Friday, 13 March 2015

Feature - The Death of Horror? - Part 4


Part 4

This time we'll look at something that is not a problem in itself, but it has certainly caused some major problems in recent times:

Budget

Film-making technology is now affordable to pretty much anyone. A DSLR and relatively cheap (£200) editing software like Final Cut Pro are all you need to get started. This is great stuff as it mean that anyone can put their vision up on the big screen. On the flip side, it's bad because anyone can put their vision up on the big screen.


There have been some great low-budget horror films over the years. In fact, many of the very best have had small budgets. The Evil Dead and Bad Taste were full of creativity, Halloween had great music and a relentless villain and Zombie Flesh Eaters had a filmic look that is way beyond many of today's horrors. I often think that these films had to be creative because of their smaller budgets, they couldn't just throw money at a problem.


In recent times we've had The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity, both effective, which have led to a plethora of found footage films. With mixed success. Rec is a pretty good zombie chiller, and... erm... can't really think of many more. As for bad examples, I could go on and on. In general, I don't read the back covers of DVDs because I want to be surprised by the contents of the film. This has its downfalls. Every time it turns out to be a found footage film, I audibly groan. Please, no more.


Examples of other low budget films that fall into the shocking category are Dead Genesis, Laid to Rest and Scarce. These are three films that I thought that I'd give a try and yet I didn't even make it past the ten minute mark when I tried to watch them. I'm not saying that they shouldn't have been made, just that they shouldn't have been released. The film distributors should exercise some quality control.


In the days of VHS I was always disappointed by the size of the horror sections in shops. But it didn't stop me from poring through their offerings and maybe even purchasing one or two. Now I walk into HMV and they've got a stupendously massive horror selection, something that I would have coveted like my neighbour's ox in ye olde days. But I quickly walk past without a glance and head into the anime, sci-fi and world sections. All of the films look so rubbish. They give them a glossy photoshopped cover and expect that to be enough. There may be some gems in there but I can't be bothered to sift through them. I've been disappointed too many times. We're back to the quality control issue again.


Modern low-budget zombie films? Serious quality control issue, yet again.


This isn't to say that films should have a more sizeable budget either. Look at The Conjuring, Sinister and World War Z: all completely terrible. You would think that film-makers with a larger budget would spend more time and money at the script stage getting it right before they even start filming anything. The evidence doesn't support this.


But when a larger budget is used well it can produce some rather special work. I watched The Colony recently which was set in a frozen landscape. That looked really cheap. Compare that with how great The Thing (1982) looks. It feels like a serious, quality film. The Colony feels more like a cut-scene from a PS3 game.


So really the budget doesn't matter. It's the talent of the film-makers that's important and how they use the budget available to them. If they made good films regardless of the budget - and from the examples above it is possible - then I would be very happy and watch more horror films. As it is, if they keep flooding the market with substandard products, only because someone has bothered to make them, I'll continue to lose interest and for me horror will indeed be dead.

evlkeith

Related Reading:
Review - The Evil Dead
Review - Halloween
Review - Zombie Flesh Eaters
Review - Rec

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