Let me preface this with admitting that there are plenty of good horror movies that have come out in the past decade. With that said, we are on the eve of the release of The Nun, and one can’t help but notice a trend in modern mainstream horror movies. Don’t get me wrong, I realize trends exist and will continue to, but it feels like we’ve been stuck in a demon possession formula for about nine years now and it doesn’t seem like its going to slow down any time soon. And rightfully so, these movies grab the mainstream audience every year and rake in tons of money. It’s hard to think why they wouldn’t continue to make these movies with smaller budgets and big profits. At this point, we can all guess the plot of these movies as soon as we see the first trailer. Let me guess, a family moves into a new home, or some teens play with an Ouija board, and slowly, a malevolent spirit haunts them until an exorcist casts it out. It’s been played over and over again and frankly, its stale. I can’t help but think The Nun will be doing the same thing in a couple of weeks.
I believe this whole trend started in 2009, with the full release of the first Paranormal Activity. I saw it when it was still in limited release and had to drive one and a half hours to do so. The buzz around the movie was so big that it was hard not to want to see it, and truth be told, I enjoyed it. It was something fresh at the time, and the found footage slow burn of a demon tormenting a couple while they try to sleep was pretty creepy. It was better than the other mainstream horror movies being put out that year; Halloween 2 and the Friday the 13th reboot. The biggest surprise of this movie was the unforeseen profits it was going to make. Orin Peli wrote, directed, edited, and produced this movie for the small budget of $15,000. It did $193.4 million at the box office. So I reiterate why I know this “type” of film keeps getting made. Not all of them are found footage, even though there was plenty of found footage rip-offs, it’s more the plot, in general, I find taxing.
After the success of Paranormal Activity, it spawned five sequels with the same plot and inspired many studios to put out similar scenarios in the next nine years. Whether it be Insidious and its three sequels, The Conjuring and its four sequels/prequels/spinoffs, the two Sinister movies, the two Last Exorcisms, the two Ouija movies, the two Unfriended films, The Rite, The Devil Inside, the Blair Witch reboot/sequel and the list goes on. The point is, over the past nine years we’ve generally gotten the same movie every year and things are pointing to the direction that The Nun is 2018’s. Off topic, another trend I hope quickly dies is the PG-13 rating some of these horror movies are getting these days. I’m not a sadist, but horror movies should be rated R. They’re horror movies, they’re supposed to be horrific. Okay, mini-rant over.
Now let’s get to the couple of reasons, other than the same plot, why I believe most of these movies are tired and played out. Let’s talk about jump scares. Jump scares initially didn’t provide 98% of the “scares” of horror movies back in the day. The Exorcist isn’t a classic because it has twenty jump scares of Regan’s face, its a classic because we get a deep story, good acting and great practical effects. The opposite can be said for what we got when we received a Nun trailer that was banned due to a jump scare, which points to what we can expect from the film itself. Let’s be real; it’s not scary. It’s a cheap split-second thrill, and when it’s your movie’s only crutch, it’s rendered ineffective. The other common theme of these films is the lack of character development. While it’s not exclusive to the horror genre, it’s common in all of these. Painful exposition is not character development, and when you can’t connect to the characters, you won’t care about them when something horrific happens to them. I like to look at this year’s A Quiet Place for character development and lack of exposition. You learn a lot about this world without being spoon fed a two-minute narration speech about what has happened and where our characters are at in life.
As the Conjuring universe continues to grow with The Nun releasing on September 7th, and factoring in the current trends in place, it looks like we are in for a long haul. Is this what we want from the horror genre? Something to Jump out at us? I think there is still hope, and In the meantime, you can check out some of my favorite modern horrors of the last few years on the popular streaming services that I feel are trend breakers and are excellent examples of the direction the genre should be going. If you already haven’t, I would check out Green Room, It Follows, Train to Busan, Hush, The Descent, and The Invitation. I know, long list, but these are all moderns that haven’t gotten the same attention as the movies mentioned above and deserve some love.