When will it end?

Does it ever seem like every new horror project is either a sequel, reboot, or adaptation? There’s Leatherface (with a slew of planned sequels), Insidious, the Paranormal Activity franchise, a Gremlins reboot, and the list goes on. There’s even a Human Centipede franchise. On TV it’s even worse: The Bates Motel, Hannibal, and The Walking Dead are all adaptations, with Let The Right One In and Scream shows also coming soon.

In general, I’m actually pretty tolerant of sequels and reboots, and even more so of adaptations. Normally, I roll my eyes at the people who complain about this kind of thing. As long as the movie or show is good, who cares? There’s still plenty of room for innovation.

With horror movies, though, it’s different. They tend to make much less sense in horror than for other genres. Part of the reason is that the dread comes at least partially from mystery – as many will tell you, the less you see of the monster, the scarier it is. The people making Jaws, for instance, thought it was going to be a shitty B-movie while on set. It was Steven Spielberg’s decision in post-production to show as little of the actual shark as possible that made it great. This idea is pretty much a rule now. The entire found-footage subgenre, for instance, is pretty much based on it.

This is the scary part.

This is the scary part.

And the thing is, horror movie sequels keep the same monster. It’s the original protagonists who are superfluous to the franchise. This is obviously in conflict with the aforementioned rule, because it means the audience will get more and more familiar with the monster. Case in point: the original Alien is a terrifying classic, but the franchise has exactly zero scare potential now that the concept has been explored to death. To put it charitably, horror sequels have less chance at being good than sequels of other genres. I think it’s fair to say that the vast majority of horror franchises are doomed to get steadily worse.

Reboots aren’t quite as doomed, but they still run that risk of losing the monster’s appeal.

I don’t claim to have the answer to this problem. Non-original movies will always get made because they’re safer investments. I get that. But maybe studio executives underestimate the horror audience’s willingness to give fresh new ideas a try. Just look at It Follows. That movie’s success comes as much from its originality as it does from its execution. I think a well-executed original idea is probably not as risky as it’s perceived to be.



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About The Author

I saw 'Mars Attacks!' in theaters when I was five. I still think it's the greatest horror movie for five year olds ever made.