaps regrettably bad miscalculations, and not including the franchise’s Myers-less sequel Halloween 3: Season of the Witch), Myers, aka The Shape, aka, The Dude in the Scary William Shatner Mask, has led a cinematic legacy that includes a body count reserved primarily for war movies. He’s taken his share of hits, most often from critics who hammer away at the franchise’s ability to whip a dead horse, but even after 30 years in the industry, he still springs to life onscreen as long as his fan base chant for his return (sometimes, even when they do not).

h2In the other corner, Death. Though actually quite camera shy in his roles through four “Final Destination” films, his prankish presence is always prominent. Known there for setting intricate traps that would make Wile E. Coyote green with envy, Death in these films seems predominantly preoccupied with hunting down vapid teens who have somehow escaped his clutches during a prior catastrophe of his doing. And while on screen he has made appearances in films dating all the way back to 1913 (in a short called “The Great Physician”), Death, aka The Grim Reaper, aka The Angel of Death, aka der Tod, was previously best known for his more cerebral, chess-playing abilities ( Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal”).

But like witnessing two favorite actors from youth trading autographs for cash at an auto show, these two once-towering figures are now just depressing. So, instead of rattling off the ways both “Halloween 2” and “The Final Destination” suck, I thought I would pose the question, why do their still exist at all? For this, I have enlisted the some experts in the field of horror: two screenwriters and operators of horror-themed sites, Bo Ransdell, screenwriter and owner of “The Last Blog on the Left” and Dan Weissenberger, aka Count Vardulon, screenwriter and owner of “Castle Vardulon.”

RR: This weekend, “The Final Destination” and “Halloween 2” landed atop the box office. There is not a single site I visit, not a single critic I follow that doesn’t groan at the mere mention of these films, so who’s going to these films, and more importantly, how can we stop them?

3-d glassesBo Ransdell: I think the audience is evenly divided, between die-hard genre fans, who will see anything horror, and also those who are on a date night, usually in their late teens or early 20s, who are going in expecting what we are taught to expect from these types of films. I think this is particularly relevant with “Final Destination,” because now they can see everything with 3D concept. That’s what makes the films winners at the box office. Consequently, the viewing public is the loser.

halloweenDan Weissmann: I think the answer is rather simple: Children continue to grow at a consistent rate. Yes, there is dedicated genre audience, but anyone who takes it seriously, won’t see a Rob Zombie “Halloween” movie. Teens are always going to go through a horror phase, now that they are old enough, they have the ability to go out and see these films they’ve always heard about through older siblings and friends, and have seen the trailers for while growing up. There will always be enough 15-20 year olds who will fill the theater.

friday_the_13th_movie_posterBR: It seems profitable for studios to remake, continue, reimagine these films because there is built-in audience recognition, so on thee business end, this makes complete sense. I’m not saying it’s right or even good, but financially, it’s really easy to say “Jason’s Back” (the Friday the 13th antagonist).

RR: I have an affinity for horror just as much as the next guy. And even though I ultimately did not care for a film like “Orphan,” I liked the places it was willing to go in the name of the genre. It did respectable business, so why aren’t more greenlit?

DW: It’s entirely a corporate mindset. Movies like “Friday the 13th,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Halloween” were all independently made, which is almost unheard of these days. You have to go the direct-to-DVD to find originality. It costs about $30 million to (nationally) advertise any movie, and they can’t justify that from an unknown name a lot of times, from corporate perspective.

BR: And are you going to recoup (that money) after opening weekend?

DW: Yes, these films are all about opening weekend grosses.

mybloodyfinalBR: I will go to bat for (the remake of) My Bloody Valentine, I don’t think the makers had any illusion beyond making a slasher film. And in the case of the remake of The Last House on the Left, Even though I don’t think it was successful, I think there was a real attempt.

DW: The irony is that in many cases of remakes, the original was so bad, it should not be hard to remake a movie like this. And you are right, Bo, “My Bloody Valentine” was just a fun slasher film in the way that we have not seen since the 80s

BR: In most cases, there’s not even an attempt, especially in the “Friday the 13th” remake. I get the sense that the producers did not understand why people watched the first films, they don’t understand the audience or the product. I feel like they owe me money. 

As writers in the field, what do you find some of the most frustrating stumbling blocks are?

the-burrowers-2BR: I have written several genre scripts, and I get the sense that in mainstream studios there is an unwillingness to do “new” properties. The movies aren’t about anything, there is no thematic property going on, the characters are terrible, the plot is poorly written Conversely, on DVD, you see movies about something, like “The Burrowers,”or “Grace” which travel or are traveling around the festival circuit before ending up on DVD shelves, There’s more thought in one of them than all the current remakes in theaters recently. In fact, I would say Halloween 2 did not even have a script

DW: In lieu of dialogue in “Halloween 2,” characters just swear constantly, that does not take a lot of time in the writing phase to come up with that. As writer, there is no real venue for original horror except direct to DVD. Honestly, I am getting to love swinging by the local video store, as there are some really classy, interesting horror movies lining the shelves. Bo mentioned “The Burrowers, which could have been a standard monster movie set in the Old West, but it had a lot to say about American expansionism during that time.

saw5DW: Looking in theaters. Now, movies are starting with release date, not a script. The “Saw” movies are a perfect example. Every October,we know to expect a new one to roll it. The script is so far down the list of priorities of it getting made.

BR: DVD does seem to be the place to go, the only problem is, you’re going to have to dig through a lot of trash to find the good ones, but it really is the only place to do to get a truly original vision.

Who are your favorite cinematic horror movie icons?

armyofdarkBR: For me, it begins and ends with Ash in “Evil Dead,” What a fun, heroic coward. I love the fact that he is someone who is so unwilling to be hero and embrace it at the same time.
DW: Even when he’s saving the day, he’s a craven coward

BR: He is so relatable, he’s the guy who lets you go first to see what happens.

jasonDW: I am someone who adores Jason. He’s barely a character, more like a human tornado, and in the remake they are merely trying to make him more cruel, but theres a simple poetry behind his origin, and that’s all thats left of him is hate. You don’t have to feel icky about enjoying watching the havoc happen. It’s like watching a disaster movie, there’s no malice, he’s just a force in that that he’s pure malevolence

 Recommend to us the last good horror film you saw and why?

graceBR: As I mentioned before, “Grace,” which premiered at Sundance. Its about something, about human capacity to do for something for someone you love. It’s very female-centric, well acted, and without losing the horror, very beautiful.

laid to restDW: I will say for those who like splatter, go rent Laid to Rest, a competent slasher that is entertaining. It’s not greatest film, and has a questionable morality, but just enjoy it as a horror made by people who like horror and respect its genre roots.

 To read more from Bo Ransdell, check out his site “The Last Blog on the Left, at” www.TheLastBlogontheLeft.com; and see more from Dan Weissmann as Count Vardulon at www.Vardulon.com.

~ by usesoapfilm on September 4, 2009.

One Response to “Oh, the horror!”

  1. Pretty cool post. I just came by your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your posts.

    Any way I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon!

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