By most metrics, the horror genre looks to be in rude health. The past decade has not only seen the release of a string of blockbusters like IT: Chapters 1 (opens in new tab) and 2 (opens in new tab), A Quiet Place (opens in new tab)and The Conjuring (opens in new tab) (plus its plethora of sequels/spin-offs (opens in new tab)), but has also given us the ground-breaking, poll-topping, Oscar-winning Get Out. (opens in new tab)
So why does it still feel like something is missing? Where have all of the memorable horror-movie boogeymen gone?
Having been born in the mid-1970s and grown up in the golden age of video with parents who allowed me to rent anything that took my fancy (“as long as it’s not blue”), it’s hardly surprising that my eyes were swiftly drawn to the lurid cover art adorning most horror films. Before you could whisper “ki-ki-ki, ma-ma-ma”, I was hooked on the prolific parade of masked maniacs and frightful fiends populating those movies who kept returning over and over again.
While my childhood friends were getting all worked up about Marty McFly and James Bond, I was being thrilled and terrified by the murderous exploits of Freddy Krueger (opens in new tab), Jason Voorhees (opens in new tab), Michael Myers, Pinhead (opens in new tab), The Tall Man, Chucky, et al.
The 1990s saw new figures of fear, such as Candyman, Ghostface (opens in new tab) and Sadako, joining this pantheon of horror icons, but things just haven’t been the same since the turn of the millennium.
Over the past couple of decades Hollywood has struggled to come up with genuinely memorable and enduring cinematic boogeymen, preferring instead to reboot familiar faces (Freddy, Jason, Leatherface (opens in new tab)) or give tired old tropes a new spin (Annabelle (opens in new tab), Pennywise, Jigsaw (opens in new tab)). And in pretty much every case, they’ve been imbued with less personality than Sam Raimi managed to give a camera nailed to a piece of wood in his Evil Dead films.
So where is the next Freddy or Pinhead? Sadly, with increasingly risk-averse studios seemingly happier looking to the past for ideas rather than coming up with fresh ones, I fear we’re now far more likely to see earlier horror legends reworked (and subsequently diminished) than new ones introduced… or is it just me?
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