You can also blame the curious lack of options; there was not a single wide horror release in the months of March, May, July, November (unless you count SKYLINE) or December. I can only assume that this is why shit like A Nightmare On Elm Street could manage to eke out 63 million (more than half of that on its opening weekend); had there been any competition whatsoever we could be spared that indignity (it was the year’s highest grossing horror film until PA2 came along). Perhaps that’s why the cynically minded folks at Platinum Dunes clearly refused to put any effort whatsoever into making a decent reboot – why bother when there’s nothing to compete against? But back on point – with fewer options there are fewer chances of success.
There were a few bright spots, obviously. As usual, most of the best horror films were either foreign or independent productions – Splice was a Warner release, but produced independent of the studio system. Adam Green’s Frozen was released via Anchor Bay, who is known more for their ever-more-deluxe reissues of the Evil Dead movies than anything else. And the Clive Barker adaptation Dread provided some of the year’s most horrifying and uncomfortable scenes, and was greeted with a half-assed, blink and you miss it release via the increasingly irrelevant After Dark Horrorfest banner.
Spain’s [Rec] 2 and Netherlands’ Human Centipede (released stateside by Magnolia and IFC, respectively) kept foreign horror alive, though there was a curious shortage of those as well. Many of the well known imports (A Serbian Film, for example) were confined to festivals, and sometimes even pulled from them. The lone studio movie that truly delivered was Overture’s The Crazies, a remake of Romero’s 1973 film that, much like Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead, opted for an action/horror blend using the same basic concept instead of a more traditional carbon copy of the earlier film (something that sunk Overture’s Let Me In, which was about 90% identical to its superior predecessor). I also quite enjoyed Devil, the first (hopefully not last) entry in the “Night Chronicles”, an anthology series produced by groan-inducing auteur M. Night Shyamalan.
And 2011 isn’t exactly inspiring much hope either. Priest comes from the same folks who brought us Legion and will have a post-convert 3D job to boot. I was excited for Scream 4 until I heard that Ehren Kruger (Reindeer Games, The Ring Two, and several other films most folks would want to leave off their resumé), who wrote the weak and little-loved 3rd film, was rewriting Kevin Williamson’s script. Final Destination 5 is hardly likely to mix up the formula that’s been successful thus far, and if PA2 was any indication, that series has already run out of ideas, but that didn’t stop Paramount from announcing a 3rd film as soon as those opening weekend dollars were counted. So far, the most excited I am for anything is The Roommate, which looks like a remake of 1992’s delightfully trashy Single White Female and will at least deliver a few unintentional laughs. I also hold out hope that Piranha 3DD, from the team that gave us the awesome Feast series, will capitalize on both the technology and bad taste approach that Alexandre Aja basically confined to one sequence.
Oh well. There’s always another Saw movie to look forward to, right? Wait, shit!
But back to the 90s, what sunk the decade as a whole most was a lack of effort; lousy sequels to franchises that had long since run out of steam (Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, Jason Goes To Hell, and the abysmal 4th Texas Chainsaw Massacre film, for some examples), dull revivals (Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein), and bland rubbish like Hideaway or Ghost In The Machine. And that’s the same sort of thing I’m seeing in this year offerings and next year’s lineup (plus remakes; besides the atrocious Psycho, the 90s were largely remake free). Hopefully I’m wrong.
P.S. Three of the year’s best “genre” films I have a tough time qualifying as horror: Shutter Island, Buried, and Monsters. They were terrific and covered on the major genre sites, but they weren’t traditional horror movies, in my opinion. Again though – if the best stuff is only tangentially related to the genre, there’s a big problem.
Brian Collins watches a horror movie a day. You can read his review of every single one of them at his blog, Horror Movie A Day.