When you think of the greatest time for horror, as of now what year does your mind travel to? Do periods of black and white pictures strike your fancy? Are you a hardcore advocate for retro 70’s cinema? Maybe you’re drawn to slasher flicks of the 80’s and 90’s? When I think of the horror genre’s incredible evolution since the first cut of film, I found it difficult to land on one particular blip in the timeline that I could justify as the “greatest” until I began to look at my own definition of the word itself. I initially approached that question by looking at horror in the past, as we often do to keep nostalgia fresh, but I never thought to look at how great horror is now.
I recently remembered sharing how I would manually navigate Google to search for upcoming horror movies (yes, I actually Googled “upcoming horror movies” every few months) as well as trailers and posters just so I could mentally remind myself about what might arrive at my local theater. I did not have an instantaneous feed to keep me informed or a slew of sites to visit when I wanted horror-related materials. Now, I have all of those sources within each of my electronic devices and more, so much more. I decided, pretty quickly, that now is the greatest time for horror. Right this minute.
Diversity in Representation and Distribution
Undoubtedly one of the most important elements of modern horror, representation in film continues to gain traction by the year. Characterization has now taken on a more meaningful application as have the actors and actresses used to portray a multitude of roles throughout the genre. Final girls have transformed into female leads, the male gaze has shifted to artistic cinematography, and minorities have stepped outside of their secondary acts to achieve proper screen time. Family units have moved from nuclear to relevant and settings have traveled to accommodate further territories beyond the suburban home.
The horror genre is notorious for past condemnation of genders, races, cultures, and lifestyles, but when we look at the variety we are now exposed to, it’s hard to deny its range of topical progression. Contemporary themes were present in earlier decades, but they seem to be carried with a more careful presence than today’s films. Viewers can easily relate to those they watch on screen, hitting a horrific home run to the spaces we occupy as individuals. Representation from all walks of life still has a way to go, but it has never stood stronger than it does right now.
“From private productions to large studios, horror films are experiencing a grand era of diversity generated through their creators and in their creation.”
Recently, diversity does not begin and end in front of the lens. Contributors to the horror genre at the turn of the century were largely identified by a typical standard that continues to dissipate. Horror no longer solely belongs to the direction of middle-aged white men. While we respect and celebrate their innovations, constructs, and influence, we are now seeing an emergence of directors, writers, producers, artists as a whole, made up of a more manifold demographic.
Even production companies run a more bountiful gamut than they did twenty or thirty years ago. As the assortment of contributors continues to grow, the scale of film output not only reaches more eyes, but also channels a movement of awareness and acceptance. From private productions to large studios, horror films are experiencing a grand era of diversity generated through their creators and in their creation.
As far as advancements go, technology can account for a large majority as the reach of improvement remains limitless in all endeavors. Of the more noticeable changes between films of the past compared to those of the present, effects have been one element to jump leaps and bounds. Effects artists have found countless ways to utilize both their physical and visual skills to make the unreal a terrifying reality. Supplementing natural imagery with computer-generated alterations, filmmakers of today’s cinema stand before a bevy of resources to bring their visions to life.
Color and sound are now able to play an important role throughout a film’s atmosphere, scenes are displayed at optimum levels of quality, and corrections are easily made to provide the highest tier of perfection as we know it. Green screens have replaced sound stages, built-up beasts are conjured through pixels, and things that have had to be hidden once before are now proudly illuminated right before our eyes. While many viewers prefer the practical over the digital, almost all would agree that a balanced level of the two makes for some pretty spectacular effects we would not have been able to see a decade or two ago.
“While many viewers prefer the practical over the digital, almost all would agree that a balanced level of the two makes for some pretty spectacular effects we would not have been able to see a decade or two ago.”
From indie releases to blockbuster hits, today’s variety of filmmakers are able to produce their desired narratives within all kinds of budget restrictions. In just the last couple of years, a successful horror movie was filmed by simply just using an iPhone. As the world of cinema organically grows each year, vessels of opportunity have now been born to serve those dedicated to working within the industry.
The booms of technology and the need for it, along with the experts that provide it, have expanded the availability of education geared towards this distinct art and the provisions of employment that follow. As the cycle of digital improvement constantly shifts upwards, the world of film, especially the horror genre, reaps the perpetual benefits.
Technology used to bare film has even developed closer towards us an audience when it comes to sharing and receiving entertainment. Major streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, as well platforms exclusive to horror consumption like Shudder and Screambox, have ushered in an era of complete availability when it comes to sought-out titles and series. Films, whether they are rare classics or recent releases, are now instantly accessible from any type of device. The box office still flourishes with cinema-goers, but with Digital On Demand and VOD outlets, we are now able to enjoy numerous curations of films whenever, wherever.
At one point in time, films were only given theatrical releases. People had to travel to see the films they would read about in the paper. Eventually, movies were additionally distributed to television sets, VHS tapes, and DVD and BluRay discs. We still have all of those channels at our disposal, but now we have even more immediate pleasantries at the tips of our fingers (without the physical storage). Online algorithms track our selections, digital spiders target our individual trends, and complex, careful marketing campaigns feed on our interests.
“Everyone from fans to scholars, thespians to filmmakers themselves, are experiencing more intimate interactions using their devices and the online world.”
Perhaps one of the most relevant advances that has transformed our everyday culture entirely and the horror genre as a whole is our ability to communicate. Social media has touched nearly every facet of our human operations, opening a tremendous gateway to film discussion and expression that bleeds across the internet by the minute. With Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, websites, apps, and beyond, the genre has now permeated its way through millions of accounts, pages, groups, and organizations all over the world. Everyone from fans to scholars, thespians to filmmakers themselves, are experiencing more intimate interactions using their devices and the online world.
Whether we are sharing our thoughts through more formal material, as I’m doing right here, or posting a casual opinion somewhere on the internet, horror has blossomed from a singular category into an expansive, growing community. Artists now have countless venues to promote their work, forums allow users to talk with one another about the latest horror news, podcasts and websites serve niche audiences, and horror-based products are bought and sold at the speed of light. Film expression and analysis are widely shared, far beyond any way they were before. Publications run pieces on topics, grand and narrow, daily. Online blogs and pages circulate individual profiles and teams, all promoting horror to the masses.
Those who love the genre and have searched for a mode of voicing their appreciation are now able to generate like-minded camaraderie across state and continental lines. Granted, social media can be volatile and toxic space, but for so many it has become a haven of exhibition and communication. Decades ago, fans were lucky to live near others who shared their interest in horror media. Now, if someone is looking for others to chat with, they can quickly find hundreds of thousands of accounts that share the same need. Those who once thought they were alone in digging gore and ghosts for so long before can now find comfort in a vast community of talent, knowledge, and friendships.
Horror has moved on from the confines of film strips and paper pages as well as the stigma of being considered lowbrow art. The scares and thrills of today are certainly different than those of yesterday, as they surely will be different from those of tomorrow. There is no way to ignore the everlasting legacy of the genre’s moving parts in the past. They have influenced and inspired each and every factor that has contributed to the horror we now know today. However, if we are looking to measure the structures of meaning, application, and communication revolving around the genre, there is no time like the present.
“And who knows, maybe one day a horror film will win the Academy Award for Best Picture? Oh, wait…”
And who knows, maybe one day a horror film will win the Academy Award for Best Picture? Oh, wait… Why do you think today’s horror genre is great? Do you believe we are currently living in the best moment of horror? Let us know your thoughts over on Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!