In this week’s Numbers and Inspiration, we’re going to talk a bit about what’s possible my favorite genre. We’re referring, of course, to horror.
This Renegade Writer loves all film, TV, literary and comic book genres. Give me a good drama when I’m in the mood, and a comedy to cheer me up when I’m feeling down. I’ve devoured Y: The Last Man and All Star Superman. I’ll read 100 Years of Solitude just as quickly as I will a David Sedaris essay collection. But no matter what, horror seems to be the one type of art — yes, art — that I come back to time and again. If you don’t think horror is an art form, ask yourself why Stephen King has won the Medal of Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, or consider why John Carpenter’s slasher classic Halloween was selected by the Library of Congress to be preserved in its National Film Registry because of its cultural and historical significance. (Full disclaimer: King is my favorite author, and Halloween is my favorite film of all time — so far.)
Yes, folks, horror is an art form. My father may not have known that, but he did raise me to be a horror fan, showing me Halloween at a younger age than was probably appropriate and giving me my first two Stephen King books to read when I was 13 (the novella Cycle of the Werewolf and short fiction collection Skeleton Crew). I have various memories of eating popcorn and watching The Howling with him while my mom worked the swing shift in the only factory in town, and being the only rabid fans of Halloween III: Season of the Witch we know. There are a thousand more examples, but you get the point.
Perhaps that’s why I always return to horror. I’ll catch myself deep in some type of entertainment deemed more “literary” or “cultural” by societal norms and then think to myself, “Did Clive Barker’s Books of Blood get released for the Kindle yet?” (Answer? Yes. All six volumes, baby.) I hear about some little indie flick called V/H/S and all the sudden I’m waiting for the sequel while looking for a way to watch another indie flick that sat on the shelf way too long, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane. That’s why it’s so great to see horror’s prominence in film so far this year.
The Numbers – Horror in 2013
The original title of this week’s column was going to be “2013’s Horror Film Resurgence.” The I started doing some digging and found out that horror as a film genre, it hasn’t exactly been struggling in the oh tens. Or 2012s. Or second decade of the new millennium. Whatever you want to call it. Please keep in mind that all box office figures below are domestic (U.S.).
It’s kind of hard to dig through all the numbers but for the purposes of collecting horror’s impact on the 2013 box office thus far, various sources lead me to believe that the genre is responsible for approximately $370M in tickets sold thus far this year. (Disclaimer: I cross referenced a few genre searches by release year from Box Office Mojo and cross-checked with The Numbers 2013 horror tally; while an estimate probably missing some extremely small horror films, The Numbers info seems pretty on the money. No pun intended.) Dig back through The Numbers website and you’ll find 2012 was higher with $431M. 2011 was even stronger with about $400M. And holy cow! 2010 blew everything so far this decade out of the water with approximately $495M in spooky/slasher box office sales.
It seems as though my analysis has taken a turn for the worse. Or has it? Have the numbers failed me? Nope…it’s only September and Insidious: Chapter 2 should ease its way to the $100M mark. That pushes us past everything except 2010, and World War Z, not included in The Numbers 2012 tally (and make no mistake, zombies = horror) grossed a surprising $200M. So, 2013 should finish with about $630M in box office dollars. Hmmm…maybe we’re having a resurgence of all things spooktacular in 2013 after all…and oh yeah, we’ve still got the Carrie remake coming.
The point is, horror fans, we’ve got it good. In every annual list linked above you’ll notice the usual horror movie trends: remakes mixed with sequels mixed with original material. This year is no different; James Wan, who will be responsible for at least $200M in horror box office this year, brought us both an exception original in The Conjuring and a so-so but still highly anticipated sequel with Insidious: Chapter 2. The concept to take away from all these numbers is that if horror remains successful at the box office, more genre properties — with something to like for even the nitpickiest of fans — will continue to be made.
The Inspiration – The Smaller Flicks of 2013
And yea verily, even though thou will have more influence on your favorite type of film come from blockbuster performers (for finance truly rules the Hollywood kingdom), smaller indie flicks will also shape horror’s future through their inspiration. The hidden gorehound in me loved the Evil Dead remake, and of course my infatuation with The Conjuring has been documented on this site more than once. (Check out my summer top 5 summer movies column coming out later this week for confirmation.) I’ve also touted my satisfaction with World War Z around the block a few times. But I dig a smaller indie type horror flick as well.
One for your consideration, if you haven’t already seen it, is V/H/S 2. I was a big fan of the first one, and was more than willing to give the second a shot. To be honest, it has its weak points much like the original. While leaner than V/H/S (four stories plus a wraparound instead of five and the same), V/H/S 2 still suffered from a poor wraparound story, although it does look like some sort of mythology surrounding all these dreadful VCR tapes may be established should the franchise continue. I also felt that the quality of all five stories in the original were pretty much the same in terms of strength except for the absolutely horrifically sublime ending chapter 10/31/98; in the sequel, I felt that while most segments had their moments they were all relatively weaker than those in the first.
Except, of course, for the third segment, Safe Haven. That short blows ALL of the other stories in the V/H/S lexicon out of the water. I’ve read some people saying that Safe Haven could have been its own feature film, but I disagree. The bugnuts pace and shocks around every corner of that cult building made Safe Haven what it is – a horror short masterpiece.
Another flick I highly suggest you check our via VOD is All The Boys Love Mandy Lane. I’ve no clue how this slasher sat on the shelf since 2006. I’m not going to expound too much on this one since it’s a secret best left untold, but will tell you that Amber Heard will blow you away with her performance. If you’re interested, check out John “D-Rock” Dotson’s Renegade Review here.
Will movies like V/H/S 2 and maybe even The ABCs of Death bring about a resurgence in the horror anthology film? Perhaps. I hope so, because I miss stuff like Creepshow. Will All the Boys Love Mandy Lane bring back the slasher? I don’t that that subgenre of horror ever really left. Point is, in addition to the blockbusters (which, once again, usually offer something for everyone in any given year), there are indies out there for the horror fan to keep an eye on. While box office grosses for films like V/H/S and Mandy Lane are tiny (they are released with the intent of making more in home markers, methinks), sooner or later one of them is going to break big in their own right.
Thanks for reading. Talk to you next week. Expect more horror, especially as a chill is in the air (at least where I live, fall — and Halloween, the most wonderful time of the year –approaches). If you’ve got any indie type horror flicks to recommend, please do so in the comments section below.