In case you haven’t noticed lately, horror on tv is KILLING IT!!! From the critical and financial success of the Walking Dead to the Emmy nominated American Horror Story TV has stood up and taken notice of a genre that largely gets overlooked and one thing is blatantly apparent…horror PAYS THE BILLS!!! So, with such a viable commodity taking such a primary role in programming, why aren’t we seeing more of a revival at the box office? Well, we can think of a few reasons…
1. Risk taking. It looks as though horror tv has found their rhythm and that rhythm is in the sheer bliss of embracing chaos and letting go of formulaic storytelling. Love it or hate it, the newest season of American Horror Story abandoned their prior storytelling formula not once but twice during a season that is still only half-way in. Sure we have seen feature length horror go out on a limb (The cabin in the Woods, Detention, etc.), but rarely would feature film horror try this kind of move on an already established cash-cow of a franchise (Sorry, Halloween 3, but dammit, I still love ya!) Horror is all about throwing convention to the wind and letting the blood curdling cry of dissent echo through its own madness. I digress, at a time when Netflix is challenging everything we thought we knew about episodic horror, what have our holiday offerings been at the box-office? Ouija: Origins of Fear. Yeah, Yawn.
2. Ageism. People on tv actually manage to live past 30 and children can prove to be AMAZING leads.Look at the ensemble cast of AHS and you’ll find Jessica Lange in prior seasons, Kathy Bates and a score of other actors well into their 40s and beyond. Feature film horror still seems manically intent on pandering to a demographic that is way to busy talking about their beards and social justice to give a shit about good solid scares. Stranger Things? Strange still that the series has has such an impact on pop culture but I guarantee that I will be writing a slew of news updates this week about films that start with: “5 young college kids get more than they bargained for when a weekend away…”
3. Pacing. Hey, when it comes to pacing you really can’t knock the good folks on the boob tube. Being able to stretch a story across multiple hours, include numerous arcs and then continue that theme throughout more than one season is a HUGE undertaking. Take that concept and then look at the hour and 40 min features that have lagged or even dropped the ball in the third act and it makes you wonder just how feature films get funded when they can barely sustain a meager hour and a half running time. We should be craving a continuation of the story, not shrugging our shoulders when the momentum falls flat on its face. Hey there Walking Dead, what was that you said? Your viewership is actually on the rise into your SEVENTH SEASON?!?!? C’mon, and King and Co. are still trying to fit The Dark Tower into 2 hours? Cheeeeeeeezeiiiiiits.
4. Putting their money where there mouth is. So how does tv respond to their cash cow horror franchises? By putting more money into what they know is a good thing. How does Hollywood handle it? That’s easy. By pooling that money back into the studio and instead using it to hire Tom Hanks to fly a plane into the Hudson. Hollywood is notorious for selling rags to riches stories of shoestring budget horror films and then using box office receipts to fund larger safer pictures. Horror films make money. They are the tried and true sum of an easy to follow formula. TV gets it. We see a popular series gain momentum and you can guarantee other networks will follow suit.
5. Characters Count. Tv knows allow about Mulder and Scully, Cagney and Lacey, Charlie’s Angels and Grey’s Anatomy. To sell a series you have to sell characters that will endure for 100+ episodes. Care about a character and ultimately you will care about their fate. Feature film horror is still stuck in the age of “final girls” and cannon fodder. Take a cue from SyFy’s Channel Zero and you’ll see how a town full of regular people in extraordinary circumstances still sells the scares.
So, disagree with us? Agree with us, yet still wanna bitch because we didn’t mention your favorite series (Fox’s The Exorcist is damn don’t ya know)? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!!!