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Category:    Home > Essays > Horror > Horror Movies In Flux

Horror Movies In Flux.


The Horror genre has taken a beating, as much as any of the beatings the films might offer.You had their new liberation after Alfred Hitchcockís Psycho in 1960, the rise of its imitators, the next era with George Romeroís Night Of The Living Dead and Roman Polanskiís Rosemaryís Baby in 1968, then the run until the end of the 1970s when the best cycle ended, leaving a series of formulaic slasher films into the 1980s and 1990s.Even after the Scream films tried to be clever with film references about them, that new energy was a false shot in the arm.


Now, a ton of awful remakes have arrived with more on the way.Did Dawn Of The Dead need remake?No.Did Gus Van Sant have to remake Psycho?Absolutely not.Is Michael Bay making one of the mistakes of his producing career remaking Hitchcockís The Birds?Absolutely!The trend now is an automatic pilot thing to just remake any Horror film that rented well, even if it did not do well at the box office, since it may be a name film.We have seen this done sometimes in the past, but there has been a spree of buying rights to all these films, many that are not even that old.Why?


Besides a creative bankruptness that has to do with controlling ideology and not wanting to pay anyone for good ideas that might entertain people, everything has to be a safe franchise.This is supported by the amazing myth that there are no more new ideas.Also, with a record low of people who both know anything about films, love films and know how to make them, talentless and overrated no-names are arriving on the scene one day and disappearing the next, unless they have a longshot hit out of a garbage project.


One place this seems to have started is with Brett Ratnerís Red Dragon, an unnecessary 2002 remake of Michael Mannís ever-impressive Manhunter from 1986.Both are based on the book that introduced Hannibal Lecter, but Ratnerís over-interpreted the book and shifted the story to Lector, who was incidental in that book and the original film.Since it made its money back somehow, Hollywood began to think of easy ways to go for no-brainer cash.Freddy vs. Jason and Alien vs. Predator upped the ante in familiar Horror names equaling big bucks no matter how the films were.


Oddly, though, one of the remakes that should have been an outright disaster and critics have been savaging may turn out to be a transitional work in the midst of all this cinematic disaster.Helmed by first-time feature film director Jaume Collet-Serra, House Of Wax is actually the third version of the same story first filmed back in 1933 with Lionel Atwill and Fay Wray, the same year Wray achieved screen immortality in the original King Kong.It was even a two-strip Technicolor feature, a film audiences know under the title Mystery Of The Wax Museum.The 1953 Vincent Price House Of Wax is better known, especially being one of the few good feature films that used 3-D in any memorable way throughout.Now comes this third version, co-produced by mega-commercial producer Joel Silver and producer/director powerhouse Robert Zemeckis.


That alone is an interesting combination, but then the cast is interesting.The awesome Elisha Cuthbert (from the underrated Girl Next Door reviewed elsewhere on this site) is among the group of friends going on a camping trip.Even with mostly male cohorts played by Chad Michael Murray, Jared Padalecki, Robert Riíchard, and Jon Abrahams, even Cuthbert lands up having to compete with Paris Hilton for attention and press.To Hiltonís credit, she does some subtly daring things in the film and the role is a departure from the safer, obvious choices she has made before.


The acting is not great, but it is not as horrible as similar casts in other films of the genre have offered.These are not dumbed-down teens, they are not the exceptionally stupid kind who get set up for a kill before it happens and they are not cast just because they appear to have diversity to please a demographic.Instead, the Chad Hayes/Carey W. Hayes screenplay gets to the story without any stretches of pretension and offers some suspense.To the credit of the director, writers and cinematographer, the film is not sexploitive and is faithful enough to the previous films, which gives it an opportunity to inject some classical Horror elements sorely lacking in the genre.That is particularly in this subgenre of what could still be deemed a slasher-cycle film, but not as formulaic.


The producers obviously knew what they wanted and what the audience might want, especially in the long term on DVD and future HD presentation.It is not immediately obvious and no one wants to take anything seriously Miss Hilton appears in, but this House Of Wax may mark the beginning of some kind of transition in the genre and that is enough to recommend it to Horror fans who really love the genre, even if they ultimately do not like the film.Though the film could have gone much further with the material before it, it should not be dismissed so easily as it has been.


The next major Horror film to look to is George Romeroís Land Of The Dead, which could be one of 2005ís most important releases.Will Horror films reinvent themselves as all the junk remakes get produced?The answers will be very interesting indeed.



This was the home page letter for the first half of May 2005.


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