Coffee and Contemplation: What’s So Bad About Horror?

With the sequel to the film IT (2017) releasing soon, I’ve become impatient. After seeing the first film, I added this film to my top 5 favorite movies. I felt the horror film had finally gained some credibility. Despite the popularity, horror still gets a bad name. Horror films are rarely featured at film awards except for special effects of sound design. The only exceptions are true crime films about murder or serial killers. Nothing with creatures or other supernatural figures make the cut unless they’re animated children’s films. I’m certain there are other exceptions but I’m too lazy to do that much research.

The newest rendition of Pennywise is a great film. It’s written well and directed well. Coworkers and colleagues of mine said they didn’t like the film. Their reasoning was they like classic horror movies and that one felt too “blockbuster-y.” I disagree. Classic horror is great, but one cannot compare that to newer films. Consider each film separately without bias from previous films. What’s strange is the media’s take on the new film from Stephen King’s novel. Many media outlets and blog writers didn’t call the film horror. Instead they used terms like “psychological thriller” or “coming-of-age.” 

These terms are good descriptors, but the term horror must be included as well. Laura Bradley writes in her Vanity Fair Article (2017), “The new It movie, you’ve probably read time and time again, is a great coming-of-age story a la Stand by Me.” Other than both stories being from the mind of King and both stories being about kids, these two films don’t have much in common considering genre. Bradley goes on in her article to make some excellent points about how Beverly Marsh is portrayed in the new film. It is worth the read. But why doesn’t she call it a horror film.

Another interesting fact most people may not be aware of, on Instagram, the hashtag #horror has a disclaimer. When you search this hashtag, Instagram gives this message, “Can we help? Posts with words or tags you’re searching for often encourage behavior that can cause harm and even lead to death. If you’re going through something difficult, we’d like to help.” Last time I checked, enjoying horror films, shows, or novels didn’t mean you wanted to harm yourself. Instagram is attempting to censor many industries including female fitness influencers. I wonder if this was how the censorship in Nazi Germany started. When did America become a fascist dictatorship?

My main question is why does horror get a bad rep? Yes, there are some lower quality films that use the objectification of women to make up for poor storylines and terrible makeup or special effects. That’s a generalization of the genre. It has other facets. There are some great films that often get overlooked because the audience said it wasn’t scary enough. The film Jennifer’s Body (2009) is a brilliant film. The dialogue is smart and fun. The story sounds like an overdone troupe but it all works well.

The film tanked at the box office ten years ago. The reviews from critics and regular movie goers were harsh. It’s making a comeback as a cult classic but there are at least two reasons for its failure. Number one, it was marketed as a horror film. This is not accurate. Constance Grady called the film what it is in her Vox Article (2018), a “feminist horror comedy.” It was funny with great social commentary. The only people who thought it was scary were stupid men and boys. They were scared of the idea of a strong female character who ate men. It made them uncomfortable.

Reason number two, 2009 wasn’t ready for the statement the film made. The scared men and boys influenced the ratings and reviews. There were still large groups fighting against homosexuality. The public opinions of Megan Fox and Diablo Cody were poor. It was the perfect storm of negativity. I thought this film was hilarious and loved every minute of it. Do people only allow themselves to like horror films once they’ve been around for a while? Is it not okay to like supernatural horror movies when they’re new?

What I want from filmmakers is for them to focus more on the story and less on trying to scare their audiences. Those troupes are overdone. I want a good story. Jennifer’s Body has a good story. IT has a good story. I recently saw Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019) and it has a good story. I haven’t looked for any reviews. I wonder what others are saying. It is a great film and a great adaptation of the children’s books by Alvin Schwartz.

I want audiences to change their perspective of horror film as well. I want hardcore horror fans to accept all form of horror. Not just slasher films or creature features. I want those who dislike horror to stop generalizing the genre and give new films a chance. Is that too much to ask? I don’t expect people to change overnight. I hope people will surprise me.